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10 African start-ups positioning to become unicorns

By , ITWeb
Africa , 13 Jul 2017

10 African start-ups positioning to become unicorns

With African countries gradually moving towards becoming knowledge-based societies, increased digitisation and innovation is needed to catch up with global standards. However, in the last few years, the continent has seen an increased number of innovative start-ups, owing to ripening investment with more incubators emerging to meet the creative ideas half way.

Despite this, the continent has not yet met its first 'unicorn' (Start-up Company valued at over $1 billion). The Africa innovation report by Liquid telecom released earlier this year claimed that the first unicorn will come from its five 'Africa Kings' countries which are currently leading the continent in digital innovation, namely; Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

Earlier this year, African tech start-ups that secured funding were reported to have increased by 16.8% in 2016 compared to the previous year, according to Disrupt Africa's Tech Start-ups Funding Report released earlier this year. The report noted that African tech start-ups raised funding in excess of US$129 million in 2016, expected to grow in the coming years.

With sufficient innovation and investment, experts believe start-ups have the potential to create new jobs, drive economic growth and bring new competitive dynamics.

Looking at the continent's start-up ecosystem, ITWeb Africa has compiled a list of top 10 largest start-ups, (by revenue and investment.) which have the potential to become the continents' first unicorns.

The following start-ups were selected based on the amount of investment and revenue they have managed to generate, and are listed from highest to lowest grossing:

1. Zoona:The fintech start-up aims to provide a bank for people without banking facilities or access to financial establishments. In April the company announced it had processed more than US$1 billion in transactions, and later went on to raise an additional US$15 million in funding in August.

2. BitX / Luno: South Africa's Bitcoin platform Luno, first called BitX, was launched in 2013. The company raised US$4 million from Naspers in 2014 and an undisclosed amount from Venture Capital in 2015.

3. ThisIsMe: The star-up verification service launched last year in 2014 September, It received US$2.5 million in funding last year. This substantial investment was intended to be used to expand into international territory, namely Australia and New Zealand.

4. Fuzu: The Kenyan start-up was launched in 2015 to provide a one-stop career development platform, which aims to allow users to learn new skills and find jobs regardless of their levels of education. The start-up immediately received backing from the Rockefeller Foundation and Accenture, and by December 2016, Fuzu announced it had raised US$1.88 million in funding to support its business development and expansion from Kenya to other African countries as well as to Asia.

5. Instabug: A crowd-sourcing platform for mobile engineers. It enables users to report bugs and send criticism about portable applications to the developers from within apps. According to Disrupt Africa, the Egypt start-up announced In June last year that it had closed a US$1.7 million seed to allow it to expand its suite of tools.

6. SpacePointe: From Nigeria, the start-up develops products geared towards small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a particular focus on retailers. In 2016 June, it announced that it had raised US$1.2 million in funding from multiple investors.

7. SweepSouth: The SA start-up was born in 2014 when it won the Get-Up Start-Up Pitch award. In 2015 it announced a seed funding round and joined the 500 start-ups programme in Silicon Valley later that year. Early last year, the start-up secured over US$750 000 in funding.

8. Custos Media Technologies: Another blockchain based SA start-up, the company uses watermarking technology and the Bitcoin blockchain to protect digital media files from online piracy. It launched in 2015 and it received US$265 000 from a South African private investor and the New York-based Digital Currency Group in April, followed by US$420 000 from SA's Technology Innovation Agency in August.

9. Cape (Asimmetric): The South African start-up Cape, previously called Asimmetric was launched in 2015, and operates a WiFi network and application quality monitoring tool. In 2016, it announced it had raised an undisclosed seven-figure dollar funding round from three US-based early-stage hardware and Internet of Things (IoT) investment firms, allowing it to launch operations in San Francisco.

10. Flare: The Kenyan start-up provides an Uber-like mobile solution that aggregates available ambulances onto a single system, allowing patients or hospitals to request emergency help via smartphone. The app was under construction and testing with ambulance companies throughout 2016 and the start-up raised US$150 000 in funding.

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