Is there such a thing as “Funding February?” Has somebody coined that already? No? Good. We’re doing it here.
So many African startups raised money last month that it amply deserves the moniker, and raises expectations that this year will be the best yet for African entrepreneurs looking for venture capital.
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The funding wasn’t localized, but spread across the continent. In Kenya, pay-as-you-go energy provider M-KOPA Solar closed its fourth round of investment through a US$12.45 million equity and debt deal led by LGT Venture Philanthropy. The company will use the money to extend its product range, grow its operating base in East Africa and license its technology to other markets.
Nigerian startups had a good month as well, with e-commerce store DealDey raising US$5 million to challenge rivals Konga and Jumia, e-commerce logistics startup ACE raising money from Interswitch, and another e-commerce company, NetPlus Advisory, also saw investment. Meanwhile, Airtel Nigeria invested money in seven startups.
South Africa saw its share of action, with Naspers and Tencent-owned WeChat Africa investing in South African microjobbing platform M4JAM. M4JAM takes big jobs from reputable companies and breaks them into smaller jobs, allowing users to complete simple tasks using their phones in exchange for cash. Clients include WeChat and TomTom. E-book startup Snapplify raised cash, as did another e-commerce logistics company, Parcelninja, taking home US$1.7 million. Meanwhile, various organisations in the Western Cape teamed up to award US$560,000 to 12 startups.
More on the horizon
There is plenty more cash where that came from. Microsoft is to award a total of US$90,000 to five selected Nigerian entrepreneurs through its Passion to Empire initiative, while Village Capital is to invest cash in fintech agriculture startups in East Africa. Ghanaian incubator ServLed is currently running its second accelerator programme, investing money in five companies.
In big news from South Africa, Johannesburg-based accelerator Seed Engine is merging with European giant Startupbootcamp to run programmes and invest in startups, while the latter is also to run mini-Startupbootcamp programmes in South Africa. Kenyan operator Safaricom has shortlisted 33 startups to receive investments of between US$75,000 and US$250,000 through its Spark Venture Fund, while the Tony Elumelu Foundation is still accepting applications for its US$100 million entrepreneurship programme.
More initiatives from the big boys
Major global players continue to be active in Africa. MasterCard and the Government of Egypt this month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a strategic collaboration that will help drive financial inclusion and maximize government efficiency, while even the BBC is getting involved. In February, the broadcaster held a hackathon in Nairobi to choose two solutions that will be piloted to assist the World Service in making itself more available in Africa.
Orange partnered with pan-African Ecobank to unveil a service that will enable Orange Money subscribers who also have bank accounts with Ecobank to transfer money between their respective accounts, while Vodafone extended its African presence by launching in Uganda. Millicom’s Tigo continues to lead the way on mobile money, announcing customers of its Tigo Pesa mobile money service in Tanzania will be the first in Africa to be able to transact with users of all their country’s mobile money networks following an agreement with Vodacom’s M-Pesa.
Movers and shakers
February also saw the usual batch of new launches and expansions, with Tanzanian tech hub Buni Hub catching the eye with its launch of a 3D printer built entirely from e-waste. The first smartphone running Ubuntu – the open source operating system developed by South African technology billionaire Mark Shuttleworth’s company Canonical – is about to go on sale.
Meanwhile, in terms of expansions, e-commerce giant Jumia made Angola its latest home, Congo smartphone manufacturer VMK expanded to Ivory Coast, while Kenyan mobile music streaming startup Mdundo organically expanded to the likes of South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.
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