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Emeka Ajene: International Investors are Increasingly Interested in African Startups

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While Silicon Valley continues to dominate the global conversation around innovation and tech entrepreneurship, early-stage tech-enabled ventures across Africa are quietly gaining significant traction among investors, customers, and other stakeholder groups.

According to reports, Africa-focused startups raised over $360 million in 2016, up 33% from 2015. With various opportunities created for savvy entrepreneurs by the ongoing mobile revolution sweeping the continent and other favorable trends, it’s perhaps not surprising that this momentum has continued into 2017.

Right now, for example, CCHub is taking startups from Nigeria and 8 other African countries on a three-week #PitchDrive through Europe with the specific goal of raising over US$20 million in investments. But one doesn’t have to wait three weeks to find foreign investors writing big cheques for a stake in some of the most-promising startups across Africa.

From January through July 2017, a number of Africa-focused startups raised significant equity funding ($1,000,000 and up) from global investors:

In Nigeria alone:

  • Flutterwave, an API-driven fintech platform, raised a $10+ million Series A round co-led by New York’s Greycroft Partners and San Francisco’s Green Visor Capital, with Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator also participating.
  • Cars45.com, an online marketplace for used cars, raised a $5 million Series A round from Berlin’s Frontier Car Group (a holding company backed by London’s Balderton Capital, London’s TPG Growth, Lagos’s EchoVC, and Silicon Valley’s NEA.)
  • Tizeti, a high-speed wireless internet provider, raised $2.1 million from California-based venture-debt firm, Western Technology Investment, Silicon Valley’s Social Capital, Dubai’s Vy Capital, San Francisco’s Lynett Capital and others.

And elsewhere on the continent:

  • Kenya’s Twiga Foods, a B2B m-commerce platform, raised a $10.3 million Series A round led by Dubai’s Wamda Capital.
  • Kenya’s PowerGen, a renewable energy provider, raised a $4.5 million Series A round led by Dutch family office, DOB Equity with Kenya’s AHL Venture Partners also participating.
  • Morocco’s WaystoCap, a cross-border B2B e-commerce platform, raised ~$3 million from Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator, Waltham’s Battery Ventures, Silicon Valley’s Soma Capital, New York’s Palm Drive Capital, Palo Alto’s Amino Capital, New York’s Story Ventures, San Francisco’s Lynett Capital, and others.
  • Kenyan-headquartered BitPesa, a virtual currency payment platform, raised a $2.5 million Series A round led by Silicon Valley’s Draper Associates, with participation from New York’s Greycroft Partners and others.
  • South Africa’s HearX, a hearing-focused digital health firm, raised a $2.8+ million seed round, including $500K in grants.
  • Kenya’s Alternative Circle, the fintech-focused parent company of mobile micro-loan app, Shika, raised a $1.1 million strategic investment from Iceland-based credit risk management company, Creditinfo Group, related to data generated.
  • Kenya’s Bamba, a mobile-driven data collection startup, raised a $1.1 million seed round from Silicon Valley’s Draper Associates, Colorado’s Foundry Group, San Francisco’s Right Side Capital, and others.
  • Ghana’s OMG Digital, a viral media company, raised a $1.1 million seed round from San Francisco’s Comcast Ventures, Silicon Valley’s Soma Capital & Social Capital, and others.

So far 2017 has seen several international investors placing big bets on Africa. And as Africa’s digital revolution proceeds, and past predictions come to pass (e.g., the gradual rise of the middle & consumer class, rapid urbanization, and strong working-age population growth), more and more opportunities will be created for tech entrepreneurs to tackle big problems across the continent in a commercially feasible way.

Investors, both on the continent and abroad, who are willing to brave the inherent risks of such enterprises now will be well-positioned to realize the (increasing) potential for return in the future. After all, fortune favours the bold, and in the world’s frontier markets, especially sub-Saharan Africa, that’s doubly true.

Photo Credit: Denisismagilov | Dreamstime

Emeka Ajene is the Managing Partner of Africreate, a boutique innovation consultancy in the African tech & SME ecosystem, and the Editor of Afridigest, a business media brand focused on analysis & insights for innovators across Africa & beyond. He previously led regional operations for Uber Nigeria and customer experience & marketing for Konga.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eajene.

1 Comment

  1. DaniDPX

    August 25, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    It’s interesting to see advancement and adoption of Technology across Africa, nowadays. I’m witnessing in several African countries that startup companies are now increasing for a big change! I think more opportunities needs to be available for Africa. Because, now Africa is a place for new Innovation and products that help millions of low-income community. All professionals and developers are now seeking for different solutions to help their community and even for peoples around the world. We all believe that we need to see Africa utilizing “Technology”. That’s how I believe that in the next few years with the help of potential investors, Africa will be among US, China and so on.. but before everything, we need to get prepared in acquiring knowledge! and That, institutions like Gebeya helped us to reach our dreams.

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