11 African startups secure corporate partnerships at AfricArena


Eleven startups from across Africa have secured partnerships with corporate sponsors after winning challenges at the AfricArena conference in Cape Town last week.

The AfricArena event, which took place for the second year last week, showcased Africa’s best startups and innovators in front of an audience of local and international investors looking for world-class talent.

Over the course of the two days, startups pitched in 11 open innovation challenges run by sponsors such as Vinci Energies, AirFrance KLM, Engie, Saint-Gobain, and RCS. The winners of each challenge secured a partnership or proof of concept deal with the relevant sponsor.

South African startups were winners of the two challenges offered by Air France KLM, with township discovery platform DiscoverIkasi winning one and gaming startup Sea Monster the second.

The Engie Challenge, for ensuring reliable energy supply in urban areas, was won by Nigerian energy company Arnegy, and the Leroy Merlin Challenge, which wants an immersive showroom experience that shows off a large variety of products, by South Africa’s bizAR Reality.

Two challenges were also offered by Saint-Gobain, won by South African companies Swift GeoSpatial and Student Hub, while another South African startup, Iyeza Health, won the Sanofi South Africa Challenge.

South African verification platform ThisIsMe was named winner of the RCS Group Challenge, while Senegal’s Oniriq and South Africa’s DataProphet won the two challenges run by Vinci Energies. South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics won a trip to the VivaTech conference in Paris.

“We expect to have a different approach from these startups, a bright idea that could be easily implemented, and also to benefit from what is very high potential in terms of innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives. And to find solutions that are very well adapted to the African market,” said Jean-Michel Mathieu, chief executive officer (CEO) of Joon, a subsidiary of Air France.

“This is not just a win for DiscoverIkasi, it’s a win for the communities we work with across South Africa. It’s going to give them a lot more exposure. This is what we’ve been working towards since starting the business, to get to a platform where we can market DiscoverIkasi, our market, our experiences and the townships on an international stage,” said Ntsebenziswano November, founder of DiscoverIkasi.

“Oniriq provides access to African rural populations through energy and the internet. It’s great to be here at AfricArena, it has been a journey. For two months we’ve been participating in this challenge since the selection two months ago in Dakar with the Vinci Energies team, and we’ve been in discussions since. For us the win is a great achievement and we’re looking forward to starting our collaboration in Senegal,” said Rodolphe Rosier, founder of Oniriq.

“African entrepreneurs are very willing to find solutions, to take risks, they address vital expectations and needs, and they are looking at the challenges with a very frugal mindset. I think this is a lesson for us as well, we learn a lot working with them and collaborating with them to find the right solutions and we take this inspiration back to Europe with us,” said Lydia Babaci-Victor, chief innovation and development officer at Vinci Energies.

The startups attending the conference will also each receive US$2,000 credit from AWS as part of their prize. Christophe Viarnaud, CEO of AfricArena, said the event’s collaborative pan-African model had demonstrated very high impact throughout 2018, with 16 events on three continents.

“The grand finale at AfricArena 2018 has shown the energy and excitement from 15 corporates, over 150 investors and 70 startups, with over US$2 million deals being done, startup-corporate partnerships being struck and a wave of energy and innovation from African entrepreneurs. We could not be more excited about the future,” he said.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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