The five African tech start-ups making a real difference in 2020

It goes without saying that technology plays a fundamental role in our lives today. From the moment we wake up we check our phones for text messages from friends and family or latest updates from Facebook, Instagram or perhaps Snapchat or TikTok if you’re a youngster born after the 2000’s. If we feel ill we check our symptoms online and before going to sleep many of us set our alarm clock for the following day on our phones.

Inside the house it is predicted that 5G will deepen our use and reliance on technology even more, with our fridges, televisions and even kitchen appliances all becoming ‘smart’ and able to display useful information and updates such as temperatures, food supplies levels etc. and able to take actions independently (such as switch themselves off when not use). Homes in general are expected to become more deeply integrated with systems such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, two must-haves for new house buyers in the UK.

Outside the house, smart roads, smart cars and smart cities have all become in vogue terms used by government officials and planning specialists. Then there is the technology at work; from the laptops and phones we utilise to remote conferencing enabling direct communication with customers and clients across the globe without leaving our offices.

The global technology industry is expected to grow to $5.2 trillion in 2020 according to Comptia, with many new ‘Emerging’ technologies including IoT software, IoT hardware, Saas, Paas and more taking off and presenting opportunities for entrepreneurial individuals across the developed world. What is less well known is that in Africa the technology scene is also booming. There have been various African tech companies which have successfully developed their own products and successfully carved out market shares in various countries. Jumia became one of the first African tech companies to be listed on the New York stock exchange.

Unfortunately, the stigma and stereotype that ‘African’s don’t do tech’ is strong as ever and couldn’t be more misplaced. So, we’ve compiled what we believe to be the most exciting tech companies in Africa (we appreciate that it is a continent and not a country) to help banish this myth.

When compiling the list, we focussed on start-ups meeting the following criteria: 1) they must be based in Africa and not just serving the African market 2) they must have a product offering which is making a real difference and 3) they must be operational start-ups and not in the fundraising or planning stage.

54 Gene is mapping the genetic variety of Africa

Did you know that the African continent is the most diverse of all continents when it comes to genetic makeup of the people? Well most likely you were not aware of this and neither were we! 54 Gene are a Nigeria based start-up looking to ‘build genetic data sets to make landmark discoveries a reality’, with a focus on the genetic data of Africans, they aim to bridge the gap in the market as they found that most of the genomic data used for development research is from Europe or North America. This means that African DNA is under-represented, and this is where 54 Gene come in. They’re a very young start-up and according to DisruptAfrica, they’ve raised £4M from the Google Launchpad Africa Fund and will expand their operations even further after this boost.

BeBlocky is building coding skills in children one block at a time

BeBlocky’s goal is to help address the lack of coding talent in the continent. Based in Ethiopia, BeBlocky employs gamification to teach young children how to code. With the global shift towards digital they appreciate the need to encourage young people to start coding from a young age and have a unique challenge in that they’re aiming to bring a very modern concept that is coding, to a very young audience in a continent which is known for lack of internet access or connectivity issues. The business operates in several African countries including have produced a hard-ware (BeeBox) and software for the South African market. They’re young, driven and certainly ones to keep an eye out for in the future.

LifeBank is aiming to become a lifeline for the hospitals on the continent

It has been estimated that there is a deficit of more than 1.7 million pints of blood in Nigeria alone, which is exacerbated by traffic gridlocks and low blood donation levels. Founded by Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Lifebank focusses primarily on providing blood and oxygen to hospitals across Nigeria and helps to alleviate the lack low availability of high-quality and pre-screened blood.  The hospitals can check the availability of blood and the type of blood online and order this within hours by connecting with local blood banks.

A fascinating fact about this young start-up is that its founder won the Africa Netpreneur Award from Jack Ma, former CEO and Founder of ecommerce giant Alibaba.

Nadia is connecting Kenyans with doctors

The youngest start-up on our list is another e-health start-up is Nadia, a digital personal health companion allowing its users to easily access health services and health insurance in countries such as Kenya. This start-up is helping to address the challenge countries such as Kenya face when it comes to healthcare access, primarily the lack of doctors for a growing and rural population. It is estimated that the doctor to patient ratio in Kenya is 1:6000. The urgency for solutions like Nadia become even more apparent when you consider the spread of the doctors available as it is well known that doctors tend to be more concentrated in populated areas such as the capital city of Nairobi. There is also severe shortage in the rural areas of the country where it is estimated 73% of the Kenyan population live according to the World Bank.

Branch is branching out into markets outside Africa

Branch position themselves as a lender, providing financial serves across emerging markets and is a bit like the Monzo of Africa. They are being put forward as a potential ‘unicorn’ of a company on the same level potentially as Facebook and closer to home Jumia, the Nigerian ecommerce giant. Most recently they’ve partnered with Visa and have announced $170M in fresh funding, so we can expect them to make further inroads in the financial services market in Africa and further afield.

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