In line with the rest of the globe, African tech developers are raising the brows of generous investors while they solve social challenges in their respective countries.
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Looking at the data, you could argue that Africa is going through a tech revolution. For the first time, in 2019 the venture capital funding raised by tech startups operating in Africa surpassed R15 billion. Tech startup tracking platform, Crunchbase now lists over 7,800 startups from the continent.
According to a 2018 WeeTracker report, the number of startups being funded more than doubled and startups on the continent are increasingly becoming recipients of big ticket funding rounds of over R60 million.
From financial technology, blockchain to edutech, there are new companies blossoming from every corner of the continent. We take a look at the growing African tech scene and the key players in various countries.
The success of M-Pesa sparked the fire for the Kenyan tech scene, showing opportunity in the East African country. Twelve years later, the Kenyan tech scene is worth $1 billion.
While M-Pesa attracted a lot of international tech companies like IBM and Microsoft, there have been a lot of small local startups that are innovating and creating tech that solves Kenyan challenges.
One such is, AB3D a company that recycles electronic waste into affordable 3D printers that create artificial limbs, while Myfugo is a company that is improving the productivity and profitability of dairy farmers in East Africa through digitisation.
From AI, machine learning to gaming, the Nigerian tech scene is going through its golden era, with a boom in startups and successful tech brands. Gamsole is one such startup. The Nigerian-born mobile game production company founded by Abiola Olaniran has been downloaded 10 million times.
Challenges, like electricity shortage, have not stopped developers in Nigeria from creating compelling tech products. In the 3-4 hours per day when they have electricity, Moses Olafenwa and John Olafenwa have created an artificial intelligence company called DeepQuest AI.
The two brothers, who are self-taught developers, launched an AI product that rivals some of the best international platforms, and at times, outperforming them in identifying objects and people. The product can be used in a number of different ways, including identifying a fight breaking out, to picking up in real-time when a fire starts.
Ghana is gaining more prominence in the tech scene, with companies like Farmerline and Jetstream Africa, which have both improved processes in their respective industries. While Farmerline’s technology is powering over 200,000 farmers across 13 countries with knowledge and resources for growth, Jetstream has made intercontinental trade easier for Ghanaians.
Approximately 60% of Egypt’s population is under the age of 30 and internet penetration is skyrocketing past 40%. The combination of the two dynamics have resulted in Egypt being one of the fastest growing startup scenes in the world.
One rising star from the country is Instabug, which offers services for mobile app developers to assist in the testing of their applications via an app feedback mechanism. The company has found favour in the Mecca of tech, Silicon Valley, where they garnered venture capital funding of $2.1m over 4 rounds.
Nafham is looking to improve educational access in the country. Through the free online educational video platform linked to the mandated public curriculum they reach over 200,000 people every month and have two million page views per month and have seen a 70% growth rate.
Because the country has positioned itself as one of the best countries to work, on the continent, the Rwandan tech ecosystem has attracted a number of foreign companies which are operating in the country. Some of the more popular companies are mobile handset company Mara and ride- hailing app SafeMotos, both owned by foreign companies or exports.
While overshadowed by the foreign owned companies, Rwandans are also developing interesting tech. Competing at Seedstars Kigali in 2018, companies like Hatch Plus vied for the number one spot.
They developed a solar-powered smart egg incubator that incubates and hatches up to 30,000 eggs into chickens, at a time. While JALI Finance developed innovative financial products for individuals and enterprises that were previously considered as non-bankable.
Fintech apps remain the most popular on the continent. Financial inclusion remains one of the most important challenges the continent experiences, it also happens to be one of the most lucrative. As such, it has been one of the most funded.
In Uganda, it is no different, one of the most successful tech companies is Ensibuuko. It is a micro finance fintech startup founded by Gerald Otim and David Opio. The startup has over $500m in equity and has become a leading name in micro banking.
Fundi Bots is creating the next generation of tech developers. The programme teaches children how to build robots and provides hands-on vocational skills and career development. To date, the organisation has reached over 10,000 children.
While the growing tech scene is inspiring, startups are still struggling with a number of issues on the continent including the lack of government support and infrastructure challenges.
Rural areas on the continent still see very little of the tech action. Trends show that the majority of tech development is happening in the metropolitan cities, and not enough is being done
to incorporate and support rural areas (beyond a few micro finance and financial inclusion initiatives). With sparse tech development in rural areas and smaller towns, we run the risk of, not only, widening the digital divide but also deepening the economic divide.