Meet Samori Gambrah, the Global Brand Director for Captain Morgan, a Ghanaian American-born individual who takes great pride in his diverse cultural heritage. Besides his successful career in brand management, he considers his most significant role to be a devoted father to his two sons, Samori II and Hendrix, named after the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Gambrah’s passion for crafting world-class brands and nurturing future leaders has its roots in his upbringing in both the US and Ghana. After graduating from Miami University, he returned to Ghana in 2006, launching his career journey with SABMiller and later transitioning to ABInBev.
In the heart of Sierra Leone’s financial challenge, EziPay emerged as a transformative force. With traditional banking out of reach for many, EziPay harnessed mobile technology, uniting the unbanked. From remote villages to bustling cities, it bestowed the power of financial services to handheld devices, rewriting the narrative of exclusion. This innovation rippled through economies, breaking barriers and offering new avenues of growth. EziPay stands as a testament to the profound impact of technology when aimed at inclusivity, elevating lives, and lighting the path to a brighter, financially empowered future.
Lightspeed Ventures, a leading global venture capital firm with a strong track record of investing in disruptive startups, recognized the immense potential of Berry Health’s unique healthcare platform. With their expertise in identifying promising ventures, Lightspeed Ventures strategically invested $1.6 million in Berry Health during its pre-seed funding round.
Today, the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund announces the selection of 25 African startups. Notably, 72% of these startups are led or co-founded by women, showcasing a strong representation of female leadership. The selected startups demonstrate diversity not only in their leadership composition but also in their geographical representation and sector focus. Below is the list of the startups, presented in alphabetical order.
Partech Africa, the VC fund dedicated to technology startups in Africa, has issued its annual report on Africa Tech Venture Capital. The report, which aims to provide a practical picture of the state of the ecosystem, revealed that despite the global VC downturn, the African tech ecosystem grew faster than all other markets globally.
Total funding invested into tech startups on the continent reached $6.5 Billion, an increase of 8% vs 2021, spread across 764 deals – compared to 724 rounds in 2021. The report, consisting of disclosed and confidential deals, saw debt funding more than double in volume, reaching $1.55 billion through 71 deals [65% YoY growth].
Fintech continues to be the dominant industry within the ecosystem, with the top investment destinations on the continent being Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya.
The thriving African startup market is well-positioned to become a pillar of the continent’s digital economy, fostering local innovation through relevant solutions to societal challenges. According to research, funding for African startups more than doubled to $3.14 billion in the first half of 2022.
Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya are the continent’s top investment destinations, though funding is also increasing elsewhere, with Fintech remaining the dominant sector.
Investments in Africa’s startup ecosystem are increasing at a rapid pace. According to the OECD, more than 640 tech hubs are active across Africa, accelerating innovation and creating jobs, particularly among the youth.
However, while Africa has enormous potential to become a world leader, the African startup market currently accounts for less than one percent of global venture funding. So, what is preventing African startups from achieving global success? There are numerous factors at work, but systematic impediments in the startup innovation ecosystem have an impact on the likelihood of success.
The ecosystem must be inclusive and broad
To be sure, one company cannot have the necessary impact on its own; it takes a network of companies and organizations working together to develop market-appropriate consumer and customer solutions. The power of ecosystems is highlighted in an Accenture report, Tech Startups Will Support Africa’s Growth: “An ecosystem is defined by the depth and breadth of potential collaboration among a set of players: each can deliver a piece of the consumer solution or contribute a necessary capability.”
The African startups themselves, market makers, potential clients (corporate or individual), governments and regulators, and tech development partners are all part of the startup ecosystem. The startup must be at the centre of the ecosystem, and the right development, financial, and government partners must be involved from the start to make the journey inclusive and sustainable.
African startups require the right technology to succeed in the long run, operations, a blueprint for their people’s requirements, and the right type of business architecture. For startups to manage the growth phase of their business, the ecosystem must address these concerns holistically. Experienced mentors from large corporations and venture capital boards, as well as access to skilling resources, can play an important role here. Recognizing the need for comprehensive support, Microsoft launched the Founders Hub, a self-service hub that offers a wide range of resources to startups. Currently, the platform benefits over 1,000 startups.
