Africa’s Exploding Tech Startup Ecosystem
In terms of economic potential and growth, Africa has never been more important on the world stage.
Africa is home to the fastest growing cities, and more than half of the world’s population growth will take place on the continent over the coming decades. By 2050, cities like Lagos and Kinshasa will be global megacities, each holding well over 30 million inhabitants.
Africa is also at the start of a technological renaissance. It was recently reported by WeAreSocial that 7 of 10 of the world’s fastest growing internet populations are in Africa – the beginning of a trend that will likely re-shape entire economies as new companies leapfrog established technology, ideas, and infrastructure.
That said, much of that opportunity lies in the future. As of today, internet penetration is just 29% throughout Africa, meaning that the majority of growth and network effects are still to come.
A New Startup Ecosystem Emerges
Today’s infographic from GSMA shows the 300+ hubs that have emerged in the African tech startup ecosystem. Many of these plan to take advantage of the aforementioned growth potential, including the 360 million smartphone owners expected on the continent by 2025.
Investors are recognizing the potential as well. Last year, it was estimated that African startups raised a record-breaking total of $366.8 million in investment.
Here’s that distribution sorted by country:
In what sectors did most of the action happen? According to a separate report by Disrupt Africa, the fintech sector received the most funding in 2016, but the agri-tech sector saw the biggest percentage growth as compared to the previous year.
Other sectors that got substantial amounts of attention include solar, health, e-commerce, entertainment, and e-learning.
Every startup ecosystem is different, and hubs in Africa are no exception.
In particular, the continent has a unique wrinkle that also presents a huge opportunity: according to the African Development Bank, about 55% of sub-Saharan Africa’s economic activity is informal.
The [informal economy] is a massive commercial space without such services as business enterprise software, small business banking, affordable third-party logistics or internet access. Expect VC-backed startups to attempt scalable applications for nearly every corner of Africa’s informal economy.
Last year, Africa Internet Group became the first unicorn on the continent after receiving investments from Goldman Sachs, Rocket Internet, AXA Group, Orange, and others.
It’s also certain to be just one of many born on the African Savannah.