11 African Tech Startups To Watch in 2017

Photo Credit: Evan Vucci

In the comments of my last article, 15 Black Startup Founders Making Great Strides in Tech, there were comments sharing disappointment that I never featured any Africa-focused startups. This article has been written in response to those comments and to shine a light on the entrepreneurs making a difference across the continent.

According to The Knights Foundation report: Diversifying Investments, just 1.1 percent of the $71.4 trillion assets under management across the world is in the hands of women and minority-owned firms. We all know entrepreneurship is hard, but starting a business across Africa is particularly hard given the restraints presented by developing nations. It is a gift and a curse in that new problems call for different solutions from the Western World but it can be challenging facing the barriers that impact scale and success. These barriers include:

  • Limited access to funding
  • Weak infrastructure (internet, electricity, transport and logistics etc.)
  • Influential government (inconsistent regulations, import taxes and trading laws)
  • Financial Services (nearly 80% of Africa remains unbanked)
  • Talent drain (Well skilled talent seeking greater opportunity abroad)

Just like Europe, I recognise Africa is a continent and not a country and therefore we expect differences in doing business within each country, however the list above is applicable to countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa where we are seeing startup hubs starting to thrive. By 2025, half of sub-Saharan Africa’s 1bn strong population will have internet access, with 360m connecting via smartphones, according to McKinsey. This presents a significant opportunity for startups with the reliance to start companies to tackle Africa’s biggest problems.

I believe diversity and inclusion in the workplace leads to smarter decision-making and provides business benefits. Investments made in the startups below show the value in investing in entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and why ‘access to funding’ needs to be made readily available to drive entrepreneurship and jobs across the content. The startups listed below have continued to grow and succeed despite the odds being stacked against them.

MeQasa — Ghana

Let’s start off with my country of origin, Ghana. This is one of a few venture funded startups in Ghana I found a few years ago. Originally discovered them when they received $500,000 from Malaysian-based Frontier Digital Ventures who focus on classified ads businesses across the continent. MeQasa provides a listing site for buyers, renters and sellers of property, with nearly 20,000 listings to date.

Check them out here: https://meqasa.com/about-us

iRoko TV — Nigeria

This Africa-wide platform has grown to become the Netflix for Nollywood movies, with the majority of its 65,000 in the US, Nigeria and UK. The startup has grown rapidly in the 5 years since inception to build a library of nearly 10,000 movies and raise over $35m in funding from investors such as Canal+ and Rise Capital. There are not many credible competitors to Neflix, but iRoko is one to watch.

Check them out here: https://irokotv.com/

BitPesa — Kenya

This startup has benefited from being one of the first companies to explore the commercial use of Blockchain within Africa, alongside Atlas and Switchless. BitPesa has developed partnerships across Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to facilitate cross-boarder payments utilising Blockchain technology. They have handled nearly 20,000 transactions to date with over 6,000 users and funding from investors such as Greycroft Ventures and Draper Associates.

Check them out here: https://www.bitpesa.co/

Giraffe — South Africa

The startup proved impressive last year walking away with $500,000 in prize money by winning the 2016 Seedstars World Summit. That’s right World Summit not Africa Summit. Giraffe is a mobile recruitment platform that aims to make finding employment for job seekers in South Africa quick, cheap and easy by linking candidates with relevant opportunities by SMS.

Check them out here: https://www.giraffe.co.za/

Dusu Pay — Uganda

Technically Dusu Pay is founded by Ugandan Entrepreneur, Ntende Kenneth but the startup is run out of London. This Fintech is API-led and aims to provide payments gateway infrastructure for Africa’s ever increasing cashless payment methods. Payment methods include the traditional Visa and Mastercard along with the likes of Bitcoin, Trustly, M-Pesa and MTN Mobile Money.

Check them out here: https://www.dusupay.com/

M-Kopa — Kenya

The company mission is to “upgrade lives by making high-quality solutions affordable to everyone.” M-KOPA has connected more than 500,000 homes in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to solar power with over 500 new homes. The thing I love about their tailored approach is that they utilise a mobile-first pay-as-you-go model to provide affordable energy to consumers.

Check them out here: http://www.m-kopa.com/

This Is Me — South Africa

The 2014 cloud-based verification service has raised over $2.5m in funding and a range of customers from banks to insurance firms. In the next 24 months they plan to expand internationally to Australia and New Zealand.

Check them out here: https://thisisme.com/

SafeMotos — Rwanda

So often we read the AirBnB of this, or the Instagram for that. However SafeMotos is making a legitimate claim to become the safer alternative of Uber for motorcycle taxis. With over 120,000 trips completed to date and 25,000 registered users through the iOS and Android app, SafeMotos is tackling one of Africa’s biggest killers, motorcycle accidents.

Check them out here: http://www.safemotos.com/

Konga — Nigeria

With nearly $80m raised in venture capital, Konga is the Nigerian online shopping store selling books, home appliances, mobile phones, groceries, and others. Konga is one of the fastest growing competitors to African e-commerce giant Jumia.

Check them out here: https://www.konga.com/

Zoona — South Africa

Zoona was the 2016 winners of the Social Entrepreneurship award at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship. This South African FinTech has raised over $20m in funding from the likes of Mastercard Foundation. Zoona provide technology, capital, and business support to emerging entrepreneurs in Africa, enabling them to start their own businesses as Zoona agents. This year the startup aims to process over $2bn in transactions.

Check them out here: http://www.ilovezoona.com/

Asoriba — Ghana

Growing up a British-born Ghanaian, meant culturally I followed many of the traditions such as wearing red and black at funerals or shaking the hands of elders with my right hand moving from right to left around a table. Church too was another cornerstone of Ghanaian tradition. Churches across Africa have been growing at an astronomical rate over the last 20 years, making it an increasingly attractive market for venture funding to pay attention to. In 2016, Asoriba was named the Best Startup at the inaugural Seedstars Africa. The startup provides a platform that allows churches to effectively manage, engage and connect with their members

Check them out here: https://www.asoriba.com/

One way you can support most of the startups above and many more from the African continent is to attend the Afrobytes conference in Paris, 8th — 9th June 2017. Afrobytes conference is a two day program to meet African Tech actors in Paris. They designed the conference to be ‘an accelerator of growth and innovation’ between Europe, Africa and beyond. Get your tickets now and be a part of the conversation, use promo code : BLAVITY for 20% discount off registration (click here for Tickets).

QUICK PLUG: My inspiration is my mother, she became an entrepreneur at age 60, but she needs our help. She is raising funds to buy a shuttle bus to support low-income families in picking up their children for Nursery in Ghana. Check it out here: https://www.gofundme.com/juliets-nursery-mini-bus-campaign

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