Startups receive tangible benefits from the ecosystem approach
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is one sector that has the potential to significantly contribute to the Middle East and North African economy by 2030. Synapse Analytics is an AI company based in Egypt that helps businesses develop, build, manage, and scale their AI solutions to optimize and expand their operations while maintaining sustainable growth (MaaS). Working with Microsoft ATO, Synapse was able to significantly accelerate development and launch its product earlier than expected. Microsoft’s support teams and access to technology accelerated the product timeline by nearly three months in an 18-month projected timeline.
Sector specificity is crucial
A narrow sector focus directs the attention of startups, companies, and potential investors who interact with them. Startups that align with the business priorities of potential partners, customers, or funders will be valuable to them.
Tech accelerators play an important role in creating an enabling environment that assists startups in identifying and being very clear on what sectors they are targeting, what problems they are attempting to solve, and the opportunities available within that sector. Recognizing the critical role that accelerators can play, Microsoft has signed partnership agreements with tech accelerators across the continent to collaborate on supporting startups through a combined business and technology curriculum.
Health tech has the potential to solve Africa’s problem of a lack of healthcare facilities and skills, particularly in remote areas. Deepecho, a Moroccan startup, uses AI and deep learning to mimic functions normally performed by a trained sonographer, assisting radiologists and clinicians with prenatal ultrasound video diagnosis. These diagnoses can then be used to help prevent birth defects, preterm birth, low birth weight, and the potentially dangerous outcomes that are associated with them. This is especially important in areas where hospitals are typically understaffed and under-resourced.
The story of the company emphasizes the critical role that startups continue to play in the African healthcare space, as well as the importance of providing local innovators with much-needed financial and technical support. Indeed, through its collaboration with the ATO, Deepecho has been able to progress its product through various stages of development to the point where it is now ready for deployment in hospitals.
Governments have a critical role to play
African startups with a viable product in one market may decide to expand to other countries after weighing the potential economic benefits. Governments and regulators can help by developing business-friendly policies and regulations that are not overly burdensome for startup compliance.
Governments can foster a supportive ecosystem by establishing and encouraging collaboration networks between large corporations and startups, such as private sector incubation programs and joint ecosystem innovation, such as that promoted by Microsoft through its Africa Transformation Office.
A supportive environment will reap rewards for the continent
When the ecosystem supports startups that serve SMEs, these micro-companies benefit from the startups that are developing novel solutions to their problems, whether in AgriTech, FinTech, or other sectors. Startups enable SMEs to follow their own growth trajectory by developing solutions for the SME market.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for assisting startups and preparing more of them for success. However, with key players and drivers working together in a supportive ecosystem, there is the potential for significant growth in Africa’s startup sector, which will drive economic growth across the continent.
This article was written by Gerald Maithya, Startups Lead, Africa Transformation Office.
MEST Africa Challenge has announced the top five finalists going into the final stage of the 2022 MEST Africa Challenge pitch competition.
The startups that will compete in the 2022 MEST Africa Challenge pitch competition are Sproutly (Nigeria), Kweli (Senegal), Swoove (Ghana), Hisa (Kenya), and Desert Green Africa (South Africa).
Applications for the pre-seed and seed-stage technology startups in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, and South Africa were made available in July of this year in order to compete for the $50,000 grand prize.
These 5 finalists have been chosen for the final pitch after passing the competition’s online application, regional pitches, and founder interviews phases. Each startup will represent its nation at the Demo Day and Final Pitch Competition, which will be held in Accra, Ghana, in December 2022.
Speaking on the selection of the top 5 startups, the Director of Portfolio at MEST Africa, Melissa Nsiah, said:
“It hasn’t been an easy process. Mostly because, this year, we saw so many valid business models and met some incredible founders with huge visions that align very closely with ours. But in the final analysis, we were able to zero in on the cream of the crop to select the top 5 companies from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa in alignment with this year’s selection criteria. Our team is eager to work closely with each of the 5 finalists in preparation towards the final competition day in December.”
