By Nicolas Goldstein, Co-Founder of Talenteum.africa
TechInAfrica – This April, the elusive and only occurrence of the rare African unicorn, Jumia, has been sighted in Wall Street for its IPO. The success story of Jumia has inspired a lot more to seek for their own unicorns by investing in the African continent’ startup scene. So much so, that in 2018 a little more than a billion dollars had been invested in Startups around Africa.
The amount invested in Africa for startups in 2018 was 1,164 billion dollars to be exact. This is the first time in history and the highest value ever invested in startups on the African continent. Where did this money come from? Mostly Venture Capitals and Angel Investors, but also institutions like the World Bank or the European Union. Of course, this number is far from what Europe has seen for the same period. According to a report by Dealroom, in 2018 Europe recorded 24.6 billion €. At the moment, Africa is far from this amount at the moment.
But in all honesty, the billion dollar step is a very important one and forecasts an interesting future for African startups. But the new sill that has been crossed is not the only cause for astonishment. The growth of the amount invested in African startups itself is phenomenal. In 2017, the investment from various funds was valued at approximately 560 million dollars. The fact that it “simply” doubled in a year is astounding. The planned course of evolution in the African startup market for investors has obviously been speeding up.
As if this number was not dizzying enough, some new funds have already been set up; all for tech startups. Seedstar World, already know for its worldwide startup competition, has partnered with Venture Growth (a French-based Venture Capital with a deep tie with the African market), to set up a 100 million $ fund that could help up to 40 African startups. Their aim is to provide between 25 000 $ and 5 millions $ so that new startups. Other notable investors have already started preparing funds for Africa such as Gold Ventures, Capital Limited or Partech.
The same goes for Cathay Innovation, led by the Chinese investor Mingpo Cai. He has already planned 150 million Euros (approximately 167 million $) for startups in Africa. Cathay Innovation and their “local” partner AfricInvest plan to invest said funds in various fields. So far, most of Africa’ startup that has gathered some attention from any type of investors were mostly FinTech or energy-centric companies; and these will probably be the receivers of Cathay’s funds.
One notable example of a FinTech startup that did well last year is Cellulant. This payment platform raised 45 million $ to develop further. Cellulant is really interesting and will surely expand widely across the continent. Why you may ask? Simply because right now, with only 10 to 15 % of the population with access to banks, mobile payment’s accessibility to virtually everyone is on the rise.
Mingpo Cai sees a little of China’s development from a couple of years ago in Africa; there is a similar drive to fix situations that have not yet been resolved. And some of the startups are doing exactly this. Aywadieune in Senegal, for example, is a platform that connects fish sellers and customers. Before the app, the profitability of fishermen was such that most of them had to change their trades.
Another Senegal platform, Karangué, aimed to limit the high rate of pregnancy-related mortality. The application sets up reminders and alerts for post-natal doctor and vaccination appointments. It also features reminders about prenatal appointments and information on nutritive complements needed by babies and children.
However, African startups need more than investors to obtain more funds and bring their ideas to the next level. Of course, the ingenuity that has started solving problems is a must, but knowing the market is a vital point to assure the survivability of what they want to introduce.
In contrast to what seems to be these success stories, one has to watch out for the results of these startups. While we hope that they go beyond their current states, there are not only happy endings in the startup game and Africa is not an exception.
On that matter, it is important to mention Afrostream, an African Netflix competitor with a product portfolio featuring only African and African-American TV shows and movies. Afrostream had an interesting product but unfortunately could not bring the results expected by its backers. Tonié Bakang, its creator had to fold. It seems his words were true; in a blog post announcing the end of Afrostream; Tonié Bakang said that he had laid the step, and now it was time for others to go further.
With the number of investors already lining up to find new gold mines startups, we can only assume that 2019 is well underway to go beyond past results. What will be the next African Unicorn? Time will tell.