Africa continues to be a hub for entrepreneurial activity. In 2015, investors poured $185.7 million into startups on the continent, with Kenyan ventures garnering $47.4 million of this amount. Considering the following events, the African entrepreneurial sector looks set to enjoy another active year in 2016:
African startups shine at the MIT pan-Arab Enterprise Forum.
Of the 76 teams participating in this startup competition, five North African ventures secured a significant portion of the $150,000 prize money. The Egyptian company Tutorama took home first place in the ideas category. The company, which connects qualified school tutors with available jobs, received $50,000 in prize money. Second and third place winners in this category were Moroccan companies Deep OR, a data analytics business, and Ostor Lab, which produces a cloud-based mobile application vulnerability scanner.
In the startups category, the second-place title went to Egypt’s Zamen, which developed a mobile app that feeds real-time filtered news to users. Hydropneumatic Flushing System won first place and a $50,000 award in the social entrepreneurship category. The Tunisian company developed a long-lasting water flush tool that does not leak.
Female entrepreneurs gain a new opportunity.
She Leads Africa launched the She Leads Africa Accelerator program, which offers three months of entrepreneurial support to female entrepreneurs in Nigeria. To accommodate women in all capacities and encourage them to establish their own businesses, the program only requires participants to be onsite in Lagos one week per month to take courses, work with mentors, and conduct research. Accommodations and travel expenses to and from Lagos are included.
Participants can complete the remainder of the program from the comfort of their own homes through a She Leads Africa dashboard, which they can use to track their progress and access resources. The program ends with a pitch day, when each participant will present her venture in hopes of winning $10,000 in funding.
The program is now accepting applications from female entrepreneurs between 18 and 35 for its first cohort. Companies must be under three years old, have no more than $50,000 in funding, and have a launched product.
eBay founder funds a South African company.
Through the Omidyar Network, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar extended capital to Giraffe, which promotes a mobile recruitment app that utilizes an algorithm to connect businesses with qualified job applicants. Within two days, the app will source, screen, and schedule interviews with medium-skilled job seekers who have the qualifications and potential to fill a position.
A winner of the Seedstars Global World competition, the Johannesburg company has received more than 90,000 inquiries from jobseekers since its launch in 2015. These inquiries have led to thousands of interviews for jobs in the transportation and retail sector. Giraffe has also scheduled interviews for administrative service and call center positions.
The Columbia Business School mentors South African startups.
This spring, 100 executive MBA students from the Columbia Business School will head to Cape Town as part of its global immersion program. The school and students will meet with select South African entrepreneurs to discuss their businesses, address challenges, and develop strategies to improve the ventures’ chances of success.
Up to four students will work with each business during a half-day meeting. Prior to this, the students will prepare talking points based on their assigned venture’s business plan. Each entrepreneur will receive a comprehensive report detailing recommendations discussed.
In addition to providing business advice, the meeting is a good opportunity for South African startups to learn more about global expansion and create valuable relationships that will benefit them in the future. Organizers of the event stated that it is not uncommon for mentorship to extend beyond the meeting and one-time follow-up report.
The Barclays accelerator program launches in Cape Town.
Barclays opened an accelerator program in Cape Town in 2016. The 13-week mentor-led program, which has been a fixture in the entrepreneurial sector in the United States and United Kingdom for some time, leverages the expertise of Techstars founder David Cohen and Barclays Africa Chief Information Officer Ashley Veasey to help financial-technology (fintech) ventures hone their business ideas.
The program received applications from more than 45 countries. Out of this pool, Barclays chose 10 companies to participate in the first cohort, and six of the 10 are from Africa. iNuka Pap, Edge Point, WizzPass, Asoriba, Social Lender, and Tech4Farmers began the program in March and will work with mentors to prepare pitches for the program’s internal demo day on June 28, which will be followed by an external demo day on June 30.