On April 28, 2016, winners from local StartUp Cup events across Africa gathered in Ghana to pitch their ideas over the course of three days at the first African StartUp Cup competition. The prizes, which were valued at $229,000, consisted of support and technological services, funding, and mentorship. These items will all be crucial to the success of the following three winning companies that will advance to compete in the finals in Silicon Valley:
Co-founded by Othmane Bekkari and Abdoullah Tahri Jouti, GoMobile is a Morocco-based company that helps unconnected communities (roughly half of the world’s population) access the Internet. The company targets demographics that do not have Internet-enabled devices and those with data coverage limitations, as well as those who cannot utilize the technology because they cannot read.
OSIX is the company’s vocal communication solution. Enabling users to make phone calls and carry on conversations, the product opens up lines of communication for business professionals to reach shareholders and critical personnel. The tool works well for hosting employee training sessions and making promotional announcements. To enhance the experience, users can press buttons on their phones to interact with content.
GoMobile’s Ziggi is a free, vocal social network that only requires a mobile phone to deliver inbound and outbound calls. Users can customize the calls with to deliver relevant content. Further, Ziggi gives people the option to interact with and share content. People can also suggest particular content.
Headquartered in Uganda, financial technology company Airsave serves the “unbanked” community—individuals who don’t take advantage of services offered by financial institutions. As of the company’s incorporation in 2013, 90 percent of Africans reported not using a bank. This number directly correlates to the high percentage of people failing to meet their savings goals.
In a study published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers examined the financial behavior of 1,500 people in underserved areas of Uganda. All subjects used an informal savings method. At the end of the study, only 1 percent of the subjects achieved their savings goals. The vast majority either lost their money or had their money stolen. In addition, many gave into temptation and spent their excess funds.
In response to Uganda’s weak savings culture, the founders of Airsave developed a secure mobile savings platform, dubbed “my phone my wallet,” in partnership with LipaMobile, EFC Bank, Airtel, Plaid Technologies, and MTN. Users can set up an Airsave Digital savings account by dialing *270*30# on an Airtel network or an MTN network regardless of whether the phone has Internet capability. Users can then select a savings period from one month to a year, during which time accountholders cannot access the deposited funds.
3. Kawa Moka
Kawa Moka is a social enterprise coffee shop in Ghana. Its coffee, cocoa products, and bistro foods can also be enjoyed at various popup events. The company is named after the “wine of beans,” which is kawa, also known as coffee, and the chocolate aftertaste of Arabian mocha or moka. Moka also reflects a part of the company’s history that started in Yemen. A seaport city, Moka was where its founder, Emi-Beth Aku Oyemam Quantson, began distributing coffee across Europe.
Quantson, a chartered accountant and tax consultant, discovered her passion for coffee shops while pursuing a degree at Ashesi. During her final year at the university, she launched a canteen that operated for two years. Soon after, she was inspired to launch a chain of Kawa Moka shops across West Africa, with hopes of turning her venture into a commodity.
Her transition from a consulting background to one involving much operational experience was met with many challenges related to infrastructural support, market pricing, product development, and financing. Determined to be successful at launching Kawa Moka, she attended numerous conferences and networked with industry experts to gain valuable information. Likewise, she dedicated much of her time to reading publications about business modeling and sales and marketing strategies.
When she is not working on developing new products, Emi-Beth Aku Oyemam Quantson aims to empower women and young girls. Her company serves as an example of how females from all backgrounds can excel in their family lives and still be contributing members of society. She intends to use her coffee shops to provide training and employment to those wishing to build a successful future.