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Why Morocco Is Hosting This Year’s ‘DEMO Africa’ And What It Means For The North African Startup Ecosystem

Nzekwe Henry June 25

Come October 2018, all roads will lead to the Kingdom of Morocco for the latest edition of what could be regarded as Africa’s very own ‘Ludus Magnus’ for budding startups; DEMO Africa. This flagship initiative is the brainchild of Lions@frica, a public-private alliance founded with the vision of enhancing and furthering the startup and innovation ecosystems of targeted African economies that are on the rise.

Over the years, the DEMO initiative has been at the forefront of promoting and commercializing some of the world’s most promising products – from modest beginnings in the trenches to successful launches in the global market. One of the adaptations of the initiative, DEMO Africa, is the launch pad for African technology and trends. Having garnered a decent following through the years, the initiative is geared towards exposing some of the finest African innovations as they venture into the markets. This is done by introducing selected startups to an esteemed audience which includes investors, corporate acquirers, strategic partners and global media practitioners.

As reported on the DEMO Africa website, the initiative is touted to have connected over 3,000 African startups to the global innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, helped create more than 2,000 high-paying jobs, and mentored over 250 startup teams across the continent over the last six years. Such is the influence of the initiative which also claims to have paved the way for over 30 of its past winners to venture into Silicon Valley through the Lions@frica innovation tour – leveraging deep knowledge exchanges and engaging the global innovation ecosystem in the process.

Why Branch Into North Africa At This Time?

As reported in an African Funding Report put together by WeeTracker in 2017, the Moroccan startup ecosystem is understood to be only second to Egypt in the Northern Africa region. It also ranks 6th in Africa and 65th in the world having scored 29.2 points in the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI). An earlier publication by the same group on Morocco’s developing startup ecosystem indicates that the kingdom witnessed the injection of about USD 3.2 Mn in the form of investment funding for startups in the past year – a feat which gives some credence to the notion that startup investment is making a comeback to North Africa, with Morocco and Egypt leading the charge.

Having witnessed successful spells in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in the past six editions, this annual pan-African technology showcase will be heading to North Africa for the first time ever – and the Kingdom of Morocco is playing host for the next two editions. It is almost perfect-timing for both the locals and the region at large, as there has been something of a renaissance in the North African startup ecosystem in recent times. As a nation, the Kingdom of Morocco appears to be going through an interesting phase in the form of an upward surge in enterprising innovations and the country seems to be on the right track in its bid to become one of the major innovation hubs in the region. Throw that in with the idea that the Moroccan ecosystem has been the subject of renewed interest from targeted stakeholders and investors in recent times and it becomes clearer why branching into North Africa at this time is a no-brainer. Now, here is why this year’s DEMO Africa is at home in the Kingdom of Morocco and what the rest of the region might take home from hosting this year’s edition of the competition.

Development Of The Ecosystem

It’s raining cash for Moroccan startups at the moment as funds seem to be aplenty. Amongst stakeholders, there has been something akin to a jostling for places in the startup community as almost everyone is looking to get in on the act by grabbing their own piece of the pie. As such, the ecosystem seems to be flooded with funds and the numbers give credence to the widely-purported trend. As pointed out in a recent GSMA report which focused on tech hubs across Asia Pacific and Africa, Morocco plays host to as many as 25 accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, or tech hubs of other kinds. Casablanca, one of the kingdom’s major economic centers, reportedly accounts for over 50 percent of these startups. This makes the country one of the centerpieces of DEMO Africa’s initiative which is geared towards providing a growth platform for startups.

The Moroccan startup ecosystem boasts a healthy population of incubators/accelerators, ecosystem builders, funds, media, and startup communities. With considerable support from Microsoft 4Afrika, one of the founding partners of the DEMO Africa initiative, Lion@frica’s ecosystem engagement program have culminated in the unearthing of such vital enterprises as LaFactory, Outlierz Ventures, Technopark, OCP Foundation, H7 and Maroc Numeric Fund. These firms have set their sights on scaling startups across the African ecosystem with a view to helping them go global and even become potential world-beaters. In firms like H7 and the OCP Foundation, the country in particular and the region at large are assured of leaders in the pan-African ecosystem with affiliations to Morocco, and a vision that is in tandem with the ideals of the DEMO initiative. All these should lay the groundwork for the development of the ecosystem.

Support From The Public Sector

By design of the Moroccan Ministry of Finance and Economy, October 2017 witnessed the launching of the country’s ‘Innov Invest Fund’. The intent behind the creation of the fund by the Moroccan government is hinged on serving up real opportunities in the form of support and financing set aside for startups and innovators of novel enterprises. The stipulations of the investment fund has since been implemented by the Moroccan government with the move reflecting a genuine commitment on the part of the country’s executive council towards legitimizing and buoying the efforts of this class of entrepreneurs who may yet be at the heart of future economies.

