TechInAfrica — A fresh, new decade has come and it’s time to take a glance at Africa’s tech startup scene in 2020. Here are 10 startups (in no particular order) that you need to pay attention to this year.
Africa’s first locally-built super app, Carry1st, is in it to win it. Founded by Sierra Leonean Cordel Robbin-Coker and American Lucy Parry, the startup is ready to win.
“Our bet from observing similar global markets as well as our own across Africa, is that entertainment and communication are the most effective services to bringing people online en masse, drive digital literacy and act as a conduit to the broader global connected economy,” Robbin-Coker said.
He is confident that at their most basic level, free-to-play games are digital economies that provide users with the ability to earn and purchase currency which can then be used to acquire various in-app goods and services.
By November 2019, the startup’s first game, Carry1st Trivia, achieved nearly one million downloads in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, with about 250 000 monthly active users.
Carry1st Trivia was crowned as the Best News and Entertainment Solution at the 2019 AppsAfrica Innovation Awards.
By the end of the year, the startup is aiming for 1.2 million active users and has raised $2-million in funding from angel investors in the US and Africa.
Robbin-Coker said last November that the startup was in the middle of raising a seed round which he hoped to close by the end of 2019.
A race is also on for Gozem to win supreme Africa’s first super app.
Emeka Ajene, the startup’s co-founder who led operations and business development for Uber in Nigeria in 2016 said that he and his team plan to launch a digital wallet product as well as a food and parcel delivery service in 2020.
The startup, which was registered in Singapore, operates a ride-hailing service that relies on motorcycle-taxis, auto-rickshaws, and air-conditioned taxis. Ajene launched Gozem in Togo together with co-founder and serial entrepreneur, Raphael Dana, who has been a managing partner of Africa-focused venture holding company Reengine Ventures since 2016.
Currently operates in Benin and Togo, the startup plans to expand to 10 countries in West and Central Africa over the next two years. These include Cameroon, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Nigeria, and Rwanda.
Ajene said at the time that Gozem was in the middle of closing a $3-million round in preparation of its Series-A round. He revealed that the startup had raised $3-million in funding.
The startup had 800 registered drivers on its platform so far and was aiming to increase that number up to 3000 by the end of 2019 and even plans to boost it to 300,000 in the next four years.
Cairo-based trucking marketplace Trella announced last December that it had acquired Egyptian competitor Trukto in a move that created what could arguably be Egypt’s largest technology-enabled trucking and logistics platform with over 10,000 truckers.
Founded in 2018 by former Uber executive Omar Hagrass, and Pierre Saad, Trella said the acquisition will help it to leverage Trukto’s established infrastructure, human capital and network of truckers and shippers to accelerate Trella’s growth strategy in the MENA region.
Last year, Trella was also selected to participate in the S19 batch of Silicon Valley-based accelerator, Y Combinator.
Trella raised $600,000 in a pre-seed round led by Egyptian venture capital firm Algebra Ventures earlier in 2019. The startup backs by NextBillion Ventures and angel investors Esther Dyson and Jambu Palaniappan.
From logistic space, Nigerian platform, Kobo360 is a must-watch startup this year.
The award-winning startup raised $20-million inequity in a Series-A funding round led by US multinational investment bank and financial services company Goldman Sachs last year.
Kobo360 said at the time the funding (which also included a further $10-million in debt from local banks) would help the startup add 25,000 more drivers and help bankroll the development of its tech platform, particularly its Global Logistics Operating System (G-LOS).
The startup has raised, since the launching, a sizeable $37.3-million in institutional investment from venture capital firms that include the International Finance Corporation, Y Combinator, and TLcom,
Founded in 2017 by CEO Obi Ozor and CTO Ife Oyedele, the Lagos-based startup describes itself as “the marketplace for shippers and transporters”. Its platform aggregates a fleet of over 17,000 drivers and trucks, that operate in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Togo.
The startup is now looking to expand to 10 new countries this year, though it did not disclose their names, it hinted that it wants to boost its presence in Southern and Central Africa.
The startup’s clients include the Dangote Group, DHL, Unilever, Olam, African Industries, Flour Mills of Nigeria, and Lafarge. Overall, it claims to service over 600 small businesses and 80 large enterprises.
Last December, Ozor won Young Business Leader of the Year and Innovator of the Year at 2019 All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) in collaboration with CNBC Africa.
Lagos-based mobility platform Max.ng is also on the race this year.
Founded by CEO Adetayo Bamiduro and chief growth officer Chinedu Azodoh in 2015, Max.ng started as a delivery service, and now also operates an on-demand motorcycle-taxi hailing platform.
In May last year, the startup raised a $7-million Series-A round which it said it will use to help it to expand across 10 West African cities, scale its technology infrastructure, deploy mobile payments in partnership with Mastercard, introduce an electric fleet and deploy new vehicle categories, including three-wheel tuk-tuks.
