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.
Power 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.
Established 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.
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.
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.
Looking 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.
In 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, 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.