September in Africa: All the tech news you shouldn’t miss from the past month
The highlight of the month in the African tech world was the DEMO Africa conference in Lagos, Nigeria, which saw 30 startups from across the continent launch their businesses in front of an audience of investors, media and other stakeholders.
Five startups – Kenyan money transfer service SimbaPay, Nigerian fashion marketplace Zuvaa, Kenyan insurance comparison platform InsureAfrika, car and car parts marketplace CarPartsNigeria, and Kenyan merchant payments solution BambaPOS – were selected to pitch at the prestigious DEMO Fall event in Silicon Valley later in the year.
After previous editions of the event, a number of startups have raised seed funding in the aftermath, but signs are there is little need for the extra publicity. In another stellar month of fundraising on the continent, South Africa’s FitKey raised an undisclosed amount of funding from local angel investor Justin Stanford. The app helps connect users with unfilled fitness classes.
Another South African startup on the fundraising trail isWhereIsMyTransport, the company behind Findmyway, an app offering a point-to-point journey planner integrating public and alternate modes of transport.
The startup in September raised a seed round of ZAR12 million (US$900,000) and announced the beginning of its expansion overseas with the launch of an office in London. Cape Town development agency We Are Monsters also raised funds, from Silvertree Capital, as did fintech startupNomanini.
In Zambia, venture capital investor Kukula Capital and the eVA Fund announced a US$500,000 investment in Dot Com Zambia, to enable the e-commerce store to expand its activities around Southern Africa.
Nigerian VC fund 440.ng invested in e-learning platform DavtonLearn, while African diaspora-founded startup MySIMAX has secured US$200,000 in funding for the development of its social e-marketplace focusing on digital learning.
Tech startups in demand
African tech startups, then, are increasingly in demand. So much so that South African VC firm Knife Capital felt the need to launch YueDiligence, an online due diligence tool to close the information gap between investors and startups. And more sources of funding are on the way.
International development finance organisation GroFin was the big mover this month, launching a US$100 million fund specifically for small African businesses, aiming to support over 9,800 entrepreneurs and help create 47,000 sustainable jobs over the next five years. Funding is also on the way from Nigeria’s Bank of Industry, which has pledged US$6 million to support techpreneurs in the country.
There were developments across the continent, in fact. London-based VC firm TLcom, which already has operations in Nairobi, expanded to Lagos with a view to investing in Nigerian tech startups.
French operator Orange had a busy month on the continent, announcing plans to launch its own video-on-demand (VoD) offering in South Africa next year. Subsidiary Orange Horizons currently operates a retail business in South Africa – selling smartphones and devices via an online store, but it now plans to branch out as an Internet service provider (ISP) with its own streaming service.
The company also partnered with French charity crowdfunding platform HelloAsso to launch what it says is Africa’s first mobile crowdfunding platform. Orange Collecte, which uses Orange’s mobile money service, has gone live in Ivory Coast, aiming to allow private individuals and charitable organisations to finance events and projects.
Orange will face competition in the VoD space from HKT, a Hong Kong-based integrated telecommunications operator, which this month launched a VoD offering of its own in South Africa. ONTAPtv offers customisable content packages and is available online and via Android and iOS apps.
Other significant rollouts included hotel booking service Jovago launching a mobile app, and PayPal debuting e-shopping returns in South Africa. California-based firm Free Conferencing Corporation launched FreeConferenceCall.com in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, while Zomato is set to launch an online food ordering service in South Africa.
In the startup world, Ugandan mobile money aggregator Beyonic partnered Mobile Accord to roll out its services in a number of other African countries, and South African bitcoin startup Bankymoon launched a crowdfunding platform that allows schools to raise money that is immediately converted into electricity or water credits.
Find-a-doctor service DabaDoc, from Morocco, continued its expansion by launching operations in Nigeria and South Africa, while there were developments too in the e-learning space. Kenyan firm BRCK unveiled a low-cost tablet running web-based content and locally cached videos, designed for use by school students in areas with limited infrastructure.