5 Hot African Tech Start-ups To Watch In 2013
There has never been a more exciting time in Africa’s tech start-up community. The sector has reached an unprecedented level of maturity and growth. Africa’s techies and developers are no longer building mobile apps, software and websites just for the love of it; they are adopting a rather aggressive approach towards business planning, commercialization and profitability.
Take IrokoTV, for example. The digital distributor of Nigerian movies has famously been dubbed the ‘Netflix of Africa’. When it launched in December 2010, IrokoTV depended solely on Google’s partner program for all its revenue. Not anymore. While IrokoTV is home to thousands of free movies, in May this year, Jason Njoku, the company’s maverick founder, announced that the company would start charging users a $5 monthly subscription fee to access brand new movies.
Similarly, Nairaland.com, Africa’s largest discussion forum, historically depended solely on Google Ads for its revenue. It ditched Google Adwords a couple of months ago to start selling ads directly on its platform.
Commercialization aside, innovation still reigns supreme in Africa’s tech community. While some African techies are still developing leisure games and mobile applications (like the remarkable MALIYO Games,which creates casual browser games to share the experiences of everyday Africans with a global audience), others are creating disruptive new inventions that are providing solutions to some of the continent’s most pressing socioeconomic problems.
In my opinion, here are 5 spectacular African tech start-ups that are most likely to shake up the continent’s tech industry in 2013:
mVerified is a Kenyan mobile and web-based app that verifies the authenticity of documents such as title deeds, car log books and graduation certificates in the course of transactions. The app simply works by checking the credentials of documents against data stored by Kenyan governmental agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya National Examinations Council. Documents that fail to correspond to official records are instantly flagged as potential counterfeits. mVerified can be accessed online via WAP or GPRS-enabled phones. While the system is free to download as an Android application, it costs roughly $7 to make a verification inquiry.
Mara was founded by Ugandan multi-millionaire tycoon Ashish J. Thakkar in 2012. Mara Online, which is Africa’s first online mentorship social network, connects young, budding African entrepreneurs to established, prominent enterprises and businessmen who serve as mentors. The mentors on the network transfer knowledge and experience to the upstart entrepreneurs in order to help them transform their ideas into sustainable enterprises.
Kuluya is a developer and publisher of online games based in Lagos, Nigeria. The startup develops Nigerian-centric games with substantial focus on African characters and themes. Kuluya already has over 100 games in its portfolio with such quirky titles as Monkey Run, Bush Meat and Zulu and Mosquito. Earlier this year Kuluya raised $250,000 from institutional investors. According to Loy Okezie, publisher of Techloy, arguably Africa’s most authoritative tech blog, Kuluya is poised to ‘provide an ultimate African gaming experience and change the continent’s gaming landscape.’ All Kuluya games are web browser games, for now.
BudgIT is a civic start-up developed by the team at Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), Nigeria’s premier tech incubator. The idea behind BudgIT is simple, yet profound: to make Nigerian government budgets & public data more understandable, accessible and transparent. BudgIT leverages an interactive platform and creative tools such as infographics and charts to break down government budget allocations in its simplest and most basic form to enable Nigerians at all levels to understand the budget better, thereby stimulating conversations about open governance, data transparency and citizen participation in governance.
Founded by Nimi Hoffmann, a South African social science graduate student at Oxford University, CorruptionNET is an open-source mobile platform that allows citizen reporters to file anonymous journalistic reports to newsrooms about corruption and abuse of public resources. Citizen reporters can report via SMS or MXit, an African social network.