The Ivorian Startup Ecosystem
Ivory Coast ( also known as Côte d'Ivoire) is located in West Africa, with its political capital being Yamoussoukro and its economic and biggest city being Abidjan. It is Africa’s 11th largest economy with a GDP of $61bn. Ivory Coast has 26 million people, of which almost half (13 million) are active internet users. In 2019, Ivory Coast ranked 110 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report from 122 the year before. Ever since the end of the Ivorian Civil War in 2011, the country has enjoyed relative stability under Alessane Ouattara who ousted Laurent Gbagbo in 2010. Coupled with its population and internet penetration, the country is an attractive location for investment in Francophone Africa.
The startup ecosystem of Ivory Coast is still in its nascent stage. The country has been unable to produce multiple ventures at scale. The earliest recorded investment into startups using Digest Africa data was 2013 when Kima Ventures invested $120,000 into Afrimarket. This shows that the ecosystem is relatively in its early stages, and investors have started taking note. Some of the factors that have slowed down the Ivorian ecosystem include:
Lack of entrepreneurship training and inability to tap into funding. Even though a few hubs/ accelerators exist for startups in Ivory Coast, there is no significant collaboration among the different hubs/accelerators and other stakeholders in the market to create a strong ecosystem.
Startups in Ivory Coast also face the problem of language barrier. French is not the “tongue of tech” in Africa. All the big performing startup ecosystems (Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, South Africa) and the most promising ones (Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda etc.) are all English speaking countries. Most founders in Ivory Coast find it difficult to raise funding in a world dominated by VCs that use English as the medium of exchange.
The government has attempted to address these challenges. It announced that school programs will be designed to develop entrepreneurs in order to shift people’s mindset. It also has a 4 year plan that was designed in collaboration with the small private sector in its Ivory Coast 2020 Strategic Plan. The government also passed laws to simplify business creation and offer tax advantages to ICT companies. They are exempted from paying tax during the first year of the company’s existence. This leads to a reduction in the administrative burden related to tax auditing for these startups.
Besides the government , the startup ecosystem in Ivory Coast has some important players, mobile operators being one of them. Orange Telecom, through its Orange Money service, allows startups to access investment through crowdfunding on its Orange Collecte crowdfunding platform. It was developed in association with French charity giving site HelloAsso.
MTN set up the Y’ello Startup accelerator in October 2017 to support young tech entrepreneurs with funding of up to $9,000, office space and access to MTN technical support like USSD, SMS and Mobile Money APIs. One of the startups on this list, Coliba, graduated from this program as part of its first cohort in 2017. MTN and Coliba have since then built on this support to build a strong co branding and commercial partnership. Households that recycle waste through the Coliba app get MTN data credit to access the internet.
Other incubators in Ivory Coast include Make Sense Africa which is a hub for social impact innovators and entrepreneurs who get online and onsite training for their startups. JokkoLabs, a network of hubs in Francophone Africa including one in Abidjan, offers networking and coworking spaces for startups and its members. Incub’Ivoire is an incubator for researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs while the Royal Work Club is an upscale coworking and business club for professionals, business travelers and entrepreneurs.
A few investors exist in Ivory Coast and offer different rounds of financing. Comoe Capital, is a fund seeded by Investisseurs et Partenaires (I&P) as part of its fund, I&P Development 2, which is a network of impact funds in Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Madagascar. It offers equity investments of €30,000 to €450,000 to startups that are too young or too small for traditional investment funds. Chanzo Capital invests in high tech startups from Series A to C with checks ranging from $500,000 to $5m. GreenTec Capital Partners offers equity investments in startups that digitize agriculture and environmentally friendly startups while Janngo Capital Startup Fund is a €60m Fund that makes seed, early stage and late stage VC Investments social startups with a focus on women led or women cofounded startups.
Most funded startups in Ivory Coast
The 10 most funded startups in Ivory Coast have raised a combined $19m across 23 deals using data from Digest Africa. Of these 23 deals more than half relate to early stage investment: 12 are Seed rounds, three (3) are Pre-seed rounds and Grants each, two Series A, and one Venture Deal, Angel Investment and Series B. The largest amount was raised by Afrimarket alone in a Series B ($11.5m). The 12 seed rounds are worth $3.4m while the 2 series A are worth $3.3m.
The most funded sectors by number of companies are Financial Services with 3 in the top 10 while e-commerce and retail and energy and resources had two each. E-commerce and retail had the top two funded startups though. Afrimarket and Afrikrea raised a stunning $16m (or 84%) of the $19m total. Financial services came in second with its 3 startups managing to pull in $1,170,000.
