Heading into 2018, we actually learned that investments were pouring into African startups over the course of last year. Stemming from earlier investments, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s USD 24 million buy-in to a company called Andela that trains tech developers, this sum has helped to bring about the tech renaissance mentioned above. Particularly in major urban centers around the continent – the report mentions Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg – we are now seeing incubation hubs and brand new, tech-based businesses on a fairly regular basis.
With some help from a report that was released late last year, we’re taking a look at a few of the top startups that have emerged in the midst of this recent wave of financing and development activity.
VConnect is a fascinating tech service in that it solves a problem many in the West might not even relate to. Based in Lagos and intended for use in Nigeria, its job is to bypass the occasional lack of clear service markets and opportunities by connecting users to people who can perform the jobs they need. While it’s a slightly simplistic description, you can almost think of it as a summons for a handyman, such that you can search in VConnect for the job you need doing and ultimately stand a better chance than you otherwise would of finding relevant, professional assistance.
Flutterwave is essentially an app meant to facilitate payments – or, as it was described in the aforementioned Forbes piece, to democratize the payment ecosystem by bringing all payment types into one point. This sounds particularly helpful given that people pay for digital services in so many different ways these days. Many use different credit card companies. And according to a piece examining payment methods for digital gaming platforms, PayPal is now the world’s largest e-wallet service with around 200 million users worldwide. Throw in dozens of alternative electronic wallets, and there’s a lot to balance. But a service like Flutterwave can make all of that easier.
Once named Africa’s best app, this Nigeria-based program is designed to help more people spend more time on the internet for free. The process is simple: as a user, you simply need to engage with advertising content, and the app in turn uses a portion of its own ad revenue to pay for users’ time online. The app is intended for use throughout African and parts of Asia.
BitPesa has become the leading African bitcoin payments startup, and raised some USD 2.5 million in funding early in 2017. This is an app you’ve likely heard of, and it’s liable to become an even bigger company in time given that much of Africa is viewed as fertile ground for cryptocurrency expansion. One of the main benefits that has emerged of bitcoin and other currencies like it is that it can reach the unbanked so long as they have ways of accessing exchanges and making transactions. BitPesa can provide this convenience, and has a fairly big lead in establishing itself as Africa’s go-to crypto option.
MeQasa is arguably the simplest app on this list, but also one of the ones most useful to a broader population. Basically it’s a tool for real estate. Developed in Ghana and now well-funded, its goal is to showcase real rental and ownership opportunities, and match people seeking homes with verified, trusted real estate agents. While not wholly original, it may be the prevailing service of its kind in Africa, and is thus expected by some to have very real success as it spreads across the continent.
LifeQ is a complex app, but one with serious positive implications for users’ health. Originally founded in Stellenbosch, South Africa, it has since gotten some global attention. even being featured in an expo in Las Vegas. Basically, the app is able to use a massive amount of general physiological and biological data to provide its users with “person-specific digital biomarkers” that can ultimately help them gain a better understanding of their overall health and physiology.