While locations such as San Francisco, New York, and London have primarily held the tech spotlight, few are aware of the innovations coming out of Africa.
The region has quietly paved its way as a powerful technology base and while the hottest tech locations remain, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, the entire continent is undergoing an innovation revolution. Positioned as the next tech frontier, Africa is being perceived as an appealing location, and needless to say, many are taking note.
Not surprisingly, VC’s and accelerators’ interest’s have been peaked, increasing their involvement and investment throughout the continent. In 2016, over $129 million was raised by 146 Africa-based startups, a 16.8% increase from 2015, and this number is only expected to increase.In 2016, $129m was raised by African #startups - no wonder #VC and #accelerators have taken note Click To Tweet
Accelerators such as 88mph, which is gaining popularity by targeting web and mobile startups aimed towards the African market, have sprung up all over the region. Other accelerators which have made names for themselves include the Savannah Fund, which backs early-stage startups from sub-Saharan Africa and 42Kura, the first Israeli-Rwandan accelerator bringing Israeli “chutzpah” alongside a unique understanding of how necessity fuels innovation.
Bringing Innovation to Africa
Part of the reason behind Africa’s tech boom lies in the continent’s dire need for innovation. Many countries are taking an active role in innovating to solve problems and to better the lives of their citizens. One such way countries are going about this is by partnering with startups. Local governments are running proof-of-concepts at large scale in order to bring widespread adoption and integration to the continent.
Much of the innovations brought to Africa are designed to better the lives of its citizens and accelerate their connection to modern day technology. Water-Gen, an Israeli startup that makes water from humidity in the air, presented their revolutionary solution to the United Nations. The company, while not yet piloting their product in Africa, certainly put their sights on the continent and will do what they can to solve the humanitarian water crisis many countries are facing.
While some pilots are still in talks, many have already begun and have seen great success. In a past blog post, we wrote about the collaboration between Zipline and the government of Rwanda, using Zip-drones to instantly provide needed healthcare to remote areas. Recently, Nigeria announced a pilot with Hello Tractor, the ‘small and smart’ tractor solution for farmers that connects tractor owners and farmers in order to increase profits. The Nigerian Central Bank is guaranteeing 75% of the cost for the tractor, increasing the access Nigerian farmers have to these smart tractors.
Innovations Coming Out of Africa
While it makes sense that outside innovations are being adopted by the region to solve needs, many innovations, which start in Africa, are being adopted by not only Africa but the rest of the world.
One of the most pressing issues facing African countries is the lack of access to higher education and the lack of opportunity in the region has long-lasting impacts on the success of the people. Luckily for them, OneUni, a Kenyan startup, found ways to break through the barriers. With the tagline, “Africa’s first smartphone degree program”, OneUni is making university programs available and accessible to anyone in Kenya by offering courses through their smartphone app.
Alongside education, FinTech, an appealing industry for innovators worldwide, is also calling to African innovators. Nigerian FinTech startup, Lidya, is gaining popularity as a digital financial solution aimed at simplifying financing for SMB’s across Africa. Just last month the company closed a $1.25 million investment round in seed funding; an investment that will be used to increase the number of loans already given since their launch in 2016. Lidya grants loans to businesses within 48 hours in a variety of industries who were previously unable to access capital and aims to manage 1.5 billion Nigerian dollars, stimulating the local economy and enhancing the quality of life.
Taking a part of the FinTech world and transforming it with blockchain and creativity, South Africa-based Custos Media, has created a new way to prevent digital media piracy, bringing great news to digital content creators worldwide. Film companies report that damages incurred from leaked movies can reach upwards of $10 million, signaling that there is a real need for a solution that uses technology to manage piracy.
African as the Next Tech Spotlight
As innovation transforms the lives of millions living in Africa, their desires for technology and improved quality of life will increase, leading to an expansion of verticals for African entrepreneurs to explore.
As startups such as Clevva, which uses AI to advise sales and tech consultants, and Instabug, which offers in-app feedback and bug tracking and reporting, gain popularity with big names such as Accenture, PayPal, BuzzFeed and more, the validity of the innovation coming from Africa will continue to rise. More investors and enterprises will be drawn to Africa out of a desire to capitalize on the rush of innovation and be a part of the next startup revolution.
We predict that an increasing amount of proof-of-concepts will spring up between African startups and global enterprises and between global startups and African countries, bringing with them the greatest wave of innovation the continent has ever seen.