Here are details of the startups who have made it in the 2022 MEST Africa Challenge:
- Sproutly Inc (Nigeria): Digital Banking, Tuition Financing for Teens & Students and Payments, Education Management and Credits for Schools. Learn more https://sproutlyhq.com/
- Kwely Inc (Senegal): An innovative made-in-Africa B2B brand incubation and digital distribution platform.
- Swoove Inc (Ghana): Swoove is the last mile delivery and fulfillment tech startup building e-commerce infrastructure for SMEs and commerce companies on the continent. Learn more https://www.swoove.delivery
- Hisa Inc (Kenya): Building the tech infrastructure for investing in Africa. Learn more: https://hisa.co/
- Desert Green Africa Agri-Investments (South Africa): Desert Green is an Agritech transforming the Informal Agri-value chain in Africa by providing more efficient delivery of Fresh produce from small-scale farmers to informal traders. Learn more www.desertgreen.co.za
MEST will provide the winning startup with investment capital to the amount of $50,000, coaching and access to a global network of resources and partners as they build and scale successful businesses that add value to African economies and livelihoods.
All participating startups will have the opportunity to benefit from a host of exciting perks from MEST Africa and its strategic partners, including global visibility, building their networks, professional coaching, mentorship from experts, and the opportunity to join the global MEST community for lifetime benefits.
About the 2022 MEST Africa Challenge
In its fourth year, MAC 2022 is a call for technology startups in 5 African markets – Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa to vie for the ultimate prize of USD 50,000 in equity investment. Finalists will gain exclusive access to the MEST Community, including expert business coaches and mentors, global investors, and a wide selection of perk prizes and packages contributed by MEST partners across the continent. Finalists from each country will attend the MEST Africa Demo Day in Accra, Ghana, on December 1st, 2022, where they will once again compete on a global stage for up to $50,000 in equity investment and the opportunity to join the MEST Portfolio and global community.
The competition has received thousands of applications from around the continent since its inception. It has spotlighted and impacted the growth of winning startups such as Tanzania’s Kilimo Fresh, Ghana’s OZE, South Africa’s Snode Technologies, Kenya’s Waya Waya, and Nigeria’s Accounteer.
About MEST Africa:
MEST is a pan-African software and entrepreneurship training program, seed fund, and incubator helping to launch technology startups across the continent. Founded in Ghana in 2008 by serial entrepreneur Jorn Lyseggen, MEST is a 12-month program that provides critical skills training in software development, business, and communications to Africa’s burgeoning tech talent. MEST provides seed funding for the best ideas coming out of the program and continues to support the growth and development of its portfolio companies.
MEST has trained 1000s of entrepreneurs from across the continent and invested in over 80 startups across industries from Agritech, Fintech, SaaS, eCommerce, Digital Media, and Healthcare, amongst others. MEST is fully funded by the Meltwater Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Norwegian company Meltwater, a global leader in social and media intelligence headquartered in San Francisco. Learn more at www.meltwater.org
Stears, a Nigerian data and intelligence company, has raised $3.3 million to address Africa’s data shortage.
A Nigerian data and intelligence company, Stears has raised $3.3 million to expand into East and Southern Africa, improve its data collection and analytics capabilities, and acquire talent. MaC Venture Capital led this seed round. Serena Ventures, Melo 7 Tech Partners, Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund, and Cascador also participated.
Preston Ideh, Abdul Abdulrahim, Foluso Ogunlana, and Michael Famoroti, students at the London School of Economics and Oxford, founded Stears in 2017 as a solution to the country’s data shortage. Stears has evolved from a free-to-read publication to a data and intelligence firm since then.
Stears Insights, formerly known as Stears Business, is the startup’s flagship product, a data-driven website that provides in-depth insight for finance professionals. Stears Insights is able to provide valuable insights to its individual and corporate clients by crunching proprietary and publicly available data.
Stears has gradually but steadily entered the data and intelligence industry over the years, and it now provides data collection, production, advisory, and analysis services.
“We know global professionals require our data and insight because banks, research firms, development organizations, and investors are already using our early products.” Our customers tell us we are building a systemically important company to address Africa’s data problem,” Stears CEO Preston Ideh says in a statement.
