Digital tech blossoms in Africa
The growth of tech-led businesses across Africa is no longer limited to fintechs. A quick glance immediately reveals that innovative thinking to solve specific problems is driving digital-based entrepreneurship across the continent. The rise of digitally-enabled companies now spans various economic sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education and communications technology enabling digital broadcasting into your living room.
One of my favourite tech stories is 54Gene’s busting onto the scene at the onset of the pandemic. This US and Nigeria based biotech start-up builds genomic datasets to unlock scientific discoveries and improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes in Africa and globally. It was such an exciting piece of news – many of us had not heard of 54Gene, even though it had been founded in 2019, and were amazed that this start-up had closed $15 million Series A round while the world was in a state of panic over COVID-19. Perhaps even more impressive was how quickly it moved into action to support the federal government in Nigeria with its diagnostics work in setting up mobile testing units and facilities in Abuja, Lagos and Kano. 54Gene now has plans for a regional expansion to build infrastructure for genomics, allowing diagnosticians, clinical trials and other healthcare providers to build and improve services across Africa.
I’ve watched Africa’s rapidly evolving tech and innovation developments of the past two years, I’ve been privileged to engage with some founders in various sectors – Twiga Foods (Kenya), Flutterwave (Nigeria); SafeBoda (Uganda ); Brimore (Egypt); Jumia (Nigeria); Co-Creation Hub (Nigeria); M-Kopa (Kenya) and SweepSouth (South Africa).
Africa – the next global growth area
Following M-Pesa’s launch in 2007, Kenya has emerged as a global leader in developing mobile money and increasing rates of financial inclusion through this digital platform. It is one of the most successful examples of tech-driven societal transformation in Africa. The August 2019 CGD policy paper, Digital Technology and State Capacity in Kenya gives a good outline of this digital revolution, its opportunities and challenges.
A group of tech founders/investors and researchers deliver a more recent assessment of the continent’s ecosystem in the article, Tech in Africa, showing that Africa is the place of the future. According to them, the continent has seen over 40% in annual VC growth and 80% of total funding going to Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa.
I’m very optimistic as I see that more and more influential founders in this space – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (co-founder Andela/Founder Future Africa), Bosun Tijani (Founder Co-Creation Hub), CK Japeth, Zachariah George (Founder Startupbootcamp), Ire Aderinkon (Founder Buycoins), Ory Okolloh (Co-Founder Ushahidi) – reaching out across national borders and inspiring youthful talent, our future leaders.