More so, the country’s Central Guarantee Fund (CGC), a new instrument which is fostering this entrepreneurial revolution, is expanding its scope to include more entrepreneurs and thus linking both sides of the chasm that exists in the funding chain for green businesses. Further reports from the ministry indicate that the CGC has already put pen to paper on four agreements with the management companies of four selected seed funds. Essentially, these posturing and relationships are expected to prove vital especially as the African Business Angels Network (ABAN) seems poised to reach further into North Africa through DEMO Africa.

Innovation And Input From Corporate Firms

Data available from the most recent GSMA report suggests that the recognition of the mutual benefits that are in the offing for both parties is a key factor in the increase in partnerships between mobile operators and startups that have made headlines in recent times. With the continent boasting over a billion mobile subscribers across the continent, leveraging the market opportunity that exist by means of innovative programs with telecommunication companies is a good way to get off the mark for a number of enterprises.

The same report also suggests that over 14 percent of the active tech hubs identified across Africa are supported or run by mobile operators. Such programs as Inwi’s annual Impact Camp and Orange’s StartOn are reported to be front-runners in Morocco’s growing tech ecosystem, supporting startups in the region and playing admirable roles in furthering their growth through strategic partnerships.

The Francophone Dimension

Africa’s technology ecosystem is diverse as it is embodied by multilingual and multicultural innovation hubs that cut across countries, states, cities, and provinces. In the past editions, DEMO Africa’s content (both presentations and trainings) have been rooted in English. In a bid to encourage broader participation, the initiative looks set to expand its horizons this time around by making provisions for other widely-spoken languages, having awarded hosting rights for the next two editions to the Kingdom of Morocco. In view of that, the 2018 and 2019 editions of DEMO Africa is expected to incorporate francophone networks and hubs by allowing for startups to pitch in both English and French. Delivery of content in both languages will also be facilitated.

This is coming as a coup for the kingdom and other French-speaking countries in the region who may have legitimate reasons for having felt marginalized and hard-done by the language-barrier in previous editions. And a look at the numbers may indicate that this ‘French connection’ should have even happened sooner. Referring to data available from OIF Researchers would reveal an estimated 200 million French-speakers worldwide and nearly half of them (about 96.2 million) being Africans. Further excerpts from the report forecast an estimated 700 million French-speakers worldwide by 2050. Following from that premise, the next two editions of DEMO Africa will give special attention to promising and viable enterprises from some of the French-speaking regions of the continent – Yet another win for Morocco and the rest of the region.

The ‘Fourth’ Coming Of The Industrial Revolution

In recent times, there has been a novel approach to technology which has culminated in a flurry of activities into such nascent fields as Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Blockchain and Robotics technologies. In view of this, the next two installations of DEMO Africa will be bracing up in anticipation of the impact that will accompany the introduction of these new startup verticals. Africa might come across as a continent that is better-suited to frugal and locally-sourced solutions in this journey to globalization, but what is now being regarded the 4th Industrial Revolution might yet prove instrumental to the transformation of the content.

The combination of technological advancements in realms that are both physical and digital is shifting the paradigm and giving the continent a whole new perspective. From massive data to machine learning, those emerging fields are transforming the most basic tools, techniques, and human interactions, ultimately. In the grandest of schemes, the emergence of those novel technologies is expected to have a profound effect on the African continent – of the likes obtainable in any developing market. In that regard, DEMO Africa is poised to provide the platform for the continent’s millennials and visionaries to leverage their expertise and serve up solutions to some of Africa’s nagging problems while strutting into the reckoning of the global tech community. And how fitting it is that Morocco, one of North Africa’s main innovation hubs, will be the stomping ground for the next two years of this tech revolution!

The latest edition of DEMO Africa is scheduled to be held from 18th to 19th October, 2018. Interested African startups who are looking to make the most of the opportunity can get more information or submit entries via

Applications close July 15th, 2018.

South African VC Company HAVAIC Acquires Stake In Instant Property

Nzekwe Henry October 17

Havaic; a South African venture capital (VC) firm that is based in Cape Town has acquired a 10 percent equity stake in Instant Property; a commercial real-estate portal that has operations in South Africa.

According to the details of the acquisition, HAVAIC has acquired a 10 percent equity stake in Instant Property with the advancement of the first round of financing to that effect. By virtue of the agreement, there is also a clause which allows for follow-on funding at the discretion of Instant Property. If exercised, this allocation provides that up to 17 percent equity stake in the real estate portal will be transferred to the VC company.