Stears Premium, a $100 yearly subscription product, publishes long-form articles that discuss relevant issues in business and finance, the economy, technology, government, and policy. Aside from finance professionals and knowledge workers who use it to stay ahead of the curve, large corporations and institutions that recognize its value pay a group subscription for their employees. Sterling Bank, Sparkle, Piggyvest, Paystack, the United Nations Development Programme, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, and the European Investment Bank are among these businesses and institutions.
Stears said in a statement that its user base has grown at a rate of around 6.5% month on month over the last year, more than doubling its total number of users. Enterprise customers account for 75% of revenue, up from 45% in 2021. According to the company, revenue in the first six months of 2022 surpassed revenue in the entire year of 2021.
“Our experience with Stears Premium, our flagship insights product, exposed us to significant demand for more than just insights.” We are now collaborating with international development organizations and financial institutions to create proprietary and exclusive datasets that are not available anywhere else. “With this new investment, we can expand our data coverage to meet the needs of global professionals who want direct access to our data, not just our insight,” said Abdul Abdulrahim, Stear’s COO and Data scientist.
Despite already running its publication for two years, Stears first came into the limelight in 2019 when it launched Stears Election, Nigeria’s first real-time election database, which aggregated official election data. During the 2019 presidential election fever periods, February and March, Stears Election was visited by 7 million Nigerians. It subsequently averaged 2 million visits for the rest of the year.
Back in 2019, Stears received $600,000 in pre-seed funding from Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund to grow its data arm, Stears Data and build a premium subscription product, Stears Premium. Last month, it received up to $100,000 in non-dilutive funding after being selected for the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund 2022 cohort. With this fresh fund, Stears’ total cumulative funding has risen to about $4 million.
Stears, in a bid to replicate Bloomberg’s information service, launched Stears Data in 2017, an information research and advisory arm which caters to the information needs of government officials and big businesses.
“Globally, information providers like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have built data powerhouses which act as information gateways to Western markets. We are executing an African version of this model, focused on the often missing, outdated or poorly digitized African datasets needed by operators, finance and policy professionals, researchers and even regulators,” Ideh added.
With this fresh funding, Stears, which is transitioning into a pan-African data and intelligence firm, will hire on-ground intelligence teams in Kenya, South Africa and Egypt.
MaC’s investment in Stears is its 9th in an African firm, and it will see its co-founder and managing general partner, Marlon Nichols, join the Stears’ board.
“Africa is home to the first humans and is now the next frontier for business,” Nichols said. “Many multinational corporations and governments understand this to be a reality. They also appreciate that several African countries are subject to unique business processes and are primarily cash-based economies, which results in understated GDP, among other things. Stears is uniquely positioned to provide the proprietary and accurate data needed to unlock trade and deeper business relationships with African countries and companies.”
mPharma acquisition aligns with the company’s mission to build an Africa in good health by delivering life-changing healthcare services and drugs to improve health outcomes for patients.
mPharma, Africa’s leading patient-centred technology-driven healthcare company, has acquired the majority stake in HealthPlus, the leading pharmacy chain in Nigeria. mPharma and the former investor, Alta Semper, have signed an agreement leading to the acquisition of a majority stake in the HealthPlus Group.
According to the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of mPharma, Gregory Rockson, the acquisition aligns with the company’s mission to build an Africa in good health by delivering life-changing healthcare services and drugs to improve health outcomes for patients.
He stated that the acquisition of the HealthPlus Pharmacy chain by mPharma complements mPharma’s deep commitment to increasing patient access to affordable and quality healthcare in Nigeria.
“mPharma is deepening its long-standing commitment to Africa by reimagining primary healthcare in some of the most vulnerable communities on the continent. We continue to transform community pharmacies into primary care centers to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to all patients so they can live not just longer but healthier lives. We are optimistic about the future of healthcare for Nigerians through the acquisition of HealthPlus.”, said Rockson
In her remarks on the acquisition, Afsane Jetha, Co-founder and CEO at Alta Semper Capital, said: “We are delighted about HealthPlus’ partnership with mPharma. We have a strong conviction in mPharma’s strategy of revolutionizing primary care across Africa and believe mPharma is the ideal steward for HealthPlus’s next chapter of growth. We believe mPharma’s vision is consistent with that of HealthPlus’s shareholders and employees, and we are enthusiastic about supporting the business through a relationship with mPharma going forward”.
