A new narrative has sprung up around Africa over the past few years, that of a continent “rising”. Technological innovation is at the heart of that story.
No surprise, then, that major global players are taking an interest. This month alone saw three huge international companies doing their bit to tap into African innovation.
SAP opened a Co-Innovation Lab in Johannesburg, which the company said will provide a hands-on environment for it to jointly innovate with software solution partners, system integrators and technology partners on current and future technologies.
This followed hot on the heels of Thomson Reuters setting up its own innovation lab in Cape Town, through which the company plans to support and partner with local technology and content driven startups and universities. Facebook has also been doing its bit on the innovation front, awarding US$500,000 in grant money to the startup winners of its innovation challenge.
Progress on all fronts, taxi wars remain
Sometimes you’re tired of innovating, and you just want to watch Netflix. That got a whole lot easier this month after the VoD company partnered internet service provider Spectranet to deploy a dedicated server in Lagos. The new server will host the company’s entire content library and ensure faster streaming for users.
Other things that got easier during October include e-commerce in Nigeria, with Konga launching a nationwide infrastructure project that will shorten delivery times. Water payments in East Africa has also been simplified through a partnership between Ericsson and M-Pesa.
Meanwhile, Google announced that over 500,000 young Africans have been trained in digital skills so far under its Digital Skills Africa programme.
Africa’s taxi wars stayed hot over the course of the month, which was a mixed one for Uber. Uber drivers in Abuja, Nigeria, have been in strike, while the company was also forced to slash prices in Kenya after the launch of rival firm Little in Mombasa. In better news for the company, the South African competition commission has dropped all charges brought against it by the country’s Metered Taxi Association.
Kenya making great strides
A busy and generally positive month in Kenya, where the government has signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea that will see the countries collaborate in various ICT projects.
The country has also begun the distribution of 1.2 million digital devices to public primary schools under its Digital Literacy Programme (DLP), which aims to make radical changes to teaching and learning in Kenyan schools.
Meanwhile, a local startup walked away with US$1 million in funding after winning the international Hult Prize. Magic Bus Ticketing is working to automate the process of buying tickets for Nairobi’s public transport system.
In less good news, however, the country’s government has decided to go head-to-head with the likes of Netflix by backing legislation aimed at regulating content from ISPs and VoD services. The proposed law will prevent ISPs from hosting or distributing material not certified and classified by authorities.
Backing the best
South African startups had a strong showing when it came to fundraising over the course of the month, with notable rounds for the likes of transport tech company GoMetro, e-learning platform The Student Hub, vehicle marketplace CarZar and fintech startup LulaLend. Marketing startup MiBRAND was acquired.
Other countries were not to be left out, with Egyptian jobs startup HireHunt, Kenyan e-learning company Eneza Education, Ghanaian agri-tech startups Ghalani and TroTro, and Moroccan car classifieds Moteur all raising cash in October.