President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's inner circle played a key role in his 11 March decision not to run for a fifth term amidst vast national protests calling for the end of this presidency and the system that has kept him in place.
Five African start-ups going places
InTouch – Grouping digital payments:
Founder: Omar Cissé
Launched in 2014, the Dakar-based fintech start-up InTouch has created a popular one-stop shop for digital payments using an app. Today, more than 3,000 merchants use the platform, and the company has processed more than $450m worth of transactions since launching its first services online in November 2015. The start-up recently raised €7m and plans to raise another €10m by the end of 2018 to help it reach its target of serving 38 African countries in the next three years. In July, French multinational Total partnered with InTouch to support the deployment of the company’s product in eight African countries, including Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco.
Omniup – Free wifi for Moroccans:
Co-founder: Ali Bensouda
Ali Bensouda is on an ambitious mission to connect all Moroccans to free wifi. In 2007, he co-founded Omniup, a start-up that provides users with free internet in public areas in exchange for watching a 10-second video advertisement. Given that more than 90% of Moroccans have limited prepaid phone plans, the demand for free wifi access has propelled business growth. Omniup acquired a patent to broadcast full-screen videos that don’t require downloading an app. In a little over a decade, the company has connected almost 50% of the kingdom’s 14m smartphones and in 2017 generated $1m in turnover. Its high-profile clients include Etisalat, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Unilever and Moroccan railways.
Africa’s Talking – Solutions for developers:
Funding – $8.7m
Country – Kenya
Co-founder & CEO – Sam Gikandi
Africa’s Talking is a platform that enables software developers to easily integrate mobile communication and payment solutions into their apps via
a cloud-based application programming interface (API). Gikandi says his aim is to simplify the innovation process and make it easy for a software developer anywhere in Africa to build the next Uber or M-Pesa. Africa’s Talking is also nurturing the ecosystem, with an externship programme linking local businesses to software developers. The company now boasts operations in six East African markets plus Nigeria, with ambitious plans to expand across the continent. At its launch in 2010, the platform started out with an initial investment of just $17,000.
Twiga Foods – Connecting farm to vendor:
Co-founder & CEO: Grant Brooke
Nairobi-based business-to-business start-up Twiga Foods is trying to plug the holes in Kenya’s agriculture supply chain. The mobile-based agri-tech firm founded in 2014 raised $10.3m in a Series A funding round in July 2017 and has secured additional grant funding from USAID and the GSM Association. Twiga’s goal is simple: create an online ordering and payment platform where fresh produce sourced from farmers can be delivered directly to informal vendors, thereby cutting costs and reducing post-harvest losses. Today, the company sells about 400,000 bananas every day. It deals in fruits and vegetables, and is considered the single largest domestic produce company in Kenya.
ThriveAgric – Crowdfunding farmers:
Co-founder & CEO: Uka Eke
The idea for the farm crowdfunding platform ThriveAgric was born after Uka Eke spent five years working with smallholder farmers in Nigeria. With a better understanding of the financial and technical challenges they are facing, he decided to build a supply chain for more than 2,000 smallholder farmers in Nigeria that provides their produce to fast-moving consumer good companies and processing firms. That was the launch of ThriveAgric in 2017. Today, the agri-tech start-up funds farmers, provides them with practical advice to increase yields and improve productivity, and connects them to premium markets. ThriveAgric currently supports 4,500 farmers across 12 states in Nigeria.
This article first appeared in the May 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine