In, 2018 Africa’s tech sector became more dynamic and international. Venture capital firms on the continent multiplied. There were numerous investment rounds, and startups sought acquisitions and global expansion. Here’s a recap of the news that shaped African tech this year.
An uprise in Venture Capital funds in Africa
In 2018, there was an increase in the number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to CrunchBase data released in a TechCrunch exclusive.
Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 viable Africa-focused VC funds globally with at least 7-10 investments in African startups from seed to series stage.
Of the 51 funds, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans. Of those 22, nine (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and nine were Nigerian.
Four of the nine Nigeria-based funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta. Ventures and CcHub’s Growth Capital Fund.
The study also tracked more Africans in top positions at outside funds and the rise of homegrown corporate venture arms.
One of those entities with a corporate venture arm, Naspers, announced a $100 million fund named Naspers Foundry to invest in South African tech startups. This was part of a $300 million (4.6 billion Rand) commitment by the South African media and investment company to support South Africa’s tech sector overall, as reported here at TechCrunch.
France also announced a $76 million African startup fund administered by the French Development Agency, AFD.
These and many other highlighted the venture capital market.
Editor-at-large of TechCrunch, Mike Butcher, in an exclusive interview with TECH dot AFRICA said “Venture Capital is really taking off in Africa. Last year, we had over $500 Million invested in African startups and that number will probably tack up quite substantially this year. The figures come out and so you’re gradually seeing more and more institutional money go into earlier stage startups and as the entrepreneurs become more sophisticated and the ecosystem develops, you see more development.”
Investment and expansion
In March, Nigerian consumer data analytics firm Terragon raised $5 million from TLcom. Kenyan business enterprise software company Africa’s Talking also raised $8.6 million in a round led by IFC.
Investment startup Piggybank.ng closed $1.1 million in seed funding and announced a new product — Smart Target, for traditional savings groups. Trucking Logistics company Kobo360 raised two rounds, for a total of $7.2 million. Kenya-based agtech supply chain startup Twiga Foods raised $10 million. B2B retail supply chain Sokowatch closed a $2 million seed round led by 4DX ventures.
White-label lending startup Mines.io secured a $13 million Series A round. South African SME payment venture Yoco raised $16 million. Paga Payments added $10 million in fresh funding.
And then there were the three huge raises of the year. Kenyan digital payment company Cellulant hauled in $37.5 million in a Series C round led by TPG Growth. South African lending startup Jumo raised $52 million led by Goldman Sachs. And just this month, The Carlyle Group invested $40 million in Africa-focused online travel site Wakanow.com.
Acquisitions and expansion
In 2018, African tech demonstrated it can travel, as several digital companies expanded on the continent and abroad. In May, MallforAfrica and DHL launched MarketPlaceAfrica.com, a global e-commerce site for select African artisans to sell wares to buyers in any of DHL’s 220 delivery countries.
Paga announced plans to expand in Africa and internationally, with an eye on Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines. Kobo360 is moving into new markets — Ghana, Togo, and Cote D’Ivoire.
On the back of its $52 million round, Jumo said it would expand in Asia and started by opening an office in Singapore.
On the acquisition front, Terragon bought Asian mobile marketing company Bizense in a cash and stock deal. The company is exploring greater growth opportunities in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
TPG Growth acquired a majority stake (of an undisclosed value) in Africa entertainment content company TRACE. After previous investments, Naspers acquired 96 percent of Southern African e-commerce venture Takealot.
And in December, California-based Emergent Technology Holdings acquired Ghanaian fintech payment company InterpayAfrica.
Collaboration between local tech firms and big global names continued in 2018. Liquid Telecom and Microsoft continued their partnership to offer connectivity cloud services such as Microsoft’s Azure, Dynamics 365 and Office 365 to select startups and hubs. This is part of Liquid Telecom’s strategy to go long on Africa’s startups as its future clients and the continent’s next big companies.
Facebook teamed up with Nigerian tech hub CcHub to launch its NG_Hub high-tech incubator.
Blockchain in Africa
As crypto fever gripped many leading economies in 2018, Africa was shaping its own blockchain narrative — one more grounded in utility than speculation. 500 Startups-backed SureRemit launched a crypto token product aimed at disrupting Africa’s multi-billion-dollar remittance market and raised $7 million in an ICO. South African payments venture Wala and solar energy startup Sun Exchange also had ICOs.
For blockchain as a platform, agtech startups Twiga Foods and Hello Tractor partnered with IBM Research to use the digital ledger tech to advance small-scale farmers and agriculture on the continent.
“I think it is quite exciting to see Blockchain and Crypto enter the African market. The reason being that it pops you out of the traditional financial system where there are enormous amounts of banking charges and a lot of friction to financial services. So, if it can be cracked, then cryptocurrency could, well, take off here.” – Mike Butcher.
Ride-hail boda bodas
Ride-hail tech expanded into the continent’s frequently used motorcycle taxi market. Uber entered the three-wheeled tuk-tuk moto taxi market in Tanzania in March and Uber and Taxify launched motorcycle passenger services in East Africa, including Kenya and Uganda.
Taxifiy further expanded its service in Nigeria by launching in Benin in December.
TechCrunch and Africa
In 2018 TechCrunch did more with Africa than any previous year. In addition to more content, there was a market engagement trip to Ghana and Nigeria, with meet-and-greets at Impact Hub, MEST Accra and Lagos, and CcHub.
TechCrunch also had its first Africa panel on Disrupt SF’s main stage, an Africa session at Disrupt Berlin and held the second Startup Battlefield Africa in December in Nigeria.
Fifteen startups competed in Lagos in front of a Pan-African and global crowd. South African virtual banking startup Bettr was runner-up. Ultra-affordable ultrasound startup M-Scan from Uganda was the winner.