7 Startups in Africa You Should Know About

africa

Entrepreneurship is thriving in Africa, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region and among women. The following companies are startups that have begun to make a significant impact in the country.

BRCK

brck logoPower outages, specifically in South Africa, have long been a major concern. With certain companies monopolizing the electricity market, fair production and distribution of power is nonexistent. This creates a problem for businesses and people, who need electricity to access the internet. Founded by Juliana Rotich and fellow colleagues, the startup BRCK now offers an answer to this dilemma: the company created a router that can work with or without electricity. The mobile WiFi device caters to users in societies with limited infrastructures. The self-powered router, which can be charged fully using a solar panel, wall outlet, or car battery, is manufactured to withstand harsh weather conditions. 3G data-enabled, the product connects up to 20 devices and offers an antenna to enhance internet accessibility when out of range. The antenna must be attached to a global system for mobiles (GSM) port to obtain connectivity. In short, internet connectivity improves with a BRCK device because the tool constantly searches for a network to avoid a dropped signal.

WeFarm

WeFarm logoEstablished in Kenya in 2015, WeFarm offers a platform in which farmers from around the world can connect without the need for internet. Through text messages, users can inquire about and share knowledge of farming issues. In doing so, they learn more about growing crops and raising animals, thus improving their yields and livelihoods.  Responses are typically received within minutes of a question being posted. The tool works well for small-scale farmers and those living in remote areas. As of February 2016, the service is used by more than 49,000 people, who have asked in excess of 73,000 questions. The questions have received an estimated 116,600 crowd-sourced answers and prompted the transfer of 6.5 million pieces of information.  The leaders behind WeFarm have a goal to increase its member base to half-a-million farmers by the end of 2016.

MyAconnect

Co-created by Fabrice Alomo, cloud-based platform MyAconnect streamlines the process of buying and selling consumer goods throughout Africa. The organization overcomes electronic payment obstacles via its AMoney payment system. The system allows users to set up a secure AMoney account to make purchases and complete sales. Users can recharge their accounts as needed to ensure enough funds are available to complete transactions. In addition to serving consumers and enterprises, the company also offers AMusic and APlace. The former connects people with their favorite music and gives them the option to buy and download songs. The latter helps people establish personal shop pages and fundraising pages.

Eco-Shoes Project

A social entrepreneur, Mabel Suglo focuses on turning trash into treasure. She educates the community on purchasing environmentally friendly products that are made with reuse and recycle in mind. As the co-founder of the Eco-Shoes Project, a company with history dating back to 2013, she upholds these ideals by manufacturing shoes out of recycled cloth and tires. Reducing material waste, Eco-Shoes Project offers fashionable and comfortable footwear that helps eliminate stockpiles of discarded tires, an issue causing harm to the environment and overall health of communities. The company employs five artisans who craft the shoes. The team behind the Eco-Shoes Project anticipates growth that will afford an opportunity to establish an e-commerce site. In addition, the company will dedicate funds to training and purchasing new machinery.

Obami

obami logoLooking to change the way people learn, Obami is a social network that connects students, teachers, and parents in more than 400 schools. The company, which has been featured on media outlets such as Forbes and CNN, creates a safe place for users to exchange ideas related to educational projects and curriculums. It offers a learning management system over a cloud-based platform and is accessible through the web and mobile devices. The online communities imitate real life learning environments by allowing users to share educational materials through document uploads and communicate with one another through messaging and short message services (SMS) tools. Educators that are new to the site have immediate access to preloaded content. They may also customize the experience by uploading their own information.

M-Kopa

mkopa solar logoIn December of 2015, solar company M-Kopa secured $19 million in financing, bringing its total of capital raised for the entire year to $31.45 million. The company, founded in 2012, provides an energy solution for homes that cannot access power grids. Its home solar energy system follows a pay-as-you-go model and provides three lights for its owners. The device also offers a radio feature and USB connections to charge up to five phones at a time. Families residing in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania can obtain an M-Kopa device for an annual fee of $35. Daily payments of 50 cents are required to keep the equipment running. The cost of an M-Kops solar energy system is 10 percent less than that of the cost of national grid usage. Further, it is a fraction of the expense of operating kerosene wick lamps. Another benefit of the product is that families can use it to power stoves and refrigerators. M-Kopa and its leadership ended 2015 on a high note, servicing 275,000 homes. The company expects to reach 1 million East African homes by the end of 2017.

