Africa develops appetite for technology

By Antony Mutunga

For a long time, Africa took a back seat when it came to technology as the continent would follow and never lead in the sector. By leapfrogging the use of plastic money and going straight for mobile money, which is widely accepted in most countries, Africa will benefit going forward.

African tech companies are currently pushing their way into the world economic forum technology pioneers’ list, an assembly of leading high growth firms from around the world that are pioneering new technologies and innovations. 

Like 2021, the 2022 list did not disappoint – African tech start-ups were again among the top 100 which included tech giants such as Google and Microsoft. The African ventures in this year’s cohort include Ampersand, a Rwandan start-up betting on a commercial electric motorcycle battery swapping and clean energy, Okra, a Nigerian API/fintech start-up that specialises in digitalising financial services across the continent, and Ejara, a Cameroonian start-up that offers Africans at home and in the diaspora a platform where they can invest in different forms including equities, cryptos, and commodities.  

The remaining enterprises are three Kenyan companies, namely Pula Advisors, Access Afya, and Sendy. Pula is an insurance and technology company, which designs innovative insurance and other digital products for farmers. Its main aim is to de-risk all agricultural investments and guarantee profit. 

Access Afya, on the other hand, specialises in the provision of quality and affordable healthcare for the global mass market by leveraging available patient data to facilitate diagnostic, operational and follow-up care pathways. Last on the least is Sendy, a tech company that builds fulfilment infrastructure for e-commerce and consumer brands. It brings together everything that’s required for e-commerce and consumer brands to ship goods to consumers and retailers across Africa

The six companies were identified as being at the forefront of their industries, leading change and solving some of the world’s most pressing problems including climate change, food security, cybersecurity, among others.

Africa has seen one of its own acquire a US based company, reflecting the growth of the technology sector. MFS Africa, a digital payments gateway, recently acquired Oklahoma-based Global Technology Partners (GTP), a processor of prepaid cards which works with over 80 banks in 34 African countries.

The move is attributed to the growing demand for technology, and will not only be an advantage to the company in its expansion plan in Africa but also acts as a measure of maturity of African ventures. Things have changed so much that African enterprises are no longer just waiting to be absorbed by international players. 

As always, it is African enterprises that excite Silicon Valley. In fact, according to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, African start-ups attracted investments totalling about Sh593.6bn ($5bn) from around the world. Such partnerships open doors for more local firms to go international, and signals a new era for the continent – Africa tech scene is rising so much that, one day, it will be seen as an equal to Silicon Valley.   

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