UPDATED: 10 African startups co-founded by women with $1M+ in total venture funding

Diversity and inclusion are among the most discussed topics within the modern work environment. At the centre of these topics are the minority groups that tend to be left out when it comes to opportunities. The issue is now taking centre stage in the world of startups and venture capital.

Recent research indicates that women sit at the bottom of the pyramid when it comes to accessing venture capital. Another recent study also pointed out how worse the situation is for black female founders - only 34 black female founders have been able to raise funding over $1 million.

From Digest Africa data, we identified 27 African startups co-founded by women that have been able to raise at least $1 million in total venture capital funding. However, our data also suggests that most of this funding is either going to white women founders or graduates from North American and Europen Universities, implying that black or Africa educated women founders are not accessing a significant chunk of funding.

In this article, we take a look at 10 of these. (To access the full list, send an email to info@digestafrica.com). But, of these 10, only Payitup has a black female co-founder. 

Africa's women co-founded startups with at least $1M in venture capital

1. Andela ($181M)

Founded in 2014, Andela "invests in Africa’s most talented software engineers by training them and building high-performance teams". The startup has raised $181 million across five different rounds. Its most recent round, a Series D in January, was a whopping $100 million led by Al Gore co-founded Generation Investment Management. Andela’s other investors include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and CRE Venture Capital. The startup was founded by a team of six with Christina Sass as the only woman on the team. She served as the President and Chief Operations Officer before moving to her current position this year as Chair of Andela's Advisory Council & Alumni Network.

2. Zola Electric ($113M)

Zola Electric is a renewable energy startup providing solar technology which is affordable, accessible, and reliable. In 2011, Erica Mackey was among the founders and currently serves as the COO. With the main focus on Tanzania, Zola Electric has so far $113 million in venture capital funding from notable investors including GE Ventures, Helios Investment Partners, Total Energy Ventures, Omidyar Network and more.

3. Sendy ($32M)

The transport and logistics startup is among Africa's most funded startups in the sector. Sendy, founded in 2014, operates as a delivery platform by connecting businesses and individuals with drivers of all vehicle types to make deliveriesMalaika Judd is one of the founders and current CFO, a position she assumed in January this year according to her LinkedIn. Before that, she served as the COO at Sendy.

4. AZA Group ($15M)

Founded in Kenya in 2013 by Elizabeth Rossiello who also doubles as the CEO, Bitpesa is a digital foreign exchange and payment platform that leverages blockchain technology in its operations. Some of BitPesa's notable investors include Japanese corporate Sompo holdings. Others are Greycroft, BitFury Capital, and Pantera Capital. In total, she has led the startup to raise $15 million in venture funding. Before founding BitPesa, Elizabeth - Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs - worked as a consultant with the Acumen fund, Planet Rating as well as the Grameen Foundation. 

4. Payitup ($13M)

The only startup among the top 10 founded by a black woman provides a platform that aggregates a variety of payment services onto a single web and mobile application. In May this year, Aretha Gonyora who previously worked at EY KPMG and EY in Zimbabwe led her fintech company which she founded in 2017 to raising raised $13 million from UK-based Thawer Fund Management. The startup is the only fintech from Zimbabwe to have raised at least $1 million-plus in venture funding per Digest Africa data and research.

6. Spark Schools ($11.7M)

Spark schools operate within the educational sector by providing a network of affordable private primary schools in Africa. Spark was founded in 2012 in South Africa by Stacey Brewer, who serves as the CEO. The network of schools has now raised an additional $9 million in venture funding with one of their rounds being led by Omidyar Network, bring the total VC raised to $11.7M.

7. Bridge International Academies ($10M)

A chain of nursery and primary schools, Bridge International, was co-founded by Shannon May who lists herself as a Chief Development Officer as well as Chief Strategy Officer on her LinkedIn. With her role, May oversees Bridge’s growth into new partnerships with governments and organisations worldwide.  A Harvard and UC Berkeley graduate, her previous roles include working as a Financial Analyst at Morgan Stanley as well as as an independent researcher and advisor across Africa, China and India from 2001 to the period leading to the founding of Bridge International Academies. The education company partners with governments, communities, teachers, and families to "deliver great schools and high-quality, affordable education to underserved families and children". Launched in 2007 in Kenya, Bridge International has raised over $100 million in funding in funding, though only $10 million is recorded as disclosed. Some of their notable investors include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, CDC Group and DOB Equity.

8. SunFunder ($6.3M)

Nairobi-based SunFunder offers financial services to startups and companies, particularly in the solar energy domain. Uganda's SolarNow, which raised $9 million earlier this year, is one of the major beneficiaries from SunFunder. Majority of the investment that SunFunder has raised has come in debt with only $6.3 million raised as venture funding. Some of their notable investors include Khosla Impact, Treehouse Investments, Shell Ventures, and the US's Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Founded in Kenya in 2012, and Audrey Desiderato is one of the founders and currently serves as the COO. A University of California, Los Angeles graduate, Audrey previously worked as a Senior Analyst at GI Energy (formerly Endurant Energy).

9. Sweepsouth ($6.2M)

SweepSouth provides an online booking platform to connect their clients to on-demand domestic workers to satisfy their cleaning needs. The company was birthed in 2014 by co-founders Aisha R. Pandor and Alen Ribic. Recently, they announced an R50M ($3.5M) in a Series C round led by Micheal and Suzan Dell Foundation which invested $1M and had participation from existing investors Naspers Foundry, Smollan, Vumela, CRE VC and musician Black Coffee. This brings their total disclosed funding to $6.2M across 3 rounds.

10. Oolu ($4.2M)

Senegal based energy startup Oolu provides a off-grid households with high quality solar products at affordable prices. The company has sold more than 34,000 solar home systems across Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso. To date, Oolu has raised over $4.2 million in total venture funding. Its investors are Y Combinator, Persistent Energy Capital, Investo and GAIA Impact Fund.  Founded in 2015, the startup has Nilmi Senaratna as the female co-founder on the team. 


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