Executive Director of Havaic, Grant Rock, is also expected to the join the Instant Property board in a non-executive capacity as part of the specifications and provisions of the deal. While the specifics of the deal as per the exact amount that was invested is yet to be disclosed at this time, the funds injected can be expected to go some way towards accelerating the growth of the real-estate platform, as well as develop its technology and facilitate expansion plans.

Instant Property; a Johannesburg-based property-tech startup that was established only a year ago by Wayne Berger, is known to have wrapped up an angel investment round earlier. And much like the current development, a coy stance was maintained with regard to the specifications of the deal in terms of valuation.

Since coming into existence around February last year, Instant Property currently boasts over 9 million square meters of commercial property listings on its portal. It also believed to lay claim to more than 2.5 million square meters of warehouse, office, and retail space which are currently available to let and for sale.

With the spate of significant investments, mergers and acquisitions witnessed in the South African realty space from both the existing players and international investors in recent times, it could be surmised that the sector is spoiling for a disruption and ripe for the taking. And with the potentials of the sector becoming quite evident amongst industry players who are beginning to get in on the act, it might not be long before we get to see that much-vaunted “property-tech boom.”


Feature image credit: Techfinancials

A Bittersweet Saga As Flutterwave Raises USD 20 Mn And Loses Its Founder

Andrew Christian October 17

After a year of raising USD 10 Mn in Series A, leading Nigerian fintech company, Flutterwave has extended the round, bringing the total investment to USD 20 Mn. But in the spirit of celebration and hope that the firm will spread its tentacles, the founder and high-profile CEO, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, announced his resignation from Flutterwave.  This marks Aboyeji’s second exit from a company he co-founded in less than five years.

This latest round of funding includes investments form MasterCard, CRE Ventures, Fintech Collective, 4DX Ventures, Raba Capital and others. This company, whose largest investors are Green Visor Capital and Greycroft Partners, was launched in 2016 to build a state-of-the-art payments technology and infrastructure for Africa to enable people and businesses connect with the global economy. Flutterwave’s solutions are tailored to allow for banks and merchants alike replace multiple payment integrations with a straightforward API, enabling the processing of payment forms anywhere in Africa.

With the latest development also comes the joining of a new member to Flutterwave’s board of directors. The current chairman and general partner of Green Visor Capital, Joe Saunders, who is Visa chairman and CEO emeritus, has taken a seat in the fintech company’s roundtable of directors.

The name Aboyeji cannot be argued off as one of the biggest names in Nigeria’s tech universe, even as he exits the role a little over 2 years after he co-founded this payments solutions startup. This unforeseen split mirrors his 2016 exit firm Andela – a company that trains software developers in Africa and pairs them with tech firms.  Andela said cheerio to the tech fever shortly after it raised USD 24 Mn in Series B led by the Chan Zuckerberg initiative.

Image result for Flutterwave

Flutterwave is one of the most revered startups in the fintech space of Africa, which has fast become a leading player in the aspect of online payments, processing 60 million transactions worth more than USD 2 Bn from global companies such as Uber,, Jumia, Transferwise, and Flywire. The company has also strongly partnered with Ecobank, First Bank and Standard Bank.

Many may ask what’s next for Aboyeji. Well, he has been a serial entrepreneur since his undergraduate days, making it fair to assume that this will not be the last of his stints. This 27-year-old has said in a farewell tweet that he will spend his time pursuing family goals and consulting local startups. As his executive seat is being taken by cofounder Olugbenga Agboola, the entrepreneurial system of Nigeria is held from gasping, awaiting Aboyeji’s yet another dramatic business outplay. From Andela to Flutterwave, he has no doubt made great impact and henceforth will look to working with startups.

In a message, the new CEO wished Aboyeji good luck in his endeavors and expressed the moving forward excitement for the future of Flutterwave, as the new agenda is growing the company.


Entrepreneurs Bag USD 20 K In Rwanda’s YouthConnekt Africa Innovation Awards 2018

Kevin Gachiri October 17

The recently concluded YouthConnect Africa summit in Kigali featured a challenge for young people to give an investment pitch on their startup ideas falling under four broad categories namely Social Innovation, Green Growth Innovation, Pioneers for Prosperity and Digital Inclusion. This attracted the participation of various teams from Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique, Angola and Nigeria with 18 projects competing for the final round.  During the winners announcement gala, Charles Umeh from Nigeria won the Digital Inclusion Award while Rusell Osah also from Nigeria won the Social Innovation Award. Green Growth Innovation Award was won by David Kinzuzi from Rwanda while Emma Stella Gakuo from Kenya was awarded in Pioneers of prosperity category. Each winner took home USD 5K that brings the total prize money of USD 20k going to young African entrepreneurs.

