How Twiga CEO Peter Njonjo Lost Company Months After Acquiring Ksh5B Funding

Twiga Foods founder and long-serving CEO Peter Njonjo
Twiga Foods founder and long-serving CEO Peter Njonjo. [Photo/NMG]

In December 2023, Peter Njonjo, the CEO of Twiga Foods, a Kenyan startup that connects farmers to food vendors, announced his decision to take a six-month sabbatical from the company.

This came months after Twiga raised $35 million (Ksh5.4 billion according to the current exchange rates) in convertible bonds from Creadev and Juven, two private equity investors who had previously invested in the company.

The funding was meant to pay Twiga’s debts, following several threats by its debtors to initiate liquidation processes against the cash-strapped company.

Months before Njonjo announced that he was leaving for a sabbatical, Twiga laid off 30% of its staff and changed its commercial model, shutting down its in-house sales department in favour of independent sales contractors. 

Lately, the company has been struggling to keep afloat despite having raised  $150 million in equity and debt since 2017.

Twiga CEO pushed out

In January, Njonjo quit the firm’s board a month after he resigned as its chief executive, in what insiders intimated to have been a pushout by foreign investors.

His exit meant that the company he co-founded in 2014 was under the full control of foreign investors, who ha pumped in a substantial amount to the company over the years.

Business Times understands that the company is now under the full control of Juven and Creadev, the latest companies to pump in cash to the company.

Peter Njonjo cofounded Twiga with Grant Brooke in 2014 to source fresh produce directly from farmers and deliver it to Kenya’s urban retailers. Investors like Genevieve Capital, Creadev, Juven AHL Venture Partners, and Omidyar Networks back the B2B company. 

In his resignation letter, Njonjo said he thinks “there is little value he can add to its current transition”, pointing to a potential fallout at the company.

“At the request of the board after my resignation, I agreed to stay on the Twiga Board and work through a six-month transition that allowed for the recruitment of a new CEO. Currently, the strategic direction and daily operations are now firmly in the hands of Juven and Creadev and there is little value I can add from this point on,” Mr Njonjo says in the resignation letter dated January 4, 2024.

“In this regard, I would like to resign as a Director of Twiga Holdings. As a Founder, I will remain a committed shareholder of Twiga.”

The letter is addressed to Mr Hein Pretorius, the Twiga Holdings board chairman, and copied to dozens of Twiga shareholders.

Speaking to Business Daily, Njonjo said he would remain a supportive shareholder, and not in the management team.

“I have strong faith in the current board and the management team, and I have decided that at this point in the company’s journey, I would want to play the role of a supportive shareholder,” he told the publication.

He says he is currently looking for other opportunities that would consume a lot of his time.

“I founded the company, so I will always have a strong interest in the success of the business. Twiga just closed a significant round of financing, which I also invested in, and coupled with its significant institutional capability, this puts the organisation in a very strong position. This also allows me to focus on other opportunities that will consume a significant amount of my time in the short to medium term,” he said.

Following Njonjo’s exit, chief operating officer Laurent Gouault and chief financial officer Zuber Momoniat were appointed to head operational and commercial, and finance and legal functions respectively.

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