2021 was a watershed year for both VC firms and startups in Africa’s tech ecosystem. As businesses re-opened and people went back to living their lives, they continued with habits they picked up during lockdowns. Owing to this consumer trend, the continent had one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in the world.
Data from Maxime Bayen’s Africa: The Big Deal and Briter Bridges show that African startups raised over $4 billion from investors in 2021 — equivalent to $1 million every 2 hours — more than they got in 2019 and 2020 combined. This funding frenzy made five African startups become unicorns in the same year — more than all the unicorns from previous years combined.
It’s no surprise that African tech is taking off with so much velocity. Many of the founders making waves now are on their second or third startups, so they have picked up a lot of experience. Also, the market is ready for a tech boom, seeing that smartphone penetration is rising among Africa’s sizably young population.
Among the startups that raised funding last year, we have compiled a list of 13 fast-growing startups to look out for in 2022.
After their previous startup shut down, Kennedy Ekezie, Duke Ekezie and Jephthah Uche went back to the drawing board to find a business-worthy problem in Nigeria. The trio then decided to go on a market tour to understand the pain points of small businesses in Nigeria. After that research tour, they found a pressing problem they could solve — bookkeeping. To solve this problem, they created Kippa, an easy-to-use finance management app for small business owners, in February 2021.
Kippa’s growth in 2021 was impressive as it onboarded hundreds of thousands of active users within a short period and raised $3.2 million in pre-seed funding. So it makes sense to be curious about how much it will grow in 2022.
Founded in 2017 by Ikenna Nzewi and Uzoma Ayogu, Releaf is an agritech firm industrialising oil palm processing and boosting its production in Africa. This mission-driven agritech startup designed a proprietary device —the Kraken machine — to speed up palm nut processing and reduce wastage. Releaf also works with farmers to improve their output and supports environmentally friendly farming activities. In less than 18 months, it led over a thousand smallholder farmers to provide food factories with 7.5 million kilograms of quality crops.
Releaf’s story shows how the startup has evolved to find its strength in the agricultural supply chain. And investors seem pretty convinced about what they’re doing: Releaf raised $2.7 million in seed funding and received $1.5 million in grants from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID in 2021. The startup also partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) last year.
Vazi Legal Business Attorneys
Vazi Legal was founded In 2019 by Moe Odele and is a tech and startup law firm with offices in Lagos, New York, Washington, Kenya, and Dubai that represents investors, startups, and technology-enabled enterprises at all stages of development. The startups they represent have raised a combined $800million and Vazi Legal has represented startups like Thankucash, Bento, Lazerpay, Ourpass, and Vesti among other high-profile startups. Vazi Legal is the most exciting Startup Law Firm in Nigeria.
This Ugandan startup launched as a two-wheel ride-hailing platform before embarking on a super app plan in 2019. Today, it offers rides, parcel delivery, food and shop, payments, savings and other financial services to over 1 million customers in Uganda and Nigeria. The company counts more than 25,000 drivers who have completed over 40 million orders in both markets.
The startup’s co-founders — Maxime Dieudonné, Alastair Sussock and Ricky Rapa Thomson — launched the company officially in 2017. Since then, it rarely announced its funding rounds. But in December 2021, Safeboda became the first beneficiary of Google’s Africa Investment Fund. So it looks like something’s cooking this year.
Since it launched in February 2019, TymeBank has taken the financial services sector by storm. This South African fintech is fast-tracking financial inclusion using a hybrid model of digital banking and physical service points. It onboards most of its customers (more than 80 per cent) via physical kiosks, usually in Pick n Pay and Boxer stores around the country.
Between its launch date and February last year, TymeBank gathered about 2.8 million customers. But as of October, it had signed up four million customers, averaging 140,000 customers per month. The company founded by Coen Jonker, Rolf Eichweber and Tjaart van der Waalt also raised a whopping $180 million Series B last year.
Since 2014, Twiga Foods has been using technology to build supply chains in food and retail distribution on the continent, starting with Kenya. It connects farmers with vendors via its mobile-based, cashless, B2B platform. But preserving the integrity of produce sourced from smallholder farmers—who are core to Twiga’s operations—has been difficult.
After raising $30 million a Series B round, the company began to connect FMCGs and manufacturers with retailers in Kenya in 2019, thereby rubbing shoulders with regional players such as Sokowatch and MarketForce. The Peter Njonjo-led company announced a $50 million Series C in November 2021, and we’re watching to see what it would lead to in 2022.
