Over the past 12 months Disrupt Africa has yet again been fortunate to meet with hundreds of inspiring, innovative tech-fueled startups shaking up the status quo all around the African continent. But which startups stood out for our team? Here, we give you our pick of the top 12 African startups to watch in 2019.
Egyptian startup Shezlong ticks the disruption and impact boxes, with its mission to address the stigma in North Africa surrounding mental health issues. The company operates an online mental health platform allowing patients to connect with licensed therapists via video on mobile or web.
While it has been around for a few years, Shezlong had a very strong 2018 – raising US$350,000 funding; accepted onto the 500 Startups accelerator; and selected to pitch at the annual Africa Early Stage Investor Summit.
We expect the startup to hit the ground running in 2019, and we look forward to the exciting developments as this e-health innovation really takes off.
Egypt’s tech-driven virtual assistant app Elves has seen activity accelerating over the past 18 months, and we’re pretty sure the snowball will continue into 2019.
Elves uses a “human in the loop” methodology to drive machine learning and build AI; with the chat-based platform allowing users to talk to a “super human assistant” to do anything, anywhere in the world, for free.
The startup raised US$2 million in seed funding right at the close of 2017, giving it a huge boost to get to work in 2018 – which it has done, expanding to the US. Elves has opened an office in Los Angeles with an initial team of six, which is focused exclusively on conquering the US market. We look forward to updates.
Transportation is a major sticking point in many African cities, and there’s startups scattered continent-wide trying to address travel logistics in their local markets. One of them sticks out to us this year – Egypt’s Halan.
Founded in 2017, Halan is a motorcycle and tuk tuk ride-hailing and on-demand logistics application, which has already facilitated over three million rides across several governorates in Egypt and Sudan.
The startup secured a “multi-million dollar” funding round in 2018, from the likes of Singapore’s Battery Road Digital Holdings and Egypt’s Algebra Ventures, with a view to pressing on with expansion to further markets. We’re excited to see the progress Halan makes over the coming year.
Beginning life as a Stanford University student’s side-project, and moving to on-the-ground research and operations in Tanzania in 2017, the past year has seen Nala’s progress accelerate quickly – it received funding from DFS Lab; won the Ecobank Fintech Challenge; took home the AppsAfrica Award for Disruptive Innovation; and was named winner of Seedstars Tanzania in December.
We’ll certainly be keeping a keen eye on Nala in 2019.
The agri-tech space in Africa is booming, with the number of startups operating in the market growing 110 per cent over the past two years, and over US$19 million invested into the sector in the same period, according to the Agrinnovating for Africa report released by Disrupt Africa.
One of the quality agri-tech ventures emerging on the continent is Kenya’s Taimba, which operates a business-to-business mobile-based cashless platform connecting farmers with retailers; with the aim of improving the supply chain, as well as regulating the price of agricultural produce.
Launched mid-2017, the startup has already caught people’s attention – named one of three winners of the Food+City Challenge Prize hosted by SXSW; and winning the inaugural Disrupt Africa Live Pitch Competition. 2019 is sure to hold more developments for Taimba.
Kenyan artificial intelligence startup UTU caught our (and investors’) attention in 2018, and we foresee big things ahead in the coming year.
UTU – which is the company behind socially-powered taxi and transport app Maramoja – has developed an algorithm optimised for trust that utilises proprietary innovations in the fields of AI and distributed ledger technology.
The startup has been raising seed funding across 2018, first collecting an undisclosed amount of funding from Hong Kong-based accelerator Zeroth in April; followed by US$250,000 from the Bulgaria-based æternity Ventures, after taking part in its Starfleet Incubator for blockchain startups. UTU closed the year with the announcement it had added Tokyo-based incubator and venture capital firm DEEPCORE to its list of seed investors.
Definitely one to watch in 2019.
It’s been an interesting year for South Africa’s FinChatBot. Founded in 2016, FinChatBot develops chatbots to help financial service providers acquire and retain customers through artificial intelligence (AI)-powered conversations.
Although the early plan was to expand to multiple markets at once – with resellers on the ground in Morocco and Kenya, the startup this year decided to focus more on its home market of South Africa – and has had a strong year as a result.
The startup concluded 2018 with a bang – announcing it had raised ZAR8 million (US$563,000) in funding from local venture capital firm Kalon Venture Partners and the Mauritius-based Compass Capital, to continue its rapid growth and expand its client pipeline… and we’ll be watching.
Angolan startup Appy Saude is transforming access to healthcare in the country, through its healthcare database app.
Launched in 2017, Appy Saude allows users to access information such as services offered, medical specialities covered, insurance accepted, as well as the contact details of the over 2,000 medical facilities listed, which are located around the full span of Angola. The startup claims no such directory existed prior to its launch.
The startup has been busy rolling out new features throughout 2018, with users now able to find, research and book doctor’s appointments, as well as locate and reserve medical products for pick-up. It has also partnered with the country’s largest mobile operator, Unitel, to allow the operator’s 12 million users to access Appy Saúde for free.
While the startup has been working under the radar for the past year or so, given the pace at which the team is working we expect big announcements in 2019.
South African startup Vizibiliti Insight has seen some major action in 2018, and we expect the excitement to continue in 2019. The startup uses AI to help the commercial property sector pre-screen tenants and predict the chances of them defaulting.
Vizibiliti Insight was picked to pitch at the Viva Tech event held in Paris in May; and came away the overall winner for the Customer Experience Transformation through Digital challenge, winning the cash prize and an invitation to Verizon’s New York office to collaborate with the company.
In November, the startup was chosen to take part in Knife Capital’s fourth Grindstone Accelerator programme, which helps businesses become more investable, sustainable and exit-ready. So we look forward to hearing what’s next.
Nigerian fintech startup CowryWise launched in 2017, and has been catching people’s attention since then both within Africa and over in Silicon Valley.
CowryWise operates a secure automated service that helps users save money and enjoy high returns from risk-free investments in Nigeria with zero fees. It has so far processed over US$1.5 million in savings for its customers.
The startup secured investment from Nigerian early-stage fund Microtraction in June, and was accepted into the Y Combinator Summer 2018 Batch – gaining access to the Silicon Valley-based three-month programme and receiving US$120,000 in funding.
With all that fine-tuning, mentoring and backing behind it, we’re sure CowryWise will put on a great show in 2019.
Ghana’s CowTribe has been around for a couple of years, but things ramped up for the startup in 2018 and we expect to see more from it in 2019.
Launched in 2016, Cowtribe sources and aggregates genuine and affordable animal vaccinations from large suppliers, and works through a network of qualified agents to deliver them to farmers. Vaccines can be ordered via USSD, text and telephone, as well as through community agents.
CowTribe has had a busy year. In July, the startup was named winner of Seedstars Ghana; in August it announced plans to expand aggressively to reach all 10 regions of Ghana within 18 months; and in November secured US$300,000 investment from the United States (US)-based Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation in order to give its expansion plans a boost.
Ghana dominates our West African picks this year, with the country’s KudiGO taking the final spot on the 2019 list.
KudiGO provides an integrated, mobile-based retail, payments, accounting and analytics engine for the consumer retail industry, providing a complete solution for businesses to receive payments, track inventories and build sound financial models based on past trends.
After a year in public beta, the startup officially launched in 2018, and hit the ground running. Not only is KudiGO already expanding to more African markets, but in November the startup said it was closing in on a US$300,000 funding round to facilitate further expansion, while also securing all-important partnerships.
We look forward to seeing what’s next for KudiGO; and for all the startups on the Disrupt Africa list of startups to watch in 2019.