It is no longer news that Africa has grown to become a strong competitor in the tech world. Young, educated Africans are at the forefront of this growth and are developing various applications and solutions for the African and sometimes, global market.
These startups are not all building mobile applications, so much as they are building solutions. Most of the solutions are dedicated to solving challenges facing various societies in health, education and financial inclusion. However, some others are also enterprise-type solutions for businesses.
Whatever their focus, these startups are showing remarkable innovation. The list below highlights some of these start-ups and applications. Some of them were not created strictly by entrepreneurs but by existing big companies.
An award-winning mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa was first launched by the Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom, an affiliate of Vodafone, in March 2007.
The application provided a means for the millions of underserved and unbanked Kenyans to quickly send and receive money without the need for a bank account. It quickly captured a significant market share for cash transfers, and grew astoundingly, capturing a whopping 6.5 million subscribers by May 2009 with 2 million daily transactions in Kenya alone. As of November 2011, M-Pesa had over 14 million subscribers and well over 28,000 agents across the country. The service has since expanded to East Africa (Uganda and Tanzania) and has also been launched in South Africa, Afghanistan, India and Egypt. The phenomenal take-up of M-Pesa, and the recognition it’s had worldwide (4 GSMA awards, 2011 Mobile Money Award winner and UN-Habitat winner) is clear evidence that innovative, yet simple and practical solutions really do make a difference where it counts
Nigeria’s SpacePointe develops products geared towards small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a particular focus on retailers. Spacepointe was founded by Sayu Abend, a US-based Nigerian entrepreneur.
PointePay which is one of its products is a mobile application with multiple payment acceptance options, including cash, e-wallet, and debit or credit card. It allows retailers to manage product and inventory, as well as employees and customers, while also offering value-added service such as the ability to sell wireless top-up and perform mobile wallet loads.
Paga is one of Nigeria’s pioneering and leading mobile money transfer providers. Paga was the first payment service to acquire a full mobile money license to operate from the Central Bank of Nigeria in August 2011. It is the fastest growing mobile payment service in Africa.
In eight years, Paga has managed to provide financial services to over one million users in Nigeria, mostly in rural areas. People in various parts of the world can send money to their relatives in the rural areas and all they need is to walk to a Paga agent in their community and pick up the cash without the need for a bank account.
Paga was founded by Tayo Ovisu, a Nigerian Engineer.
Kenyan developers Shimba Technologies launched the MedAfrica app in 2011, to help users diagnose symptoms and access directories of doctors and hospitals with the aim of revolutionizing how people in developing areas, particularly on the African continent, access and use health information. Set up as a sustainable business rather than on a “social good” charity model, the MedAfrica platform brings basic information about health and medicine to all phones — not just smartphones — and empowers people to access and use that information. In countries, such as Kenya, where on average 14 physicians must serve around 100,000 people, this kind of accessible, self-serve information could be vital in improving national health and wellness.
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5. Vula Mobile
Vula is a mobile app for making medical referrals. Founded by Dr William Mapham, an ophthalmologist in Cape Town, it provides healthcare professionals with information and basic diagnostic tools and allows them to connect with medical specialists to ask for advice and to refer patients for specialized care. Having piloted the app in the field of eye health, Vula is now looking to expand to other areas of medicine.
This is another innovative African start-up in the medical space. Flare is a mobile solution that aggregates available ambulances unto a single system and allows patients or hospitals to request emergency help via smartphone. It’s being touted as the “Uber for Emergencies” in Kenya.
To appreciate how innovative this is, you have to understand the Kenyan medical system. There is no functional central emergency system like America’s “911” and it takes over two hours to secure an ambulance in an emergency.
The start-up was founded by Caitlin Dolkart in 2015 and raised $150,000 in funding in the last quarter of 2017. It is still in beta stage but you can still head over to the Flare website if you would like to learn more about the platform.
This is an edu-tech start-up. Tutorama connects parents to qualified and vetted tutors in their locality. Parents can schedule for classes and lessons and also monitor the progress of their child from the app.
Tutorama has won the Egyptian edition of the Seedstars global pitching competition and also the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Start-up Competition.
Tutorama was founded by Mohamed Khodeir and Omar Khashaba, two Egyptian young entrepreneurs. Although Egypt is largely considered a Middle Eastern country, it is geographically situated in North Africa.
Mwabu is an education technology start-up. It creates modern interactive e-learning content and resources for African teachers and learners. This content is made available on dedicated tablets distributed by the business. One of their key selling points is that their technology facilitates content localisation for each country. So multi-lingual children are able to take interactive lessons in their local language. Visit mwabu.com to learn more.
Ushahidi was created in Kenya in the aftermath of Kenya’s disruptive 2007 presidential election. Ushahidi (Swahili for ‘testimony’, closely related to shahidi which means ‘witness’) offers products that enable local observers to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet, while simultaneously creating a temporal and geospatial archive of events. The Ushahidi platform is often used for crisis response, human rights reporting, and election monitoring. The app offers products that enable local observers to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet, while simultaneously creating a temporal and geospatial archive of events.
We build tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories.” – Ushahidi ‘About’ page on YouTube.
Last but not least, there’s Tress, a hair and beauty app. Tress is a social community mobile app for black women all over the world to find inspiration and information about hair. It has information about styles, the name of the products and weaves that were used in making it and even the name and location of the salon where it was made.
Tress was founded by Priscilla Hazel, Esther Olatunde and Cassandra Sarfo, an all-female team in the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra, Ghana. They say the inspiration came when Cassandra saw a hairstyle online that she liked and could not get any information about it when she asked around. She spoke to Priscilla and Esther about it and Tress was born.
In June 2016, Tress was accepted into the prestigious Y-Combinator Accelerator in Silicon Valley.
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Know of any other cool apps improving the lives of people in Africa? Feel free to share below.
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