The most active investors in Ivory Coast were Id4 Ventures which was involved in 4 deals. All these 4 deals were investments in Afrikrea . Saviu Ventures was also involved in 4 deals with 2 in Afrikrea and another two in the transport and logistic startup Kamtar . Y Combinator, (Afrostream and Djamo ), Kima Ventures, (Afrimarket twice) and Orange , ( Afrimarket twice) were the only other investors that were involved in multiple deals.
Ivory Coast’s most funded startup, Afrimarket, started off as a platform that enabled expatriates to send money and goods back home. It grew exponentially because it cut out the traditional intermediaries that were expensive. With time, it shifted to building a curated marketplace too where retailers are allowed to put selected products on virtual shelves. This has grown to become 80% of Afrimarket’s business with sales growing at 20% every month.
The company has raised three rounds of financing. Its first round was a seed investment of $120,000 from Kima Ventures in July 2013 and that was followed by a $2.26m Series A in January 2015 from Elior Group and Orange . It’s last Investment was a Series B worth $11.5m in September 2016 from investors that included Global Innovation Fund ,Jacques Antoine Granjon, Olivier Mathilda and Proparco. Orange and Kima Ventures also returned in this Series A.
Afrikrea is an e-commerce startup that is a marketplace for African based and inspired clothing, accessories, arts and crafts. In its 5 years of existence, it has more than 7,000 sellers from 47 African countries and buyers from 170 countries. Afrikrea records 500,000 monthly visits with the majority of traffic coming from Europe and North America. Afrikrea has raised funds in 6 separate rounds. It raised $224,000 in February 2017 from Id4 Ventures in an angel round. It followed this with a seed round of $127,000 from the same investors in March 2018. Id4 Ventures backed the startup again in November 2018 with another seed round of $168,000.
In January 2019, Afrikrea had its 3rd seed investment from Saviu Ventures which pumped $550,000 into the startup. In November 2019, Afrikrea was one of the recipients of a $65,000 grant from the Jack Ma Foundation through its Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. In February last year, Afrikrea raised its last financing round, a $1m investment from Id4 Ventures , Saviu Ventures and Showroomprive .
Kamtar is a transport and logistics startup in Ivory Coast that is changing the way logistics are conducted in the country. It links people with a logistics problem to its network of over 3,000 drivers on its platform. It adds other perks like insurance, customer service and real-time GPS tracking to give its customers a seamless experience.
Kamtar has raised funds twice from Saviu Ventures The first investment was a pre-seed investment of $227,000 in January 2018 and the other was a $470,000 seed round in January 2019.
The first of 3 fintech’s on this list, Julaya provides financial services to small merchants and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It’s users can do mobile money transfers, airtime top ups and wire transfers to any bank in Ivory Coast. Julaya raised a pre-seed round from Damien Guermonprez of $128,900 in July 2018 and a seed round of $550,000 from Undisclosed investors in December 2019.
The second fintech on this list, Djamo provides banking services through its mobile app. A user can sign up and order for a card in less time than it takes them to get to the banking hall where long queues await them. The cards are delivered within 48 hours to the user’s residence or workplace. These cards can be used to pay for services like Netflix or buy items on Alibaba or Amazon.
Djamo has 90,000 registered users and 50,000 monthly transactions. It has been funded twice; a $350,000 pre-seed investment in June 2018 from undisclosed investors and a $125,000 seed investment from Y Combinator in February this year.
Afrostream was a subscription video on demand startup that brought Afro-American, Afro-Caribbean and African movies and series to its customers across Africa. It shut down in 2017 after failing to become profitable in a market that is heavily dominated by pirated movies among other issues.
Afrostream raised an undisclosed amount of venture funds in October 2015 from ACE & Company, The Family, Cross Culture Ventures and Orange Digital Ventures . It also got a $120,000 seed round from Y Combinator in August 2015.
Coliba is an energy and resource startup that developed a platform on which it connects households with businesses that handle waste collection in Ivory Coast. Coliba got a $5,000 grant from the Tony Elumelu Foundation in January 2018 as well as a $25,000 seed investment from the then newly formed Dakar Network Angels in March 2019. It also raised an undisclosed seed round in March 2020 from GreenTec Capital Partners.
Lono is a startup that makes fertilizers and biogas from organic waste through its machine called “Kubeko”. It has a two step(dry-wet) process that makes it possible to reduce the size of the digesters and convert waste from fruits, cassava, cocoa or cotton wastes in a low cost manner.
The Kubeko is in two sizes; a small box which is for farmers, households and small co-operatives. The other one is a big Kubeko that is used by agro-processing factories and agribusinesses. Lono got a $20,000 grant from the Africa Development Bank through its AgriPitch Challenge in November 2020.
9.Digitech Group ($0.02m)
Digitech is a fintech company that provides a fully integrated and cloud-based insurTech platform to insurance companies which want to attract the next consumer emerging segments. Digitech raised a seed round of $17,000 in July 2018 from Startupbootcamp.
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