As business activities gradually pick up this year, the African tech startup ecosystem sure has some reverberating energy around it as more tech startups grow, expand and innovate. Last year recorded quite some milestones as the African tech scene recorded a record surge in investment flow, totalling $4 billion, with several startups closing record-breaking deals.
The year saw the number of unicorns move up to seven, with African tech startup giants; Flutterwave, OPay, Andela and Chipper Cash joining the likes of Jumia and Interswitch on the Unicorn list.
This piece looks at ten startups that are on an impressive trajectory and will undoubtedly shape Africa’s tech ecosystem this year.
In 2018, Ham Serunjogi, the CEO, and Maiijid Moujaled, co-founded Chipper Cash. The startup offers a no-fee peer-to-peer cross-border payment service to Africans and Europe via its app.
For years, it’s been a challenging experience to send money from Europe to Africa seamlessly. Even within Africa, it has been an arduous effort. This is even more cumbersome as platforms like Paypal have blacklisted countries like Nigeria for many years, thus making cross-border payments a herculean task.
Chipper Cash founders changed the narrative by offering a no-fee peer-to-peer service to Africans, thus opening up this market. With the disruptive innovation, the African tech startup has raised a total of $302.2 million in funding in over six rounds.
The company is backed by 21 investors, with SVB Capital and One Way Ventures being the most recent.
The app is currently used in about seven African countries, namely Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. It also provides payment solutions for businesses and merchants to process online and in-store payments.
The future certainly holds so much potential for the platform as cross-border remittance is a huge market simply waiting to be tapped.
Jumo is a South African and London-based mobile financial services platform for mobile network operators and banks.
Founded by CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball, the Banking as a Service Platform uses AI to power financial services such as credit and savings to partners such as eMoney operators, mobile fintech platforms and banks in South Africa.
It has two capabilities; Core which provides end-to-end next-generation banking infrastructure, and Unify, an Artificial Intelligence processor that interprets data to reduce cost and risk in the process of lending.
The last quarter of last year was an especially busy one for the startup as it raised $120 million in an unnamed series round from Fidelity Management and Research Company, Visa and London-based investment management firm Kingsway Capital. It has so far gone through 6 funding rounds and raised a total of $214.2m for expansion.
It is present in six African markets; Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Ivory Coast. The platform has served more than 18 million customers across these markets with more than $3.5 billion loans and over 120 million individual loans disbursed.
With access to basic financial services still limited and 42% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa still unbanked, platforms such as Jumo are still just scratching the surface of the market in Africa. Jumo is certainly a startup to watch out for this year.
Founded November 2018 by Ali El Atrash, Muhammad El Garem, Omar Hagrass and Pierre Saad, Cairo-based Trella is a B2B technology platform that aims to connect shippers and carriers in the freight industry.
It currently has a presence in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan and hopes to play a dominant role in the road freight market in this region which it says is worth $50 billion.
Trella boasts of a total of 350 shipping partners like Coca-Cola, Maersk, Mondi, Orascom, Camel and Henkel while it says it has over 15,000 carriers using its platform.
Since its launch of the African tech startup, Trella has raised a total of $42.8m in 5 funding rounds and has been accepted into the Y Combinator accelerator, acquired Trucko Technologies, a local competitor, and is targeting to expand into the MENAP region.
The transportation industry is a lucrative and uncharted territory, and Trello is a brand to watch out for this year as it makes more inroads into new parts.
Nigeria’s Kuda bank, formerly known as Kudimoney, is a fully licensed digital-only bank offering full banking services to Nigerians and Africans, with a mission to bank every African on the planet.
To date, it has raised a total of $91.5m to solidify its operations which is majorly concentrated in Nigeria but with plans to expand across Africa.
Kuda’s value proposition is hinged on the gap in access to banking services in sub-Saharan Africa. With just a smartphone, it provides banking services that it says are free of ridiculous charges and great at helping the hitherto unbanked gain access to innovative banking services.
Its last funding, where it raised $55million at a whopping $500million valuation, shows that the digital-only bank is poised to make some massive push this year.
Since its launch, Kuda has played a challenger role against peers as it rakes in a massive expansion in Nigeria. During its Series A of $25 million in August 2021, it announced that it now had 1.4 million registered users, more than double what it had earlier in March when it had just 650,000 registered users. Based on its stellar performance last year, it is believed that Kuda will top the feat in 2022.
Edtech is may not so popular as other segments like Fintech, but startups like ULesson and others have been shinning the spotlight on the market segment.
Founded by serial entrepreneur, Konga and Dealdey founder, Sim Sagaya, in 2019, ULesson is a revolutionary app that offers live online classes, video lessons and personalized support for primary and secondary school learners.
