5 Innovative African Startups You Need to Know About

Scaling a startup business can be a time-consuming and arduous endeavor. The effort generally involves finding the right people with a shared vision, pitching investors, marketing and advertising, producing the product/service, and maintaining cash flow. These are just a few obstacles that young companies face. Indeed, it is an accomplishment to obtain any type of recognition in the competitive startup market.

While African startups such as M-Kopa, Interswitch, M-Pesa, and others may garner a significant amount of attention, there are a number of other startups around the continent that are starting to make their presence known through rapid innovation and a savvy business model.

Following are five African-based startups that you need to know about:

  1. Mozambikes

Image courtesy DIVatUSAID | Flickr

Rural Mozambique faces significant transportation challenges on a daily basis. The country’s infrastructure is severely underdeveloped, and economic stagnation makes it difficult for people to afford any type of vehicle.

The founders discovered an innovative way to generate income for the company: by selling advertising space on their bikes. With ad revenue in hand, the startup can then sell the bikes at heavily discounted rates, which makes purchasing a bike feasible for people with low incomes.

In addition to discovering a great business opportunity, the startup has made it its mission to make a difference. Dubbing itself a “for-profit social venture,” the company uses its profits to further advance its social change mission: to alleviate poverty through low-cost transportation. The company also operates a charitable arm that seeks bike donations from around the world.

  1. DIYlaw

While solar, financial tech (“fintech”), and other startup sectors may receive the most attention, another specialty that is gaining ground is do-it-yourself (DIY) legal services. The Nigerian startup DIYlaw is one such example.

DIYlaw offers an assortment of legal services, including a wide array of business document preparation services such as employee contracts, non-disclosure agreements, privacy policy documents, and more. Business owners can register their organizations with the appropriate government offices and even obtain certifications of incorporation.

The company plans to launch a legal service that allows members to pose questions directly to an attorney listed in a comprehensive database. Additionally, members will have the ability to post reviews of attorney services in order to help others to decide which attorneys are best suited to their needs.

  1. RecycloBekia

recyclobekia logoEgypt has quickly become Africa’s second-largest economy, which has been partly made possible by the booming technology sector. The country has also seen the rapid expansion of a variety of startups and other entrepreneurial ventures.

Seeing an opportunity to create a business model based on recycling electronic waste (e-waste), RecycloBekia was launched in 2011 by a group of students from Tanta University on an initial investment of only $1,000. The startup specializes in recycling electronic waste. Specifically, the company collects, dismantles, filters, and recycles electronic components.

Today, the startup business sells about $2.4 million in e-waste annually, and it has expanded to four warehouses. RecycloBekia is the first company to offer environmentally friendly methods of recycling e-waste. The company also offers safe and secure data destruction services to complement its recycling operations.

  1. Sweepsouth

Sweepsouth is a South African startup that enables users to schedule a variety of home cleaning services from the convenience of their tablet, phone, or computer. The company vets all of its cleaning staff with a background check and insures all of its workers. Additionally, clients have the ability to review the cleaning staff on a number of performance measures.

Clients are charged a fixed rate for each service, of which there are many. Sweepsouth offers cleaning services for kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms. Customers can also choose to order “extra tasks” that may include doing laundry and ironing, as well as cleaning refrigerators, ovens, cabinets, interior windows, and interior walls.

The startup has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including Fast Company and Forbes. The company has been voted among the “Top 10 African Startups” by Web Summit and has won a variety of startup competitions.

Currently, the company is available for house calls seven days per week from its main headquarters in Cape Town. Sweepsouth also offers its services in Johannesburg and the metropolitan areas of Pretoria and Centurion in South Africa.

  1. Vula Mobile

Vula Mobile is another young South African startup that is presently in the process of raising investment capital. The startup has grown at a fervent pace. Initially, the company’s business model focused on connecting health workers with eye care specialists via a mobile app, which proved to be widely popular.

The demand for mobile health services in South Africa provided an opportunity for the company’s founders to expand its range of specializations quickly. The company’s specializations include cardiology, orthopedics and dermatology.

General health care workers, whom patients initially visit, are responsible for referring individuals to the correct specialist. Health care workers gather patient information, take photographs, and generate a basic, brief medical history before sending the information to a medical specialist.