What began as the “Venmo of Africa” has evolved and expanded massively. Chipper today includes Crypto, Fractional Stocks, a Payments API, Chipper Checkout, a Chipper card and they are also the exclusive African payment partner for Twitter tips. Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled founded Chipper Cash in 2018 to offer a no-fee peer-to-peer cross-border payment service in Africa via its app. Today, it is one of the continent’s fastest-growing fintechs, with over four million users across seven countries — Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. In May, it expanded to the U.K., allowing people to send money from the European nation to Chipper Cash’s African markets.
In 2021, the company’s valuation jumped to $2 billion after it raised $250 million in its Series C round. Recently, the Bank of Ghana licensed it to offer international remittances and third-party gateway services in the country.
Last year, this U.S and Senegal-based mobile money provider made waves when it raised $200 million — Africa’s largest Series A by a long shot. This funding round made Wave the first unicorn in Francophone Africa at $1.7 billion.
Wave is a spinoff from Sendwave, an Africa-focused remittance provider founded by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk. The duo created the company in 2014 out of frustration from the hassles and high fees associated with sending money from North America into Africa. But the co-founders built Wave in 2018 after selling Sendwave to WorldRemit. Today, the two-year-old startup claims to be the largest mobile money player in Senegal and to have over half of the country’s adults as active users.
After learning from previous startup failures, Igwe Uguru, a serial entrepreneur, founded Chooya, which evolved from an e-commerce search engine to Africa’s TikTok for e-commerce. Chooya’s platform brings social media and e-commerce into one place by allowing consumers to recommend e-commerce companies and even get rewarded for it.
Chooya took the market by storm when it won $950,000 from the Entrepreneurship World Cup. Since then, the company has recorded commendable growth, onboarding thousands of businesses on its platform. The Aba-based startup is eyeing expansion into other African cities in 2022, starting from its home country — Nigeria.
EdTech in Africa has immense potential but is still highly underexploited. Only a few players are making waves in this sector. So when we heard that Edukoya, an Africa-focused e-learning platform raised the largest pre-seed round by an African edtech, we knew this was a startup to look out for in 2022.
Honey Ogundeyi, former Google Nigeria boss, founded Edukoya in May 2021. Edukoya has a range of valuable features targeted at Nigerian secondary school learners. Among them are 24/7 exam preparation and homework tutor help, a data-driven question bank with step-by-step solutions and personalised performance tracking systems. Within a few months of beta mode operations, 96 per cent of students that used Edukoya did better in their assessments.
Minly is an Egypt-based creator economy platform that allows digital creators across the Middle East and North African regions to create authentic, personalized connections with their fans. Last year, the platform raised $3.6 million in a seed round.
Launched in 2020, Minly has more than 50,000 users and an impressive list of well-known regional celebrities ranging from actors, musicians, internet influencers and athletes like Fifi Abdou and Mahmoud Trezeguet, an Egyptian footballer who plays for English Premier League club Aston Villa and the Egyptian national team.
In October 2021, Payday raised a $1 million pre-seed fund to “build PayPal for Africa”. In the same month, it made history as the first Rwandan startup to get into the Techstars Toronto Accelerator Program.
Launched in 2021 by Favour Ori, the Rwandan fintech is facilitating sending and receiving money globally from Africa. Within its first three weeks, Payday had over 5,000 users — most of which came through word-of-mouth referrals— and successfully processed $1.4 million in transactions.
There is a lot of hype about gaining digital skills in Africa, but not so many platforms to train them. That’s why TalentQL launched AltSchool in October 2021. AltSchool, which will begin training in April 2022, is an ed-tech platform aimed at individuals looking to gain technical skills and kickstart a career in software engineering.
TalentQL (Talent Quiet Location) is a talent outsourcing and incubator company that enables companies to hire, develop, and manage remote talent globally with a mission to “democratise access to opportunities for African tech talents”. Adewale Yusuf, Opeyemi Awoyemi and Sultan Akintunde founded the company in November 2020, Since its launch, Talent QL raised a $300,000 pre-seed and later received $120,000 investment from Techstars.
After Stitch — a South African API fintech company came out of stealth in February 2021 with a $4 million seed round, the company went on to secure a $2 million seed extension to fast-track development, launch their solution and grow the team in Nigeria.
Stitch has a data product that enables developers to connect their apps to users’ financial accounts, at which point users can share their transaction history and balances, confirm their identities and initiate payments. Since its launch, Stitch has grown in data volume by 40-50 per cent month-on-month, facilitating million dollars payments with Chipper Cash, Paystack, Franc, Sanlam, Yoco, Flexclub as some of its consistent customers.
Article by Oluwatosin Ogunjuyigbe