During one of the Money Matters sessions  Isaac Nkusi who is a Personal Money Management Consultant and Trainer  implored on the teams of young budding entrepreneurs to focus on building value in their enterprises  which is the magnet that pulls customers. Emma from Kenya through her “Maziwa plus Cooling System” was able to sail through using the proposed solution that provides mobile cooling systems powered by solar and mounted on motorbikes for easy mobility in the rural areas. The mobility provides transport solution in delivering the milk to the dairy collecting centres.  David Kinzuzi on the other hand focussed on his project which is dubbed “My Green Home” in Rwanda which is an idea based on creating green cities that he started together with his colleague Rosette Umuhoza They are still undertaking their studies at  Kigali-based Kepler University.  From Nigeria Charles Umeh sailed through his project JARACARE that  provides access to verified doctors at the touch of a button cutting the need to wait in long queues to see a health specialist. Rusell Osah sailed through by proposing to build 10,000 affordable houses for low income families in Nigeria.

Image Credit: The New Times Rwanda

Google Announces USD 900 K Grant to train Kenyan Farmers

Kevin Gachiri October 17

Over the next one year the digital skills of 100k Kenyan farmers is set to change following the announcement of a USD 900 K training grant by in partnership with One Acre Fund.  This training will help the farmers acquire top tech skills necessary for them to tap into knowledge and connections available in the digital world to transform their livelihoods through increased production. One Acre Fund which is based in the Western Kenya town of Kakamega has already gained eleven years of  experience in providing training to small scale  farmers in this area in addition to giving them products and services on credit. The mode and depth of the Google training was not immediately disclosed.

This development is in line with Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta whose big-four agenda includes boosting food security. Farmers’ ability to access information, keep records on farm production and market access will go a long way in impacting skills that would help them increase their productivity, connect with peers, access latest farming information and even fetch better prices for their produce. In its website, One Acre Fund reports that more than 50 million smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are locked in annual cycles of hunger because they’re unable to grow enough food to feed their families. This Training is therefore an important step in improving their livelihood through necessary digital skills that are part of today’s modern world.

Google Kenya Country Manager Charles Murito is reported noting that “Agriculture sector employs over 40 per cent of the total population, contributing to 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Kenya. We want to see the power of technology elevate small scale farming. We hope that through this initiative, we will see a positive impact on food security, job creation and GDP growth”  This development will also benefit startups in the ecosystem that either provide or sell training equipment and services as well as extension services for animal and crop health. Those in the fiend of payments to farmers will also benefit as this forms part of the scope covered by the grant.  Google’s initiative in Kenya has already seen  over 200,000 job seekers receive training  and over 400,000 businesses impacted  on various digital skills relevant to their career goals and business needs. In March this year, their Launchpad Accelerator Africa program provided  over USD 3 mn in equity-free support to Kenyan startups including Pezesha, Flexpay, Cloud9xp, and PayGo Energy.

Image credit: One Acre Fund

South African Supply-Chain App Khula! Wins Grand Prize Worth USD 14 K As MTN Business App Of The Year

Nzekwe Henry October 16

Khula!; a South African app that serves to link up farmers in emerging markets with the formal marketplace, has clinched top honors at this year’s edition of the MTN Business App Of The Year Awards.

In addition to being named the Business App of the Year, the platform has also received recognition in a special category dubbed; Best Agricultural Solution, as it has also emerged the winner in that category. As part of the perks that come with clinching the award, the developers of the app are now entitled to a trip to Silicon Valley in the U.S., worth up to USD 14 K in cash.

The app, Khula!, is known to facilitate delivery on bulk orders from supermarkets, restaurant chains, and even homes. This it does by effectively creating “one big virtual farm” which is basically comprised of multiple emerging farms for the purpose of crowd-sourcing produce to meet demands.

The platform’s complete software suite also incorporates an eCommerce web platform which makes it possible for clients to place orders from farmers. It also comes with an on-demand logistics solution which allows for the completion of deliveries by independent contractors.

According to Wanda Matandela, CEO of MTN Business, the awards afforded the telecommunications company the chance to place innovative solutions on the front burner and render support to these innovations with a view to helping them scale and go fully commercial, as well as help foster job creation in South Africa.

Industry experts, app developers, and past recipients of the award were amongst the panel of judges who selected and scrutinized the offerings of the shortlisted candidates of this year’s MTN Business App of the Year Awards.

Amongst other winners in the latest edition of the award were Pineapple (Best Consumer Solution),  Cowa Bunga (Best Enterprise Solution), Digemy Knowledge Partner and Besmarter (Best Incubated Solution), and Bestee App (Most Innovative Solution/Best Breakthrough Developer).

Other award recipients included such names as Stokfella (Best South African Solution), Difela Hymns (Women in STEM Solution), The African Cyber Gaming League App (Best Gaming Solution), dbTrack (Best Health Solution), Ctrl (Best Financial Solution), and Xander English 1-20 which took home the award in the Best Education Solution category.



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