Generally a quiet month, December saw some serious developments in the African tech space.
Aside from the usual developments in e-commerce and mobile money, it is becoming clearer than ever before that venture capital is growing on the continent, which can only be good news for African startups and entrepreneurs.
E-commerce companies focus on scale, more developments in mobile
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African e-commerce platform Jumia expanded into Tanzania, taking the number of African countries in which it is present to nine. The company in November secured US$150 million in funding, and is continuing its rapid expansion across the continent.
As noted in our report in December, African e-commerce firms are being forced to scale or die. Jumia’s push to cover as much of the continent as possible goes hand-in-hand with other developments this year, with South African e-commerce platforms Takealot and Kalahari merging in search of bigger scale.
A new mobile banking product launched in Kenya, with Dubai Bank partnering with Rapid Communications to launch M-SASA, which allows clients to check balances, request mini-statements, deposit and withdraw cash as well as transfer funds to other accounts from their mobiles.
Meanwhile, MTN launched a mobile money cross-border remittance service between Ivory Coast and Benin, saying the service would further enable cheap and easy movement of money in the West African region. The launch follows the successful introduction of a similar service in April between Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
In other mobile payments news, Nigeria’s SimplePay partnered Ariiyatickets.com, an online ticketing platform, to allow users to buy tickets using SimplePay.
Opera Mediaworks acquired South African mobile ad network AdVine, in a move which gives Opera Mediaworks a partner which has been selling Opera’s own mobile-ad inventory in Africa. Another South African firm to be bought out was Stellenbosch-based hardware development company Multenet, which was acquired by industrial and commercial communications operator Metacom.
There were also developments towards the completion of the Konza Technopolis City project in Kenya, with the government mobilising the basic infrastructure that will be used for road and communication work in the area.
VC growing in Africa
The month of December provided more evidence of what a number of people have been seeing for the last few years, that venture capital is increasingly arriving on African shores. December’s big announcements centred around the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which announced the launch of a US$100 million entrepreneurship programme.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) aims to create at least one million new jobs and contribute at least US$10 billion per year to Africa’s economy.
Airtel Nigeria became the latest mobile operator to get involved in Africa’s startup ecosystem, launching Catapult-a-Startup. The company said it plans to provide app developers with US$5,500 in funding, alongside mentoring and marketing. Fellow operators Millicom and Safaricom have also launched investment funds in recent months.
More funding will be available to African startups next year from the likes of Startupbootcamp, which is fundraising to launch accelerator programmes in South Africa next year, and the tiphub startup accelerator programme, which has partnered software development firm Coders4Africa to launch a Prototyping Fund offering entrepreneurs up to US$25,000 in grant funding.
The Egyptian government has also joined the party, announcing a public-private partnership partnership (PPP) to launch a US$1.4 billion incubator designed to support entrepreneurs.
So next year is looking good for African startups looking for money, but December saw plenty of good news in that respect as well. Tanzanian off-grid solar energy provider Off Grid Electric raised US$16 million from SolarCity, Zouk Capital and Vulcan Capital – the private investment firm of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Nigerian social gaming startup Chopup has raised US$100,000 from five investors, while in Kenya Tumakaro and SokoNect earned US$5,000 each after pitching at the Mobile Impact Ventures Programme Demo Day at m:lab East Africa.
Next year will see the extension of the Microsoft Ventures programme to Nigeria through a partnership between Microsoft and 88mph. The programme is aimed at improving startup productivity, offering tools, resources, expertise and routes to markets around the world. Meanwhile, incubator ActivSpaces has announced it will launch Cameroon’s first accelerator programme in January.
There was a little bit of bad news to round of the year, however, with South African social network Mxit announcing a raft of redundancies, and Cape Town publishing startup Paperight announcing it was to close after failing to find an adequate market.
These disappointments aside however, December rounded off a positive year for tech in Africa, and there is plenty to look forward to ahead of 2015.
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