Angaza

angaza logoAngaza, based in Nairobi, Kenya and San Francisco, California, offers pay-as-you-go technology solutions that make solar energy affordable. Distributors can use the enterprise’s energy hub to sell, monitor, and optimize use of energy products, as well as leverage mobile applications to boost revenue. In addition, the company partners with manufacturers to offer pay-as-you-go clean energy products to be utilized off the grid., Angaza also provides services catering to manufacturers, who can select from three types of solutions, cable-based, keypad, and global system for mobile communications (GSM). All are developed to fit a wide range of clean energy devices.

Building a new Angola from steel

Angola, located in the southern central part of Africa, is Africa’s third largest oil producer. In 2007, the country became the 12th member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. From the country’s GDP of US $ 112.8 Billion, 40% is provided by the Oil Industry.

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Image courtesy of David Stanley at Flickr.com

Despite the country being entirely driven by oil production, it has other significant industries which contribute to the national economy.

By having a varied climate, both tropical and semitropical crops can be grown. Angola’s most fruitful crops include coffee, bananas, timber, tobacco and sunflowers. This sector accounts for about 8.8% of the GDP and receives less than 1% of public expenditures.

1650 kms account for Angola’s coastline which is considered one of the richest fishing grounds in the continent. The annual catch is usually around 30,000 tons of fish a year. The country has set up the Angolan Support Fund for Fisheries Development for the development of the industry with the help of the World Bank.

Large and powerful rivers run through Angola, providing it with a huge hydroelectric potential. Currently, there is a project to build a 520 MW Capanda Hydroelectric dam on the Kwanza River which will double the country’s generating capacity and provide enough power to meet the country’s need for the next 4 decades. If successful, Angola could become a regional exporter of hydroelectric energy when it generates more electricity than it requires.

Regarding the manufacturing sector, heavy industry cement and steel tubes take the lead with 15% of the total manufacturing output. However, there are great amounts of capital being injected into technology and training in the food processing industry in the hopes to bring back the production of sugar, wheat flour, cooking oil, textiles, soaps, paint, plastic and glues.

There is great potential for the exploitation of base metals and gold for the Mining sector (oil not included). The sector contributes to 12% of the country’s GDP of which also includes diamonds as responsible for over 98% of the earnings made by the government. Angola is considered an extremely attractive target for the discovery and development of world class ore deposits.

However, despite its many industries, Angola has decided to bet on the steel industry for the following years. The bet was sealed last year when the largest steel mill in West and Central Africa was officially opened. Luanda–based K2L Capital launched the ADA Steel Factory in the forgotten town of Barra De Dande in the Bengo province. Angola expects that the $300m investment will help its economic and infrastructure development.

 

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Image courtesy of Michal Janček at Flickr.com

The company, set up in a vacant area, has already brought water and electricity infrastructure to the city and not to mention the creation of 600 jobs, which in turn require the construction of health facilities and training centers.

It is also estimated that a further 3,000 indirect jobs will be created as a result of this communal expansion, which will have an immense impact on the local community. Thus bringing development to Barra de Dande and breathing life into Bengo.

What’s more interesting is that the company plans to use war scrap from armament to turn into rebar steel. Thirteen years after the peace pact, this practice is mainly intended as a symbol of the country’s long-term peace.

“We must use the resources to create value-added products and be able to export. The main focus is to be able to supply (Angola’s) own market. This mill has come at the right time,” says Georges Choucair, chairman and chief executive of K2L Capital, owner of ADA Steel.

There is another Angolan steel company that will open soon to produce pig iron. Companhia Siderúrgica do Cuchi (CSC) will open in Kuando Kubango province in May, 2016.  Already, much of the equipment has arrived at the port of Lobito and will be taken to the city of Cuchi, 90 kilometers south of Menongue. The factory is set to transform iron ore and produce 96,000 tons of pig iron a year.

The plant is almost completely built and the construction of workshops, a health center, cafeteria, dormitories and residential area is in progress.

The governor of the province said that “The iron will be transported by the Moçâmedes Railroad to the port of Namibe, from where it will be exported to different parts of the world.” He also added that “the second phase of the Cuchi steel project provides for the installation of two large furnaces that will triple annual production to 420,000 tons of pig iron, installing larger crushing plants and a magnetic concentration plant to make better use of the ore.”

