Scaling for Impact: Where next for tech in Africa?


Jumia, the Africa-focused e-commerce startup, listed on the New York Stock Exchange this month, becoming the continent’s first big stage tech IPO.

It’s a major milestone for the company, and a good example of Africa’s burgeoning tech industry. On the back of the mobile revolution and better connectivity the continent is going beyond mobile money into the mainstream of investing.

The continent’s startups raised a total of $1.163bn in 2018, a 101% increase on the previous year, according to venture capital firm Partech Ventures.

This includes big names like private equity giant TPG, which made headlines last May with its $47.5m investment into Kenyan fintech startup Cellulant. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has invested, backing software developer training startup Andela.

They are just part of a growing stream of investments into everything from e-commerce to drone delivery services.

Africa’s technology potential is not in doubt, but realizing it will take much work.

In global terms investment levels are minuscule, with Africa accounting for just 0.39% of total venture capital funding last year. Indian tech startups raised almost ten times as much.

Just three countries - Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria - accounted for 78% of all fundraising in 2018. Investment is also going into a limited number of sectors, with fintech alone accounting for 50% of funding.

Few startups achieve scale, hamstrung by tough business environments and practical constraints like poor infrastructure.

This year’s Annual Debate will address the challenge of harnessing Africa’s technology potential as one of its core topics. The event brings together leading experts to consider the risks and opportunities of investing in tech in Africa, and where the industry goes next.

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