SA’s Lumkani installs shack fire early-warning systems in an additional 20k homes


South African startup Lumkani has installed its early warning fire detection system in an additional 20,000 homes across the country, meaning it has now equipped 40,000 high fire risk homes in several of the country’s informal settlements.

Founded in 2015, Lumkani leverages proprietary hardware and a tech-enabled agent network to provide consumers living in informal settlements with insurance that protects against loss of life, shelter, and assets in the case of a home fire.

The startup, which closed a seed funding round featuring 4Di Capital, Accion Venture Lab and Lireas in June of last year, bundles this insurance product with an Internet of Things (IoT)-connected heat sensor that detects fire in and around homes.

Its latest project was funded by the GSMA Mobile for Development Programme, via the Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation Fund, and has already reduced the spread of fire in 16 incidents. Lumkani’s system creates a community-wide alert in the early phases of a fire, with a fire alarm sounding in every home within 60 metres of the fire rings and text messages sent to all residents.

“Lumkani has always had the dream of making communities more resilient to the devastation of shack fires. Having the opportunity to cover an additional 20,000 South African homes with our early warning system has been a big step towards realising this,” said Francois Petousis, director of humanitarian projects at Lumkani. 

“Every week we hear stories of people who have heard our fire alarms ringing in a neighbourhood, or have received our SMS saying that their house is on fire which has helped them to race home to put out a small fire before it caused any damage. That is huge motivation for us to reach even more homes across our country.”

Beyond creating early warning technology, Lumkani has worked together with Hollard to develop a fire cover product that allows people to insure their informal home and all its contents against fire, something which previously did not exist in South Africa. Lumkani captures geo-location information on its app to create ‘addresses’ for informal homes, and with that, enables these properties to be insured against fire.


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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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