Diversifying the country’s oil-dependent economy will need serious structural changes and support to the growth of the agriculture, fish and manufacturing industry over a long period of time. Yet, increasing Angola’s steel production capacity could support the country while it recovers from war and help support its construction projects; it might also reduce the need for imports, thus reducing the pressure on government finance and control the kwanza exchange rate.

In turn, Angola will have to wait and gain more experience before playing with the big boys of the steel industry in the foreign market such as Egypt and South Africa. The country’s success in steel will also depend on the volatility and saturation of the global market, as prices of scrap metal have plunged in the last year according to analysts.

The best business ideas that are leading the way in Nigeria

Putting The Puzzle Together
Image courtesy of Ken Teegardin at Flickr.com

Nigeria has recently been dubbed as the hub for startups in Africa becoming the country that generates so many successful business ideas turned lucrative businesses that it’s tough to keep track. In fact, Nigerians are setting an example to many other countries showing a slow but steady diversification of their economic structure, stepping away a little from their sole valuable resource for years: oil. This new generation is opening doors and demonstrating that they are a new kind of entrepreneur who can identify and execute innovative business opportunities.

Nigeria’s pool of business opportunities has become quite large in a number of different segments. So, if you’re looking for just the right business idea to develop this is a great place to start.

Fast food business

Getting a food business right is the key. There has to be a mix of good customer service and management, besides the obvious initial capital investment. You do have several options to open a restaurant, either start from scratch or acquire a franchise.  

E-commerce

All of the tools and the collaborative community available at your fingertips will make any ecommerce business easier to get off the ground. This a low-investment start up that allows for easy and on-the-go adjustments with a quick learning curve. The other big advantage is that there are tons of tools to measure the effectiveness of business strategies along the way.

Agriculture

The potential behind agriculture has spread to a few different types and is now leading at the front of business ideas as a replacement for the oil business. Poultry farming is one of the biggest ones, and giving up to 30 million Naira annually. Cassava, which up to recently had not been explored, is now on the rise especially since it is a main ingredient in many dishes in Nigeria. Snail rearing is also on the list, although many people are still not doing it on a large scale. Finally, rice farming, which if managed correctly can bring in a big return, will be able to compete with imported rice and fill the need of the food by choice of Nigerians.

Construction business

The Nigerian population continues to rise and so does the need to build housing. Trying to keep up, the construction and housing business has boomed in the past few years. There is great demand for variety, so there all types of projects available. The investment is considerable, not as much as other businesses, but what you can be sure of is that you won’t be short of work to make the return.

Hotel business

This is a quite competitive business, but if done right it can be just the right timing to get into the hotel and tourism industry. This business idea will require a large amount of capital, planning and patience since it is not a quick return. The key will come down to customer service to get visitors to return and attract new ones.

Abuja Nigeria Sheraton_startups in Africa_Nigeria_cecilia ibru
Image courtesy of Jeff Attaway at Flickr.com

Haulage services

This is a good business idea that responds to real need in Nigeria. The rail transportation system in Nigeria is very poor, so having alternative for shipping goods is an excellent service to offer.

Dry cleaning

Dry cleaning tends to be a quite expensive business in Nigeria, so finding affordable rates and good quality service is very scarce. To be successful you really have to set yourself apart from the current services offers by keeping to deadlines and offering fair prices.

Furniture business

Again in this case the imported furniture is quite expensive, so being able to design and assemble furniture locally can also be a great business idea. You don’t necessarily have to be a carpenter, you could outsource and just make sure to get a responsible and punctual provider.

Online advertising agency

As mentioned before, there has been an increase in all things online related, so of course other business ideas surge from the booming industry. One of the most relevant nowadays is online advertising which takes care of promoting online businesses and managing marketing strategies for them.

Fashion and entertainment business

There has been a boom in the entertainment business in Africa in general, but Nigeria has definitely stood out especially in music and movies reason why it was coined Nollywood. In 2009 it had surpassed Hollywood as the world’s second largest movie industry, preceded by Bollywood. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the fashion industry followed in line and started to cater to all of the new national and international stars of the Nollywood industry with its particular style. They are setting trends, making big moves in the movie and music industry, so being part of this growing community right now would be a smart business move. The important this is to know where you would fit and what service or product you could offer to the already structured segment.

