Excited to Trade: These are the top African “tech unicorns” worth billions you should be watching
Flutterwave, Interswitch, GO1 are just a few of the top African tech startups that are valued above $1 billion.
“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat” said Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. That sentiment by the late tech pioneer has never been more aptly applied than in today’s tech-driven world.
Despite negative sentiment and the ongoing pandemic, many individuals have seen opportunities where others see only the COVID crisis. In this article, we take a look at the African tech boom and highlight some of the companies that are not only surviving but are thriving during these difficult times.
African Tech Unicorns
From revolutionizing the money market to providing access to education for millions, African tech companies have sought to carve their niche in the world. Africa has been hard hit by the pandemic, yet its ability to innovate and adapt to change has not diminished. Millions are pouring into the continent’s tech sector from Silicon Valley.
GO1 – The Edutech titan
A major success story in South Africa is GO1 which recently received an astonishing $200 million in funding, valuing the company at more than $1 billion.
Go1, founded in 2015m, has become the world’s largest corporate education hub for on-training resources, reaching 3.5 million learners globally.
The company has increased its user base by more than 300% year on year. Go1 foresees additional expansion opportunities in the USA and Europe. Its major plans for the future will be further integration with Microsoft Teams and other office communication platforms.
Flutterwave – Mobile money giant
Nigeria’s Flutterwave, founded in 2016 in Lagos, has a valuation of more than $1 billion after raising $170 million earlier in April 2021. The company facilitates international payments for major companies operating in Africa such as Facebook and Uber. Its latest batch of funding was raised by US-based private equity firms, Tiger Global, and Avenir Growth Capital.
With more than 140 million transactions totaling $9 billion, it is easy to see why Flutterwave attracted major investors. The company now enables receipts of international payments from the US and Europe, pushing its growth even further.
Interswitch – Mobile accounts pioneer
Interswitch, founded in 2002, became Africa’s second unicorn and became a $1-billion unicorn in 2019 when Visa bought a 20% stake in the company worth $200 million. Interswitch supplies 22 million debit and credit cards and has more than 190 000 clients using its platform to process financial transactions.
It has been a long time in the making but it shows how much the digital and technology landscape has changed. Interswitch was created at a time when investors had only a cursory interest in the African tech scene. Today Interswitch is a giant in the mobile payment sector.
Fawry – Top payment solution for millions
Fawry, founded in 2008, is an Egyptian e-payments company that enables users to pay using mobile wallets as a means to bypass Egypt’s complex financial payment system. It was listed on the Egyptian Stock Exchange in 2019 and 2021 announced that its valuation reached $1 billion. As of 2021, more than 29-million people use Fawry’s app.
In terms of investments, Fawry has attracted millions from major companies including Helios Investment Partners and IFC Venture Capital Group.
Jumia Group – First African tech unicorn
Jumia, founded in 2021, was the first African tech startup to reach a $1-billion valuation which it achieved in 2016. Jumia is arguably Africa’s most dominant eCommerce startup, operating in Egypt, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, and its home base of Nigeria.
In April 2019, Jumia conducted an Initial Public Offering, listing on the New York Stock Exchange valued at $1.9 billion. Major investments include Mastercard, MTN Group and Goldman Sachs. Its investors have injected total funding of $908 million, pushing the eCommerce platform to heights never before seen in the continent’s tech sector.
Emerging markets analysts are betting on eCommerce and Technology in Africa to provide even more unicorn status companies for the continent. The continent’s large population, most of whom are increasingly mobile and tech-savvy, provides immense potential for tech startups and investors.
Attaining a $1 billion valuation remains an elusive proposition for many startups. Accessing funding and creating deeper innovation to tap into the continent’s growing diverse markets, offers a unique opportunity for investors. Investment is speeding up valuation and scaling operations. The pandemic has somewhat stunted growth in many markets, especially on the African continent but this has not changed investor sentiment.
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