On the app, learners purchase learning plans to access the suite of classes and tutorials available on various subjects.
Sagaya launched ULesson in the heat of a pandemic year shortly after a failed bid to drive his e-commerce platform, Konga, to profitability. The startup has since raised $25.6 million in funding in four rounds, the last being on December 9, 2021.
According to the startup, the ULesson app has had 2 million downloads, over 12.3 million videos watched and 25.6 million questions answered on the platform.
Interestingly, adoption doesn’t seem to have waned, or the numbers dropped even with schools getting back to in-person teaching. ULesson says its paying users grew 600% this past year; monthly average users also increased by 700% while average daily users surged 430% within the same period.
This shows there is indeed a big market for such provision. The platform, which is presently only available in Nigeria, plans to expand into other African countries like South Africa, Sierra Leone, the UK, Liberia, Gambia, and the US negligible presence.
It recently launched offline centers that are destinations for learning and serve as places to educate the public on ULesson’s importance and sign them up.
Tunisia based Expensya is a Software as a Service B2B platform that helps businesses automate expense management. It offers web, mobile and API based tools for businesses to manage their entire spending without having to spend time on manual tasks.
Founded in 2014 by Karim Jouini and Jihed Othmani, the company currently has 140 employees and serves over 5,000 customers in more than 100 countries – including large corporations, small businesses and freelancers. It has so far raised a total of $25.6 million from four investment rounds.
Nigerian savings and investment startup Piggyvest has successfully glamorized the savings and investment process with its offering.
Tapping into the hitherto untouched areas by the frontline financial institutions, Nigerian fintech startups have been able to strike a chord as they penetrate with innovative products and faster response time which banks were known to lack.
Piggyvest prides itself as a platform that helps individuals and businesses manage their finances effectively. It enables Nigerian debit cardholders to save little money frequently with minimal effort. This is done by automating a saving process that could be daily, weekly, or monthly and free withdrawal.
Founded in 2018, Piggyvest has raised a total of $50milliom from two investment rounds. It acquired Savi.ng in July 2021 in a bid to consolidate its growth.
Health tech startup, 54gene is a game-changer in this highly specialised sector. Founded by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong in 2019, it sought to address the gap in the availability of genetic material used in pharmaceutical research where 90% of it is Caucasian, with only 2% being African even though Africans are known to possess a diverse range.
54gene seeks to solve this by including under-represented Africans in global genomics research.
It has raised a total of $44.7million in six funding rounds, with the most recent held on September 16, 2021, from a Series B round. It is funded by 20 investors with Adjuvant Capital and Ingressive Capital being the most recent.
The future holds so much possibilities for this startup, given that this field is relatively untapped and needs more players to innovatively deploy innovations that will make health care delivery accessible to all nooks and crannies of communities across Africa.
The Ghanian health tech startup is another innovative startup bringing attention to the medical world as it deploys tech to make the process of administering and accessing medical attention seamless.
mPharma improves access to medicines by providing innovative financing and inventory management through a network of community pharmacies across Africa. It aims to be the go-to primary healthcare service provider for millions of people, thus making healthcare accessible.
The African tech startup has raised a total of $88.2 million, made two acquisitions in the recent past as it looks to penetrate eight markets in Africa to be the first point of care for patients.
Autochecks’s value proposition is simple: it connects vehicle buyers and sellers on its platform and helps you buy or sell a car with confidence. Via its platform, It allows users to search for the vehicle history of pre-owned vehicles.
The startup is operational in West and East Africa and has also developed a partner-led retail footprint with over 150 service centers. It recently acquired digital car sales marketplace Cheki in Nigeria and Ghana.
It also has a vehicle financing provision in partnership with ten banks in Nigeria and two in Ghana.
The startup closed a $3.4 million pre-seed round co-led by TLcom Capital and 4DX ventures toward late 2020.
With the used car market in Africa estimated to be worth $45 billion a year, the startup sure has a whole field to play in with just a few competitors like trucking logistics company Kobo360.
Egyptian scientist Rana El Kaliouby is looking to bring emotional intelligence to the digital world with Affectiva’s emotion recognition technology that senses and analyses facial expressions for emotions.
According to a report, 70% of the world’s largest advertisers use Affectiva to measure and understand emotional responses to media content.
The company has raised a total of $62.6 million in funding over seven rounds. They raised their last funding on April 11, 2019, from a Venture-Series unknown round.
However, in May 2021, the startup was acquired by Smart Eye, a publicly-traded Swedish company that supplies driver monitoring systems for a dozen automakers for a $73.5 million cash-and-stock deal.
With the acquisition, attention will be on Smart Eye this year to see how it deploys the capabilities that Affectiva’s emotion recognition technology brings to the table.
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