While mPharma plans to continue to keep and strengthen HealthPlus as Nigeria’s leading pharmacy brand in Nigeria, the acquisition will also provide expansion opportunities for mPharma within Nigeria and a platform to expand mPharma’s mutti pharmacy retail footprint across the continent through its fast-growing QualityRx program.
Powered by mPharma’s proprietary Bloom software, HealthPlus will provide patients access to affordable primary care services within its pharmacies and affordable and quality medications it currently retails across 12 states in Nigeria.
The HealthPlus pharmacy chain will also launch mutti®, mPharma’s health membership program, which will provide both existing and new customers with discounts, interest-free “heal-now-pay-later” plans, free health screenings, and other primary care services.
By combining HealthPlus pharmacies with mPharma’s growing portfolio of partner mutti pharmacies and GoodHealth shops (PPMVs),mPharma’s network will grow from 224 to over 320 health facilities in Nigeria and will provide care to more than 100,000 Nigerians each month.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of mPharma.
Kunle Awosika, a seasoned Microsoft employee, has been named Managing Director for the Africa Transformation Office to drive its strategic digital transformation initiatives across Africa.
Microsoft veteran and Africa expert Kunle Awosika assume the position of Managing Director for the Africa Transformation Office as Wael Elkabbany steps into a new role heading up the Africa Regional Cluster.
With more than 22 years of experience working in multiple countries across the continent, Awosika has a deep understanding of and passion for Africa. He was one of the three pioneer team members when Microsoft opened its Nigeria office and has played various roles in the company, including Director of Enterprise Business, Country Manager: Microsoft Kenya and Director: Small and Medium Corporates, Emerging Markets.
In these roles, he has had the opportunity to introduce transformational technology opportunities to a wide range of organizations in both the public and private sectors, enabling them to unlock significant value.
Awosika will bring this deep experience in multiple African markets to the new role. “I am passionate about incredible potential Africa has to become a truly connected continent that exports digital goods and services to the rest of the world. I am delighted to have the opportunity to meaningfully impact this growth and help unlock the continent’s full digital potential,” says Awosika.
“With his multifaceted experience of the continent and deep understanding of transformative technology, Kunle Awosika is ideally placed to lead the strategy, investments and initiatives of Microsoft’s transformation plans for the African continent,” says Wael Elkabbany.
Launched in 2021, the ATO is focused on enabling growth and fuelling investment in four essential development areas – digital infrastructure, skilling, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and startups. Understanding that these ambitious goals cannot be achieved alone, strategic partnerships with governments, international organizations, multinationals, and African enterprises will accelerate investments in Africa and increase the continent’s export of digital services.
Since its inception, the ATO has spearheaded initiatives and strategic partnerships across Africa to build digital infrastructure, enable small and medium enterprises with digital capabilities, support innovative startups and skill the current and future workforce.
“I look forward to playing a role in unlocking Africa’s potential as the ATO develops and steers strategic partnerships with governments, international organizations and partners to accelerate digital transformation agendas and fuel a knowledge-based economy,” says Awosika.
Pan African VC Microtraction has raised $15 million in the first close of its second fund, Microtraction Community Limited.
A $15 million first close of Microtraction’s second fund has been announced by Microtraction, an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in African internet entrepreneurs at the pre-seed stage. The market slump and anticipated slowdown in foreign investment into early-stage African startups are factors in this.
Founded by Yele Bademosi and Kwamena Afful in 2017, with initial backing from PAVE Investments, Michael Seibel, Andy Volk, and Chris Shultz, they have invested in 36 companies comprising 83 founders across two funds in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda.
These companies in sectors like fintech, health-tech, SaaS, edtech, crypto, gaming, and mobility have raised a total of $100m+ in follow-on funding, currently valued at $760m+ combined, and have created 900+ jobs. Since their pre-seed stage, some of the companies we have backed include 54gene, Cowrywise, Helicarrier, Lemonade Finance, Bitsika, and Raise.
