Scam allegations by Hindenberg Research send Tingo Group's NASDAQ shares into a tailspin

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June 6, 2023
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3 min read

Hindenburg Research has published a report in which it exposes irregularities at Tingo Group. Tingo was founded by Dozy Mmobuosi, a Nigerian who recently made the headlines for his offer to buy Sheffield United. The group claims to have business interests across agriculture and fintech.

According to the report, claims that Mmobuosi received a PhD in rural advancement from a Malaysian university are false, as the university has denied having anyone by that name in its database. Mmobuosi was arrested in 2017 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for fraud, although the case was later settled in arbitration.

Tingo has repeatedly claimed to have a large mobile phone division that has sold more than 12 million phones. It claims these phones were sold to farmers, to whom it also offers food processing and export services. However, investigations revealed that this claim is duplicitous at best. Although it claims that it works with two farming cooperatives, the leaders of the cooperatives denied doing any business with Tingo.

A Nigerian agriculture expert is also quoted as saying, "I’ve been in this field for more than 20 years, and I have built agric distribution chains from all the key farming geographies in the country for some of the biggest companies. Trust me, if any platform has as little as 1,000 farmers, I would know. Let alone 12 million farmers? No single private platform has up to 500,000 farmers in Nigeria at the moment."

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A check with the Nigerian Communications Commission also shows that the company has no licence, while Airtel Mobile, its supposed partner, denies having any mobile virtual network agreement with Tingo. In Ghana, the story is the same, and despite claiming to have launched in the country, Ghana's National Communications Authority has no record of Tingo's operations in the country.

Tingo also claims to have phones supplied by UGC Technologies Company Limited and Bullitt Mobile Limited, but both companies deny having any relationship with Tingo. While UGC says it bid for a contract with Tingo three years ago, its CEO, Busty Okendaye, clarifies that it never heard from Tingo. Bullitt Mobile Limited, on the other hand, states that it has not supplied any phones to the company despite a contract for that.

In 2019, Tingo launched Nwassa, which it claimed was a holistic agricultural marketplace. While speaking to Techpoint Africa in 2019, Mmobuosi claimed that the platform was processing less than 500,000 transactions daily. He also claimed that Tingo had distributed more than 3 million mobile phones in countries like Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Liberia.

Checks by the Hindenburg Research team revealed that the Nwassa website, which is currently unavailable was never completed and there is no evidence to prove such a service ever existed. Just like it did with Tingo Mobile, the company extended its services to Ghana, but much like its Nigerian arm, the website does not load. Web captures of the website, however, show a bag of rice on sale for GH₵28,500 ($2,533).

In May 2023, Tingo claimed that its subsidiary, Tingo DMCC, was projected to export more than $1 billion worth of agricultural produce, more than the entire country managed in 2022. It also claims that its food division, which acts as a middleman, had operating margins of 24.8%, higher than the major food companies globally.

Accidental writer, covering Africa's startup landscape and its heroes. Find me on Twitter @chigo_nwokoma.
Accidental writer, covering Africa's startup landscape and its heroes. Find me on Twitter @chigo_nwokoma.
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Accidental writer, covering Africa's startup landscape and its heroes. Find me on Twitter @chigo_nwokoma.

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