Nigerian influence_fashion_startups in africa_Nigeria_cecilia ibru
Image courtesy of j-No at Flickr.com

African startups: striving for a world with cleaner energy

African countries are some of the world’s top places to apply technologies related to renewable energy. Hence, the December 2015 announcement that WeChat would invest about $3.4 million USD in African startups didn’t come as a surprise. Here are a few examples of some of the initiatives that may hold the key to the future of clean energy:

Photovotaic_cecilia ibru_startups in africa_cleaner energy
Image courtesy of Gerry Machen at Flickr.com

Smart Solar Kiosk

Based in Rwanda, this team claims to have developed a mobile solar Kiosk, aimed at charging small electronic devices, product sales and Wi-Fi internet access for on-the-move customers.

Henri Nyakarundi leads the project, which has implemented 20 kiosks in Rwanda thanks to a partnership with Airtel Rwanda. You can watch a video demo of these kiosks at their official website, http://www.a-r-e-d.com/

ColdHubs

This Nigerian startup thought of a solution to store and preserve vegetables and fresh fruit: modular, solar-powered walk-in cold rooms that are installed in farms and markets that are close to retailers and farmers. The temperature in said rooms (5°C) prolongs the freshness of vegetables and fruits up to 21 days instead of 2 days with no refrigeration. Their business model includes a pay-as-you-store option that allows farmers to pay a flat fee every day for each crate that they store.
You can read more at http://www.coldhubs.com/

Strauss Energy

With the promise of providing disruptive energy solutions, this company’s goal is to diminish the energy deficiency in the African continent. Led by Tony Nyagah, they introduced a new technology to the Kenyan market: solar cells on roof tiles, which are capable of powering a house while saving roofing costs at the same time.  

They plan to feed the excess power from commercial or residential units into the country’s  grid in order to provide home owners with additional income. A return on investment is estimated to be reached in 18 to 24 months.
Their website: http://straussenergy.com/

Sunflower Solar_cleaner energy_cacilia ibru_startups in africa
Image courtesy of Sterling College at Flickr.com

GreenChar

GreenChar produces and distributes charcoal briquettes out of agricultural waste. GreenChar’s briquettes are cheaper, produce little smoke, provide higher amounts of energy and last longer than conventional burning materials. They are sold to households in rural settlements that spend an average of $1.50 every day and experience health problems from polluted air caused by cooking with firewood and charcoal.  They also mitigate deforestation and help reduce CO2 emissions.
Read more at http://www.greenchar.co.ke/

Biogen Kenya

They are committed to produce environment-friendly, renewable fuel. This bio-diesel is derived from excess vegetable oils. The company is located in Nairobi and it follows a complete production cycle to process waste vegetable oil and turn it into fuel. They list six key points within their strategy: ease of use; power, performance and economy; emissions and greenhouse gas reduction; energy balance and security; toxicity, biodegradability, safety and recycling; and economic development.
Read more at http://www.biogenkenya.co.ke

PayGo Energy

Their pay-as-you-go model aims to provide users in rural areas with affordable, clean gas. Through micro-payments, potential customers can avoid cost barriers and have access to a reliable supply of gas for cooking purposes. Their slogan: “modern energy for all”.  Their website is http://paygoenergy.org/

Nadji.Bi

Nadji.Bi develops, manufactures and commercializes solar products through a distribution network in Sub-Saharan Africa. They can be found in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Senegal. Among the products they offer are solutions for off-grid systems, solar streetlights, solar modules and solar inverters; all with the ideal of lowering costs and keeping their products affordable.
Read more at http://www.nadjibi.com

Juabar

All the way from rural Tanzania comes Juabar, a solar-powered charging kiosk that uses a 50W solar system. It is capable of charging between 10 or 20 phones simultaneously, as well as other electronic devices. Their mission is to create opportunities for small businesses in Tanzania while meeting the connectivity and energy needs of the community. Each kiosk works as a retail and charging platform.

According to their website, their longest running kiosks have been in operation for more than an entire year and their operators charge about 20 phones every day.
You can read more at http://juabar.com/

Skynotch Energy Africa

Founded in 2012, this company promotes access to renewable energy and focuses mainly on distribution of solar lanterns, energy generation and real-world application of solar energy. They develop projects involving initiatives such as solar and hydro farms and promote water pumping and purification through solar powered appliances. In alliance with development agencies, civil society organisations, academic and microfinance institutions, they provide energy solutions to meet the needs of their target audiences and potential customers. By doing so, they add value and enable social and economic development. In 2013 they joined forces with the World Bank to become one of Kenya’s innovators in renewable energy, to provide access to clean energy solutions to the off-grid community in said African country.
Read more at http://www.skynotchenergy.com/

How is Hack for Big Choices helping startups in Africa?

