Last year was arguably the best year the African tech ecosystem has ever had. From the launching of new funds, record acquisitions to underserved regions picking up. We have decided to pick out the best 19 stories that we believe shaped the landscape last year and are worth recapping. We shall start from January to December.
The launch of Partech Africa Fund was among the big news of January 2018. What was more interesting was that they chose to headquarter the fund in Francophone West Africa (Dakar, Senegal). The region hasn’t been as blessed with funding as compared to its counterpart, Anglophone West Africa. Though headquartered in the fund is yet to make any investments in Francophone West Africa. Their first investment was into Nigeria’s TradeDepot followed by another into South Africa’s Yoco. In October, Partech Ventures went ahead to close a further €7 million from the AfDB. According to that particular press release, Partech is targeting a total fund size of at least €100 million.
Jibu, a Rwanda-based social enterprise, completed its $7m Series B financing in February 2018. The startup had its first close of $2.3 million in May 2017 according to their SEC filings. Jibu equips entrepreneurs in emerging market communities to own businesses that ensure access to basic human necessities, with water as an anchor product, which is a validation that social enterprises across the continent, too, can raise significant funding.
Not only were there few tech acquisitions across Africa, but most were also characterized by a foreign company snatching up the one on the continent. BitPesa was among those that reversed the trend. The blockchain payments platform acquired Spanish fintech, TransferZero, to set up their Madrid office. BitPesa was later followed by Nigeria’s Terragon Group (raised $5M from TLcom Capital) which acquired Singapore-based Bizense. While Magasin Général (French for General Store), a leading retailer in Tunisia, bought 80% stake in Tunisia’s leading online retailer, Founa. There was also a stressed acquisition of one of Nigeria’s highflying e-commerce startups – Konga – by Zinox Technologies as well as a couple of other acquisitions that we noted.
M-BIRR is one of the leading mobile technology companies in Ethiopia and the leading mobile money service in the country. The $9.87 million round which the company raised in March 2018 has turned out to be the largest round of funding in Ethiopia for 2018. Standard Bank acted as the lead advisor for this funding raise. Part of the funding came from German’s DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, and another from the European Investment Bank.
Orange Digital Ventures Africa, the Orange investment fund’s new initiative for Africa launched in June 2017. The fund announced its first investment, in April 2018, as part of Africa’s Talking $8.6 million round alongside the IFC World Bank and Social Capital. The fund then went on to participate in Yoco’s Series B in September last year.
In May, the World Bank and CFAO Automotive – the subsidiary of Toyota in Africa – joined forces to launch Mali’s first bike-hailing startup, Teliman. In Mali’s capital, Bamako, the population sits at 2.3 million and a proliferating – at 5%. As a result, the country’s road network is coming under increased pressure. Especially when it comes to public transportation. Prompting the need for a solution.
Uganda is among the countries that have been promising when it comes to raising funding for the past five years. However, the country’s early-stage companies are still struggling when compared to those in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Egypt. Therefore, the $5 million debt raised by Tugende in July 2018 from OPIC was very much needed. It ended up being the highest round raised by a Ugandan tech company last year.
Despite its crucial role in shaping the continent, the education sector is heavily neglected when it comes to funding. Therefore, the presence of edtech dedicated early-stage funds and incubators should be highly praised. That’s why Injini made it to this list. In July last year, the incubator announced its cohort of 7 startups and went ahead to inject a total of $280,000 into them.
As July 2018 drew to a close, Golix, a Zimbabwe-based crypto exchange, brought to an end its ICO. The startup had set out to raise a total of $35 million but only managed to raise – a still remarkable – $23 million. The amount is the highest to be raised by any African startup through ICO. The other notable ICOs include SureRemit’s $7 million and Wala’s $1.2 million.
After raising this funding, Jumo was the first company to reveal its intentions to expand beyond Africa. Since then, Paga has also expressed interest in expanding beyond the African continent after it raised a $10 million Series B (II) from the Global Innovation Partners, which was also Goldman’s second time it participated in around for a tech company in Africa. The first was with Jumia.
Tunisia, like Uganda, is among the countries that are promising but still struggling to raise early-stage funding. However, Enova Robotics pulled in a $1.6 million round in September 2018. According to Menabytes, this was the highest for any Tunisian startup at the time. However, Expensya later raised $4.5 million in December 2018. We also landed on documents from the IFC that indicate Flat6Labs is raising a $10 million fund focused on the country.
In September, Cairo-based healthtech startup Vezeeta raised a $12 million Series C round led by Saudi Arabia’s STV Capital, MENA’s largest VC fund. The round was the largest-ever investment raised by an Egyptian startup at the time. However, Swvl has since taken over after it raised what is estimated to be $30 million in November 2018.
Naspers, through OLX Group, acquired Webuycars for $94 million in September, which is the second highest acquisition amount for a tech company in 2018 after Experian acquired South Africa’s Compuscan for $263 million in December 2018. In June 2018, Naspers had also finalised its acquisition of South Africa’s leading e-commerce company – Takealot. Furthermore, in October of last year, the most valued African company by market cap, Naspers went ahead to announce its $300 million startup fund – Naspers Foundry – that will focus on South Africa.
In September, Blockbank – a blockchain bank (as you have guessed) – announced that it had acquired an undisclosed stake in Kenya’s Spire Bank. Headquartered in Nairobi, the bank has total assets worth $180 million with 350,000 existing customers. This stake purchase came after the UK headquartered blockchain bank had concluded its $12 million ICO.
Tokyo-based multinational, Sompo Holdings announced its partnership with BitPesa in November which also came with $5.02 million in funding. However, this was the first in a series of corporate minority investments that followed. In December, Jumia Group announced that it had received an undisclosed amount from French spirits group, Pernod Ricard. In the same month, M-Kopa also received funding from Japanse multinational, Sumitomo Corporation.
Commercial International Bank (CIB), one of Egypt’s leading banks, established a corporate venture arm in December. CVentures, the corporate venture capital firm will focus on investments into FinTechs. The firm will take part in Series A and Series B investment rounds in Egypt, the Middle East, Africa.
In December 2018, The African Development Bank (AfDB) approved a $7.5 million investment into Africa Tech Ventures (ATV). ATV states that they “invest between $100,000 and $5 million”. But, “in exchange for a significant minority equity stake and can take part in multiple financing rounds”.
Global alternative asset manager, The Carlyle Group, said it had agreed to invest $40 million in Wakanow. This private equity deal made Wakanow one of the most funded travel companies across Africa. This round equals South Africa’s TravelStart, founded in 1999, which raised a $40 million round from Amadeus Capital Partners in 2016.
Cassava SmartTech, a former division of Econet, listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, which brought the number of companies listed on the exchange to 63. The company was also the first to list on the exchange since 2016. Econet Global, the international business of the Econet group, is now the majority shareholder in Cassava. It has a 35,01% while EWZL holds a 20% stake.
Digest Africa tracked 440 deals worth over $1.1 Billion (plus M&A) in 2018. Next week, our 2018 African Technology Companies Investment Report will be released for purchase at $299 (without the data) and $999 (with the data). Send us an email to [email protected] to book a copy.