African tech – and the continent’s growing middle class – is increasingly attracting interest from overseas, with serious activity on the continent this month from Asia.
Alibaba is expanding its UC Browser, the leading browser in China, to Kenya, with the company noting it had seen the potential growth in Kenya with the rise of smartphone shipments in the country. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based digital lifestyle devices brand Zuri is to roll out its brand of smartphones in the Kenyan market.
It goes both ways, however, with Kenyan IM startup Ongair opening offices in Hong Kong during April, while other companies were active too. PayPal announced it was expanding its Xoom service to 12 more countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, while Facebook moved a step closer to providing satellite broadband in Africa by partnering SES. Google plans to equip one million Africans with digital skills.
There was further funding news for Africa Internet Group (AIG) – which is apparently “Africa’s first unicorn”, as it raised US$75 million from mobile operator Orange, but bad news for one of its stable of companies as taxi app, apparently having lost out to Uber.
UK firm Tappago is to launch a taxi app in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, while even the Kenya Red Cross has got in on the act, launching an app that allows users to call ambulances via a smartphone. All such services will benefit from Google’s launch of live traffic alerts on its Maps service in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
Africa’s on-demand economy continues to hot up, with April seeing a number of launches across the continent in the space.
On-demand home-cleaning service Kisafi launched in Kenya, while in South Africa HelpOut is piloting an on-demand services app. The Pretoria-based company will presumably come into competition at some point with getTOD, which has rolled out a similar concept in Cape Town.
South Africa also now has an on-demand moving service in the form of movethisstuff.
Ed-tech also seems to be taking off, with South African company 42courses launching a service that allows users to take courses provided by their favorite brands. Meanwhile, another South African ed-tech startup – iGrow Academy – is on an expansionist push after opening offices in the UK and Nigeria.
Finishing off with the compulsory list of funding rounds, it was another bumper month for African tech startups.
South Africa saw the pick of the deals, with Wi-Fi monitoring startup Asimmetric raising a seven-figure round from US-based hardware investors, while Custos Media Technologies, which uses the blockchain to combat digital piracy, raised US$265,000 from overseas.
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