Africa is a continent that has suffered a lot despite the fact Africa is the richest continent in the world thanks to all the natural resources and mines found there. A brief list of products there are in Africa includes copper, gold, iron, steel, nickel, zinc, platinum, titanium, lead, phosphate rocks, uranium, oil and diamonds. Fortunately, the last two decades Africa have been experiencing different positive changes led by important countries such as United States and among others who aim to the Africa’s emergence through new startups creation. Nowadays, different entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in this continent because aspects such as human-rights application at work and young people are attending schools at their villages for then mastering abroad are factors that lead people to think about Africa in a different way. Moreover, statistics show how fast is the growth of the middle class in Africa. Nevertheless, this process has not come alone and it is evident this emergence is something led by people who care for Africa and for that reason, Aurora Chisté and Irina Issakova founded H for Big Choices.

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Image courtesy of Viewminder at Flickr.com

What is Hack for Big Choices?

Hack for big Choices is non-profit and global community created for change makers all around the world who are connected within the community in order to empowered big ideas to solve problems. They strongly believe big changes come from little changes and it is inside these communities’ little changes emerge. Collaborators are spared around the world, main cities are New York, San Francisco, Guadalajara, Bogotá, Sao Pablo, London, Venice, Accra, Bangalore, Moscow, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
What are the issue areas Hack for Big Choices is working on?

Hack for Big choices has three main lines and within these areas, they establish challenges they consider are vital to work on. Issue areas and some challenges are:

Design & Technology:
This issue area helps and guides people who are interested in working on these subjects. Experts around the world on this area give advices and recommendations about how people can find solutions to the challenges. Companies also invest their money in order to develop new technologies that are helpful not only for African countries but for all countries around the world too because these problems affect population in general.

Car driving safety, Simulation of crisis management activities, Human identification     on-the-fly, Automatic people counting, Food safety, Intelligent parental control, B2B platform for international businesses.

Healthcare:
Challenges inside this area affect various host cities, that is way participants are supposed to think about solutions as unique ones because they must be focused on an unique community. Challenges are taken from global health crisis that affect societies, these challenges are: Confronting Depression, Health Data In Action, Geo-Localized Health Solutions (in this topic there are 3 micro-challenges that are Sanitation, Pregnancy Complications, Metabolic Syndrome) Sexual Health.

Education:
It is not a secret poverty has its roots on illiteracy and in the past, it was really difficult to deal with this problem in Africa. Now, as wars are diminishing, interest can be guide towards education. The following challenges are being taken into account: International Accreditation of Academic Programs, Education in Remote Areas, Education for Special Needs Students, Nutrition Education at School, Bridging the gap between research and markets, Telematics for education.  

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Image courtesy of BK at Flickr.com

What are the steps Hack for Big Choices follows in order to create successfully projects?

As there is a platform that linked collaborators, steps are quite simple as follows:

  1. The Call for Action: This is a calling for people around the world to change the world with small actions. They make people be aware about importance of little changes.
  2. Integrate Software Solution: They link problems solvers and experts who guide in them in the process.
  3. Options for Change:  Start a focused challenge-tree area from which problems can be selected and solved

Who is Aurora Chisté?

Aurora Chisté (Guadalajara) is a social entrepreneur travelling the world to develop new business opportunities for communities around the world.  She encourages people to make little changes that have a meaningful impact in people’s lives.

Does Hack for Big Choices have partners?

Yes, it does. Fortunately, the organization has more than 70 partners who are engaged with Africa’s development. Some of them are FACEBOOK, HONDA, TECNOLÓGICO DE MONTERREY, WORDPRESS, ACM, GOOGLE DEVELOPERS, among others.  

According to the founder Aurora Chisté, it is time, efforts and right people what make a change but building a new community is something that requires more than that. It requires commitment and dedication but it is essential to engage young generations earlier to this change makers’ programs because future belongs to them and when starting a new company, they are in charge of apply their passion and talent towards improving people’s lives.