Three African tech start-ups driving change

Three African tech start-ups driving change

As Africa’s community of entrepreneurs and start-ups grows, it is increasingly addressing the continent’s problems by providing services in transport, payments, education and connectivity.

Despite unstable political environments, a lack of early stage capital and lower internet penetration, entrepreneurs in Africa continue to define emerging economies by creating new products using existing technologies.

Jumia is a Nigerian online retailer founded in 2012 by two Nigerian Harvard Business School graduates, Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afaedor. Jumia is growing at a high rate of approximately 20 per cent per month with orders having skyrocketed from about 3000 dollars monthly to millions of dollars monthly.

The business has benefited from internet penetration in Nigeria of nearly 30 percent and a general shortage of middle class retail outlets. It has seized the opportunity by delivering purchased goods to towns and cities in all 36 states of Nigeria. Jumia is the first African company to win the world retail awards in 2013.

Customers can use multiple payment options, including credit cards, Cash on Delivery method, Paga and a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology for online payments to prevent incidences of fraud.

BRCK is a technology that ensures the cloud works when your connection does not. It is a self-powered mobile WiFi device that enables its users stay online regardless of power outages. The device has eight hours of battery life to keep it going when the power runs out. It is device that can switch between multiple networks to provide access.

The product is quite ingenious, with potential to provide internet solutions to remote areas across Africa. Approximately 48 percent of sub-Saharan Africans have no access to electricity; this is a far lower electricity penetration than in any other region of the world.

The team of African engineers, software developers, and technologists launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise funding. In less than five days, they raised more than a third of the $125,000 target.

Unlike the personal hotspot or pocket router, BRCK is designed to handle the heat and dust typical of the developing world. It could also serve as a mini-server when it is connected to processing power, such as a Raspberry Pi computer.

The Raspberry Pi is a cheap computer, consisting of a series of credit card-sized single board computers with the intent to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries.

BRCK has also started to revolutionise education in Africa by providing a new model for tech-based teaching. In September 2015, BRCK Education was launched in Nairobi, to solve the problems associated with lack of technological literacy by both teachers and learners, lack of access to technology, high mobile data costs and poor power supply.

The digital literacy solution provides tech-based teaching in emerging markets. The solution enriches teacher-to-learner experiences and can be used in any part of the world. Its web server (micro-cloud), which is an offline version of the internet, provides the same interactive content as the web, thereby preventing expensive data costs.

This is particularly useful in remote areas, far from connectivity. With or without electricity and internet connectivity, students and teachers are able to gain access to educational resources and technology. Tech-based teaching is highly beneficial to both learners and teachers, unfortunately it is not a common feature in African educational system yet. This provides the opportunity for BRCK to expand beyond Nairobi to other remote localities across the continent.

FueledUp start-up

FueledUp is a new start-up offering a fuel-on-demand mobile filling station, which delivers fuel to customers in Lagos. Getting fuel during rush hour could be challenging in Lagos, as it is notorious for heavy rush hour traffic. FueledUp provides a solution to this problem.

The premise of FueledUp, which launched in May 2016, is simple; you download the app, type in the location of your car, and request a fuel delivery. Customers can also receive updates on the progress of their service using FueledUp app. FueledUp transactions are cashless using Paystack services.

Funding remains a barrier to start-ups

In 2015, at least 125 tech startups in Africa received funding to the tune of US$185.79 million. While South African startups received in excess of US$54.5 million, startups in Nigeria raised approximately US$49.4 million, and Kenyan startups successfully raised US$47.3 million. Startups in other countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon and Zambia also received funding.

Despite the seemingly huge investment in startups across the continent, venture capital funding and angel investments account for just 12% of funding available to start-ups in Africa, so many largely depend on capital from personal savings. African startups continue to solve unemployment problems on the continent, despite challenges in relating to funding, internet access and energy supply.

About Author

Tolulope Ola-David

Tolulope Ola-David is a Political Risk Analyst specialising in the political climate and social conditions of Africa.