Pula, a Kenyan agro-insurtech start-up, has closed a $20m (Ks2.62bn) Series B financing round, led by investment manager BlueOrchard through its InsuResilience strategy.  

The investment is aimed at expanding insurance access for smallholder farmers in emerging markets, protecting them against climate-related events such as floods and droughts.  

IFC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hesabu Capital and existing investors also contributed to the latest round. 

In developing nations, an estimated 80% of smallholder farmers are without formal insurance, with the figure soaring to 97% in Africa.  

Pula has responded to this gap by establishing a network of more than 100 partners, which has broadened their reach to a diverse group of farmers.  

By integrating insurance with other vital products such as seeds and credit, the company seeks to make insurance more attainable and cost-effective. 

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As per the announcement, these initiatives have led to an increase in the uptake of insurance among farmers, many of whom had never previously purchased insurance.  

The Series B funds are expected to propel Pula’s growth, enhancing its operations and market presence over the next five years. 

Since its founding in 2015, Pula has collaborated with more than 70 insurance companies, 20 reinsurance operators and 100 distribution partners worldwide to offer its insurance solutions.  

This collaboration has also strengthened the capacity of local insurance and reinsurance entities to comprehend and underwrite agricultural insurance tailored for smallholder farmers. 

Pula’s primary markets include Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, with ongoing expansion efforts in Asia and Latin America.  

The company’s global operations are managed from Switzerland, with coordination from its service centre in Kenya. 

Pula CEO and co-founder Thomas Njeru said: “Partnering with this group of like-minded investors to boost the growth of Pula globally is a very exciting milestone in driving our triple 100 vision, through which we intend to bring insurance to 100 million smallholder farmers.  

“What started nine years ago as an unconventional idea that many deemed un-scalable is now a proven solution that has solved real needs for millions of smallholder farmers across 22 countries. We are particularly excited to be working with BlueOrchard, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IFC and Hesabu to benefit from their industry expertise and networks as we grow to fulfil our joint ambition of more resilient and climate-secure food systems.”  

BlueOrchard private equity investment director of Africa Richard Hardy said: “What sets Pula apart is their innovative business model, leveraging artificial intelligence, on the ground data collection mechanisms, mobile-based registration systems, remote sensing and end-to-end automation tools.  

“Their digital platform has enabled them to expand into new geographies with ease and efficiency, all while keeping set-up costs low. The Pula team has an unrivalled track record in the agricultural insurance space and is deeply aligned with our mission and strategy.”