A few years ago, the very idea of an African tech startup joining a major US accelerator program would have been laughable. But these days, African tech is making a bigger splash on the global stage.
This was demonstrated by the new during February that three African companies have joined US accelerators. Yes, three. And major accelerators at that.
Kenya’s Bamba Group – which provides a variety of data collection and SMS-based customer engagement products – will take part in the Techstars accelerator held in Austin, Texas. Egyptian bug-reporting app Instabug has joined Y Combinator, while Nigeria e-commerce company Podozi was selected to take part in 500 Startups in Silicon Valley.
These startups are following a trail blazed by a couple of other companies over the last year or so, and it certainly looks as though there is strong interest from international accelerators and investors in the African tech space.
Other African tech companies are looking further afield as well. Kenyan startup Ongair, which won a competition during last year, began piloting its Drop service with the BBC World Service, aimed at finding new ways of reaching younger, digitized audiences. Another Kenyan company – remittance firm SimbaPay – expanded its instant Africa money transfer service to France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, meaning Africans living in these countries are able to send money home instantly and free of charge.
February saw more money pumped into African tech companies, but we are not taking seed funding. French insurance giant AXA invested €75 million for an eight percent stake in Africa Internet Group (AIG), an e-commerce group that counts Jumia and Jovago among its subsidiaries.
The deal sees AXA become the exclusive insurance provider for AIG, and joins MTN, the largest mobile operator in Africa, Rocket Internet and Millicom as AIG shareholders.
There was also a major round for South African online travel agency Travelstart, which raised $40 million funding from global technology investor Amadeus Capital Partners. the global technology investor. The company also signed a strategic partnership with MTN, and will use the funding for expansion and to solidify the company’s position as the biggest player in the online travel market in Africa.
On a smaller scale, Cape Town-based digital insurance distribution startup Hepstar raised $2 million in funding, also from Amadeus Capital Partners, which the company will use to expand its global reach, accelerate its tech development and grow its brand. More money is on the way for African tech startups, with South African VC firm Knife Capital announcing it is launching a $6.4 million fund to invest in innovative startups on the continent.
New year finally gets going
After a quiet January during which Netflix stole everyone’s thunder by rolling out across Africa, the continent’s tech scene got going in earnest again after the holidays during February.
Meanwhile, global seed-stage startup competition Seedstars World deepened its involvement with Africa, launching a Lagos-based academy to educate digital change makers in Nigeria. Nigerian video on demand company iROKOtv partnered with French TV network Canal+ to launch an SVOD app for French-speaking Africa, while Kenyan pay as you go solar company M-KOPA Solar launched solar-powered digital TVs in the East African country.
In South Africa, on-demand laundry service mobile application Just Laundry launched, allowing customers to book their laundry and have it collected, cleaned and delivered to their door in 24 hours, while the Cape Town tech ecosystem received a boost after being accepted onto the French Tech Hub program. The purpose of the program is to create a bridge between French and South African entrepreneurs.