“This year marks the 5th anniversary of Microtraction, and over the past few years, we’ve been fortunate enough to witness and contribute to the growth of the African tech ecosystem. We are grateful to have partnered with some of the most innovative, mission-driven founders solving some of the continent’s most pressing challenges,” Kwamena Afful, Founding Partner at Microtraction.
Their strategy had to be spot on to be the most accessible and preferred source of pre-seed funding for African tech entrepreneurs. This strategy included having an open application format that allowed anyone to apply for funding, clear investment criteria that helped identify the best early-stage growth-driven technology businesses, a seamless investment process, a hands-on working relationship that supported and guided the founders on their journey, and access to a broader network that provided specific service needs to the startups.
They have consistently invested in founders on the continent and will continue to do so despite the market conditions. Their debut fund has backed 19 companies in 4 countries over three years. Of the 19 companies, 14 got into global accelerators, ten are valued at $10 million, 37% have female co-founders, and 18 have raised follow-on funding. These companies have a combined valuation of $540m+.
Five years ago, the aim was to bridge the pre-seed funding gap and be the first check investor for the best African startups. Fast forward to 2022, more African funds have emerged for pre-seed startups, African founders are backing other African founders very early, and the African tech ecosystem has gotten more attention from global investors.
“As a team, we constantly ask ourselves: ‘What do founders need right now? How do we improve our offering to founders? How do we differentiate ourselves from other investors?’. We realized, very quickly, that the difference between founders on the right track to building successful businesses and those not quite yet is access to a rich and valuable community that increases the odds of success,” Dayo Koleowo, Partner at Microtraction.
To create this community for the best African founders, our team carefully and intentionally sought out founders, GPs, and LPs that will make up the members of our growing community focused on supporting and championing the next set of African founders building for the continent.
The LPs in this community fund include 30+ Venture-backed founders of African companies like
Helicarrier’s Ire Aderinokun, Paystack’s Shola Akinlade, Cowrywise’s Razaq Ahmed, 54gene’s Francis Osifo, Piggyvest’s Odun Eweniyi, Paga’s Jay Alabraba, Spleet’s Tola Adesanmi, Float’s Jesse Ghansah, etc.; GPs of VC funds like Ribbit Capital’s Micky Malka, Hustle Fund’s Elizabeth Yin, Sebastes Capital’s Jason Fish, a16z’s David Haber, Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel, 776’s Alexis Ohanian, Bonow Ventures’ Tilo Bonow, Precursor Ventures’ Charles Hudson, Better Tomorrow Ventures’ Sheel Mohnot, Broadhaven Ventures’ Michael Sidgmore, etc.; Web2 and Web3 Operators; Local and International HNIs; Sport and Entertainment Icons; and PAVE Investments (the anchor LP in MT Fund I), which has committed $1.5m into the community fund.
Microtraction Community Limited (the new fund’s entity name) will write first checks of $100k for 7% into early-stage African companies across different sectors and regions in Africa with an option for a quick top-up of up to $350k, as long as we are not more than 25% of the company’s next official fundraising round. Through this second fund, we intend to make a minimum of ~60 first check investments into African startups, and up to ~20% of those investments will get the quick top-up in their next round. So far, 20 investments have been made through this community fund.
To create an engaging experience within the community, we are venturing into the Web3 space by setting up a community vehicle (akin to a DAO) as the first African fund with community tokens for its members, where social tokens will be used to incentivize and gamify the experience of members who will provide value-add and support to the fund & founders. The DAO will now operate on an invite-only basis and launch with various perks such as exclusive access to events, investment opportunities, industry deep dives, and more.
“As a group, we are never shy of experimenting and creating a blueprint others can build upon. We believe that the African start-up ecosystem is still in its infancy and will take a community of connected, aligned, and incentivized members to contribute, grow and accelerate its development. As a fund & community, we look forward to continuing to innovate on Africa’s innovation infrastructure alongside our members,” Yele Bademosi, Founding Partner at Microtraction.
Accelerating Africa’s transformation to a sustainable and developed economy is Microtraction’s long-term goal. To achieve this, they fund entrepreneurs who use innovation, cash, and technology to address some of the continent’s most pressing problems. We should discuss if you are trying to solve one of these issues.