Investment in Africa during Covid – building on the unicorn boom

selective focus photo of stacked coins
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

N’Gunu Tiny, founder and exec chairman of the Emerald Group, is an expert in transformative tech and social innovation

We’ve seen investments in sub Saharan Africa’ s tech sector increase rapidly over recent years. 

Research by Briter Bridges shows that start-ups across the African continent doubled investment between 2020 and 2021. 

Investor appetite for tech in sub Saharan Africa is rising

The data shows that start-ups in Africa raised funds from investing companies worth $2.4 billion in 2020. At the time, this was a record. However, 12 months later, this had more than doubled to reach $4.9 billion. 

We can clearly see that the Covid 19 pandemic has done little to dissuade potential investors from African nations. 

Tech sector across the African continent expanded rapidly during the pandemic

Business models within the technology sector were actually sped up by the economic conditions throughout the pandemic. 

Digital platforms became vital, rather than a choice, spurring developers and tech companies to turbo-charge their product development. 

As the tech sector expanded, international investment increased and the number of unicorns in Africa increased. 

Firms across the region that reached unicorn status during the pandemic

Since the Covid 19 pandemic hit Africa, more and more start-ups have reached unicorn status (valued at $US1 billion). 

They include: 

Fawry 

The biggest online payments platform in Egypt, Fawry became the third unicorn in Africa in October 2020 – the second half of the first year of the pandemic. 

Flutterwave

Flutterwave is an online payments company in Nigeria, which reached unicorn status in March 2021 when it raised $170 million in a Series C investment round. 

According to news reports, Flutterwave is now in talks to raise another round of capital to push its value up to around $US3 billion. 

Wave

Wave is based in Senegal, West Africa, and is a mobile money provider. In September 2021, it achieved enough in a Series C round to reach $1.7 billion value. 

Foreign direct investment in African countries continues to increase

Since the start of 2020, the biggest tech growth in Africa has largely been limited to specific countries and sectors. 

For example, Fintech has been a big winner in developing countries in Africa. However, there has also been steady growth across the entire continent, which is leading to yet more interest from international investors. 

Analysts looking for patterns of sustainable growth across Africa, say that the tech sector is expected to further expand in 2022. 

French speaking Africa continues to encourage investment 

There has been a marked shift in interest from US investors in particular towards Francophone African countries. 

Traditionally, it has been countries including Nigeria, Southern Africa and Kenya that have received the highest investments in the region, with French speaking countries lagging behind. 

However, we are now seeing so much growth in countries such as Morocco, Benin and Senegal, that suggest this is changing. 

Which sectors are raising the most capital across the continent? 

In July 2021, Go1 (an EdTech firm in Southern Africa), raised $200 million in Series D funding. 

This is one example that shows there is investment demand for English speaking African countries too. 

Go1 is the first online learning platform in Africa, proving that emerging markets include areas other than Fintech. 

Middle income countries are fighting to improve economic growth, particularly since Covid 19 brought its own challenges, and there is plenty of data to show that there is a gradual improvement across multiple sectors. 

Africa has a massive infrastructure investment gap says African Development Bank (AfDB)

Whether the surge in tech investment can help to close Africa’s infrastructure investment gap remains to be seen. 

According to the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), there is an investment gap of more than US$100 billion.

This gap affects the development of the continental free trade area, Africa’s global competitiveness and living conditions for its people. 

The AfDB has announced the first strategic framework for public/private sector partnerships to develop and operate infrastructure assets. 

Tech development within health systems is on the rise

Most countries across Africa are struggling with seriously inefficient health services. 

Covid 19 has increased the challenges within this sector, resulting in a significant drop in last-mile service delivery, financing and medical data analysis. 

In the same way that tech start-ups tackling poverty reduction and renewable energy generation and climate change have had an increase in investment, so has health tech in African nations. 

Healthcare tech helps to create jobs and improve services

In 2020 alone, more than 40 tech start-ups in the healthcare sector received Series A funding in Africa. 

Firms launched over the last couple of years include those in drug procurement, genetic sequencing and health literacy, all of which will save lives. 

Healhtech joins proptech, agritech and cleantech as the sector areas tipped to rise quickest during 2022, even as Covid 19 continues to cause disruption. 

Future of proptech investment in Africa

Real estate and property in Africa – as well as at a global level – is an area that is being shaken up by innovative technology. 

There are start-ups ranging from innovative digital platforms for construction companies and developers to delivery companies. 

For example, Seso Global (Nigerian proptech) raised US$600,000 in pre-seed funding. The company develops software that allows the government to work with agents and developers to manage properties on a blockchain ecosystem. 

Seso Global started in 2019 and in the same year expanded into Southern Africa, before launching in Ghana in 2020. 

Types of funding are also increasing 

We will likely see an increasing number of funding sources for start-ups in Africa throughout 2022. 

Traditionally, the majority of the funding that has led to growth in trade has largely come from investors in Europe, the US and the UK. 

However, this appears to be changing with new opportunities arising for African start-ups from local funds. 

There has been a steady growth in accelerator labs and innovation hubs across the continent – all of which are necessary to improve national economies in 2022. 

Angel investment and private sector investment also on the rise

Local angel investors have sprung up, who want to put their energy into African start-ups rather than funding those around the world. 

For example, Future Africa is a VC fund that aims to turn the biggest challenges in Africa into world beating businesses. 

So far, the fund has financed more than 30 start-ups, all of which will aid the continent’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic. 

We’re also seeing an uptick in private sector investment into Africa’s tech ecosystem. It will be interesting to see how much all of this investor interest will help the Covid 19 recovery, increase trade and halt the decline in infrastructure on the continent. 

Was it worth reading? Let us know.