The top 5 Nigerian startup sector developments of 2019

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Nigeria overtook South Africa to become the most popular destination for tech investors on the continent in 2018, and though we will have to wait for Disrupt Africa’s annual funding report to see if it holds on to that position, 2019 was still another strong year.

Here, we take a look at what we think were the five biggest moments from within the Nigerian tech startup ecosystem over the course of the last year.

ROK gets acquired

In July ROK, the African film studio and international TV network led by Mary Njoku, wife of IROKO chief executive officer (CEO) Jason Njoku, and incubated by IROKO since 2013, was acquired by France’s CANAL+ Group. IROKO and CANAL+ have been working together since 2015, an arrangement that will continue even after the purchase of ROK, which Jason Njoku said in a blog post was to his knowledge the largest media deal in West African history, and possibly Africa outside of South Africa. 

IROKO itself will now focus on subscriber growth, with the aim being to hit the one million user mark and list on the London Stock Exchange. An honourable mention when it comes to acquisitions in 2019 must go to Nigerian e-health startup eClat, which was acquired by fintech unicorn Interswitch in November.

Kobo360 funded and expands

It was a big year for logistics startup Kobo360, which raised a US$30 million debt and equity funding round led by Goldman Sachs to power its expansion across Africa. Launched in 2017, Kobo360 is a digital logistics platform that aggregates end-to-end haulage operations to help cargo owners, truck owners and drivers, and cargo recipients achieve an efficient supply chain framework. 

The startup followed this up with the launch of its new regional office in Nairobi, where it had been in beta operation in Kenya for five months, with access to over 3,000 trucks and truck owners. There it will compete with another well-funded logistics startup, Lori Systems.

The pan-African expansion of CcHub

Lagos incubator Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) launched an ambitious pan-African expansion effort in 2019, most notably with its acquisition of the Nairobi iHub (full story here). CcHub is striving to become more of an African entity than just a Nigerian one, and also launched a Design Lab in Kigali earlier in the year as it grows its footprint.

The incubator also reprised its partnership with Google to run the PitchDrive initiative in Asia, and will expand the reach of its Growth Capital fund as its own operations grow in size across the continent.

OneFi becoming digital bank

Nigerian fintech startup OneFi had a strong year as it set out on the road to becoming a full digital bank. The company raised US$5 million in funding in March, and the same month boosted its financial services offering with the acquisition of fellow Nigerian fintech startup Amplify.

Then, it rebranded its consumer lending platform Paylater to Carbon, before launching a financial services platform for businesses. OneFi may not be the only African fintech startup working on “rebundling the bank”, but it is certainly taking the lead.

Funding and international expansion for Migo

The final entry in the top five was a late one, taking place in early December. Nigerian credit startup Migo, formerly known as Mines, announced it had raised a US$20 million Series B funding round to finance its expansion to Brazil and continued growth at home. The startup provides a Credit-as-a-Service digital platform that enables institutions such as banks, telecoms and retailers in emerging markets to offer credit products to their customers, with no smartphones required.

Migo has already raised a US$13 million Series A round back in 2018, and the latest round will be used to support talent acquisition and for international expansion.

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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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