The round brought Max.ng’s total funding it had raised and disclosed so far to $8.5-million.
The startup’s investors include Novastar Ventures, motorcycle and marine hardware manufacturer Yamaha, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Zrosk Investment Management, Goodwell Investments, Techstars, Olive Tree Capital, Venture Garden Group, RightSide Capital Management, the Shell Foundation and angel investors Greg Schroy and Michael Lazerow.
Max.ng did not disclose the 10 cities in West Africa it is planning to enter, but the startup hinted that it wants to add customers in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.
Founded in 2017 by CEO Mostafa Kandil, Ahmed Sabbah and Mahmoud Nouh the startup allows users to book fixed-rate affordable rides on its network of vans and buses through its app.
The startup raised $42-million round from investors that included BECO Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, MSA, and Vostok New Ventures in a deal that saw it valued at more than $156.8-million last year.
Vostok New Ventures, one of its investors, reckons that the startup will turn a revenue of $1-billion by 2023.
Operating in Pakistan, Egypt, and Kenya, Vostok New Venture hints that Swvl has plans to expand to Nigeria could likely launch in Johannesburg.
“We believe the overall target of $1-billion in GMV (gross merchandise value) by 2023 is achievable and that Egypt alone could become worth at least $500-million and, if successful in Lahore, Karachi, Nairobi, Lagos and Johannesburg, this upside obviously multiplies,” the investor wrote in a financial report last year.
Last December, the startup launched a new long-distance service called Swvl Travel in Nairobi, this is following a halted operation in its ride-hailing service in the city in November in compliance with an order from Kenyan transport regulator, NTSA.
Swvl has to date raised $80.5-million across its disclosed deals, according to Crunchbase. This funding will be likely used to expand to more markets and launch new products.
Founded by SA entrepreneur Andrew Watkins-Ball in 2014, fintech startup JUMO celebrated a new milestone in November last year. It has helped connect over 15 million people to credit and savings in their six markets in Africa and Asia so far.
The Mauritius-registered startup helps facilitate digital financial services such as credit and savings in emerging markets. It raised a whopping $64.5-million in 2018.
The startup claims it has helped disburse over $1.6-billion in funding to small and micro enterprises and is growing its base of savings products up to the end of October last year.
Last year the startup was recognized by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the SME Finance Forum with an award for innovation in small business lending, during the Global SME Finance Forum Awards. It also took part in the second session of Google’s Launchpad Studio.
The award was made shortly after the startup announced that it had appointed Buhle Goslar and Ashish Desai as Africa CEO and India CEO respectively.
The startup made the appointments as part of a new organizational structure to support JUMO’s expansion into new markets in Africa and Asia.
JUMO currently works alongside financial service providers and mobile network operators to provide credit and savings solutions in Pakistan, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia.
In the coming months, the company aims to enter new markets in Asia and Africa.
2019 was a fairly good year for Steven Raucher and Brett Meyerowitz, the founders of SA startup RapidDeploy.
The startup provides cloud-based software that enables public safety officials to reduce emergency response times and improve situational awareness.
The founders announced in February that their startup had landed a $12-million (about more than R175-million) investment in a Series-A round from US venture capital fund GreatPoint Ventures and innovation fund Samsung Next.
The deal is one of the largest deals scored by a South African startup in 2019.
Last year in November, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, said at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida how RapidDeploy protects public safety and prevents ransomware attacks.
It comes after the startup was named Microsoft US Partner of the Year for Government Industry 2019 in June.
In October the startup brought home the Innovator of the Year Award by YTexas.
A Cairo-based startup, Wasla, has developed an incentivized mobile browser that rewards users with free mobile internet raised $1-million in seed funding las month.
The startup founded in 2018 by Mahmoud El Said and former Rocket Internet entrepreneurs Serag Meneassy and Taymour Sabry.
El Said said last month that Wasla is looking to expand to other Africa countries and to the Middle East.
“The timeline is still not defined but within the next one to two years we should be opening up new markets,” he said.
Claimed to have over 100,000 users in early December, the startup plans to build a super app that will offer social networking, shopping, entertainment, and payments.
This year Wasla intends to introduce these new verticals.
When Cape Town-based on-demand domestic cleaning service SweepSouth announced that it raised more than R50-million in October last year, its co-founder Aisha Pandor said it plans to use the investment to expand on the continent.
Founded the startup in 2014 with her husband Alen Ribic, Pandor said the funding will be instrumental in achieving the startup’s strategic goals going forward.
These include the launch of a new platform SweepSouth Connect, which will offer services like handymen, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, carpet cleaners, and nannies, and also an online shop where SweepSouth plans to sell a range of home products.