Are you aware that six of the most rapidly growing economies in the world over the past ten years were located in sub-Saharan Africa? Internet usage especially on mobile is now growing faster in Africa than in any other continent. This has created a proliferation of startup programs throughout the continent. A number of successful startups have emerged from this new ecosystem and attracted considerable amounts in investment funding.
Kenya,South Africa,Nigeria and Egypt look to be leading the way in terms of fundraising and high number of startups.
Cape Town is buzzing with startup activity. It shot into the startup scene as early as 1999 with major exits such as Thawte, https://www.thawte.com/ acquired for $575M by Verisign. Later on followed Fundamo, http://www.fundamo.com/index.shtml acquired by Visa in 2011 for $110M. There have even been nonprofits like Silicon Cape Initiative http://www.siliconcape.com/ working towards increasing the number of quality startups in the Cape.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa today with 178 million people.This combined with the high percentage of mobile internet penetration presents a big opportunity. Local entrepreneurs like Jason Njoku have achieved major success with ventures like iRokoTV, http://irokotv.com/ video-on-demand platform which has taken the Nollywood movie industry by storm.
Half of the Egyptian population is under the age of 30.This group of young people leveraged Twitter and Facebook during the revolution and are now starting numerous internet businesses.Bey2ollak ,http://desktop.bey2ollak.com/ an app to share real-time information about Cairo and Alexandria traffic is one such success story.
After the laying of fiber optic cables back in 2009, Nairobi burst into the tech scene with numerous startups that are solving real life challenges.A notable success is Ushahidi, https://www.ushahidi.com/ born during the Kenya post-election violence in 2008. It’s a free and open source software that allows for mapping and data visualization.Another homegrown innovation is Mpesa, http://www.safaricom.co.ke/personal/m-pesa though not a startup itself it has revolutionised mobile payments with more than 19 million Kenyans having accounts.
With the growing startup culture across all Africa it can be seen that innovation can come out of any place in the world.The potential is there but still much has to be done to enable the digital revolution to impact more lives.
In the Ted Talk below,watch Juliana Rotich, Executive Director at Ushahidi ,explain how solutions like BRCK, a modem tailored for the local African market could be impactful for the world.
Written by Paul Njoroge – @PaulNjoroge__