The explosive growth of Africa’s Tech Companies

Posted On: September 12, 2017
iHub in Kenya
iHub in Kenya

The growth of Africa’s tech industry has been phenomenal. More than 150 startups have been incubated at iHub; a business incubator for tech companies located in the heart of Nairobi. Nigeria’s Co-creation hub has also incubated tech businesses in West Africa. Similar hubs have taken off in different African cities, where innovators try to turn their ideas into profitable businesses.

The number of smartphone users doubles every one or two years. We can, therefore, expect the tech industry’s explosive growth to continue for a while. Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are the countries to watch. Some of the best ideas address a specific problem unique to Africa. Mobile money is very popular in Africa because most people can access mobile phones but not laptops. Credit cards are neither available nor practical for people who handle small amounts of money or live in rural areas.

Sometimes it goes beyond solving local problems. Ushahidi is the biggest success story to come out of Kenya so far because it has gone beyond solving a local problem to actually be used in other places like Haiti and the USA. At first, it was useful during the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in early 2008. Kenyans used it to report and map violent incidents. Later it became useful during the earthquake in Haiti. Today users can follow real time progress on any world event as data is crowdsourced.

Nigeria’s Andela trains promising graduates in software development and matches them with employers globally. It is a simple but effective method of bridging the skills gap and supplying companies with much-needed talent. Like many other African countries, Nigeria has a huge unemployment crisis on its hands and good software developers are in high demand. By identifying and training the best talent, Andela is meeting an important need. Andela has a presence in other African countries besides Nigeria.

As more and more Africans take to e-commerce, there is a huge market for solutions that will make it easier to for them to sell their wares. Delivering a package to a customer in Africa is not as easy as delivering a package to a customer in Europe. Enter Nigeria’s Delivery Science and Nairobi’s Sendy. Sendy is a package delivery service that allows clients to track their packages as they are on transit just like you would an Uber. This makes it a game changer in the courier business. Sandy may choose to serve local businesses or to partner with bigger companies like Amazon.

Delivery Science, on the other hand, leverages the power of big data to make the delivery process smarter. This company offers a complete e-commerce logistical solution. It streamlines the process all the way from warehousing to delivery verification codes at the point of delivery.

Andrew Higgins who built South Africa’s first e-commerce site in 1999 believes that that Africa’s e-commerce boom is not here yet and that now is the time to prepare for it. He is the creator of BidorBuy and PayFast.

Nigeria’s Gamsole is a gaming company that has so far seen over nine million downloads globally. Easily the biggest gaming success story in Africa, Gamsole develops games for Android and Windows phones. Besides game development, they also do animation and interactive content.

Wyzetalk is a South African social platform for business. It works on an invite only basis and makes it easier for teams to work together and share files, exchange instant message and hold meetings.

One of the inconveniences of working in Africa is that power supply is unreliable. There are frequent blackouts. Most last a few minutes or hours but they do disrupt one’s workday. Kenya’s BRCK is an answer to that problem. It is a mobile WiFi device that can keep you online when the lights go out. It works even in remote places. Given the enormous potential for growth, the company secured $1.2M in seed funding. This is a sure sign of its growth potential.

Kenya’s M-kopa has raised an astonishing $31M from investors. M-kopa serves the many East Africans who are involuntarily living ‘off-grid,’ with no access to electricity. Customers use mobile money to buy a solar power kit that lights their homes in the evenings, charges their phones, and powers a radio. M-kopa works with mobile money giant m-pesa to sell the kit on credit. Buyers pay for it gradually; with a tiny amount of money being deducted from their m-pesa daily. To date, M-kopa has succeeded in lighting half a million homes. The lights help rural families save money and improve their health. If M-kopa has its way, kerosene lamps will become a thing of the past.

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