Africa’s Most Interesting Startups
A look inside Africa’s most interesting and innovative companies, as the continent’s innovation capability is growing faster than ever before.
As of July last year, 54 of the 55 African Union States have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. This is the largest free trade agreement ever signed since the World Trade Organization 25 years ago.
This new agreement aims to create a single market, and aiding the movement of capital and people across the nations. With a combined 1.35B population, expecting to surpass China and India in the next decade, Africa is set to play an ever-increasing role not only on the economic world stage but in our own awareness as a highly dynamic ecosystem.
People, companies and investors are zooming in to participate and contribute to Africa’s growth journey. With this, I wanted to find out for myself and dig a bit deeper into the different African ecosystems and learn about some of the most unique, innovative and prosperous startups nourishing Africa’s thirst for hyper-growth. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most interesting startups I believe are bringing in concrete value to people by solving real problems, and this is just the tip of the iceberg:
M-Post is a Kenyan startup from 2016 that is addressing a large African problem. A lot of people don’t have a specific address and mailbox, especially outside the major cities. With this issue in mind, M-Box has created an official digital address service by using mobiles phones, and not just smartphones. Users register by sending a code via SMS and then receive a few instructions how goods or documents are delivered. The company works as a subscription service and is gaining huge traction in Kanya enabling more efficient delivery to more rural areas.
Pineapple is a South African insurance technology startup that started back in 2017. What I find fascinating about the company is the huge emphasis on user journey. The team has developed an AI engine that lets it’s users snap a picture of whatever item they want to insure, and they get instant quotes on their app to insure the selected item. Then with one more tap, the item is insured. If the user decides to cancel, it’s as simple as tapping the same on/off button in the app. Secondly, if something was to happen to the insured item, you won’t need to jump through massive bureaucratic hoops to get your claim back. All you have to do is make a voice note of what happened, and the money will be sent directly to your account. They made this cool video that explains it in a few simple steps:
It's been dubbed the "Amazon of Africa" and is the first startup in Africa to have gained the “unicorn” status amongst the global investment community. Jumia was the first African tech startup to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year. Jumia offers their customers the possibility to buy products online, food delivery, cellular phone recharging, to pay their bills and a lot more. They are Africa's largest e-commerce operator, surpassing Amazon and China's Alibaba in potential reach. Although it has received a lot of scrutiny from people saying it’s not an African company, the French ex-McKinsey co-founders want to enforce the idea that it is a fully African company operating in 11 African nations with over 5000 employees.
Ared or African Renewable Energy Distributor, is a Rwandan HAAS company, meaning they provide hardware as a service to individuals who want to franchise a solar kiosk. These portable solar kiosks are able to charge over 80 mobile phones at once using solar powered charts that are stationed around different cities in Rwanda. Henri Nyakarundi founded the company when he was 19 years old, and has already won multiple award from the likes of Microsoft. His dream is to empower over 100’000 micro businesses across Africa and sees a huge potential as the population in the continent is set to double in the next 25 to 30 years.
Ecopost is a Kenyan clean-tech company started by Lorna Rotto in 2010 and is not only recycling over 2.5 million KGs of plastic, but using it to create products that has served to save over 450 acres of forest. The company create everything from furniture to fence posts and sign post made out of recycled plastic, which essentially prevents it from rotting or being eaten by termites. Ecopost might not be as much of a startup as it serves to be a social enterprise focused on reducing pollution, poverty and deforestation.
Swvl is an Egyptian startup created by Mostafa Kandil in 2017 to tackle the highly problematic public transportation services in Cairo. Mostaga previously worked for the famous accelerator company Rocket Internet before leaving to launch his own startup Careem in a number of cities in Egypt and Pakistan, as well as Istanbul. The project inspired him to create his own private bus-based public transport service, Swvl. The company raised $42m in June during a third funding round led by Swedish VC Vostok Ventures and Dubai-based BECO Capital. Now with a valuation approaching $100m, the start-up wants to expand elsewhere in Africa. They are already present in Nairobi, Kenya and in Lagos, Nigeria.
Omniup is a Moroccan startup that secures and monetizes open wifi networks in coffee shops, malls, train stations and public spaces. They allow both players in the public and private sector to secure their open wifi network and monetize it by having its users agree to watching an Ad before they log into the network. With over 2000 hubspots and 10 million users, Omniplus is showing over 500 thousand ads everyday and helping businesses monetize their network, and also advertise on an entirely new platform.
Gozem is Africa’s answer to Grab or Uber. It’s a super app that is taking west and central Africa by the horns. The startup was founded by Emeka Ajene in 2018 who previously worked for Uber in Nigeria but broke out of the mold to start Gozem in Benin and Togo. The company has expanded to over 8 countries in West and Central Africa and recently launched shopping, delivery and financial services withing their existing ecosystem.
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