An Accelerated African Tech Ecosystem: Startups Driving Innovation
When you think of tech startup hubs, you likely think of Silicon Valley, Seattle or New York. But there’s another, perhaps unexpected, place accelerating its economy with tech startups -- Africa.
For decades Africa has been viewed as the continent of poverty and crisis. What the majority of the world does not see is the untapped tech market getting ready for takeoff. The opportunity for Africa to economically expand is readily available, and its citizens are ready for the economic transformation to begin.
Africa’s youth leading the tech charge.
The African population is young and rapidly growing. The U.N. expects that by 2060 the region will be home to an estimated 2.8 billion people. Currently, 60 percent of the African population is under the age of 25.
Why is this important? There will likely be a rapid increase in Africa’s youth population due to an increase in sex education and decrease in infant mortality. Meaning, as the youth continue to become educated, the growth of young entrepreneurs throughout African countries will grow immensely -- propelling an economic launch for Africa as a whole.
Related: Africa: A New Business Frontier
“The growth in Africa’s working-age population will be relentless and inevitable,” said Punam Chuhan-Pole, the acting chief economist for the World Bank Africa region (2015 World Bank Report). “The good news is that with the right policies and actions today, countries can accelerate the region’s transition to smaller families, healthier and better-educated youth, and an expanded job market if policymakers make the right decisions.”
Several economies around Africa have already begun to embrace economic growth by establishing entrepreneurial communities and startup businesses. Cape Town is a prime example of this success. The Silicon Cape Initiative in Cape Town fosters a space for inspiring entrepreneurs to brainstorm new and innovative ideas. Once ideas are fully formulated, entrepreneurs can apply to be a part of Techstars, a leading global startup accelerator. Techstars recently launched the first Cape Town class, comprised of 10 companies. Kenya is also taking part in the entrepreneurial push. Similar to The Silicon Cape Initiative, iHub in Kenya is an innovation hub and hacker space for the technology community in Nairobi.
African startups fostering big ideas.
Thanks to numerous accelerator programs and startup communities around Africa, we have begun to see several thriving African startups make their mark in growing the African tech and startup scene. Parcelninja, a startup based in South Africa, allows e-commerce businesses to thrive anywhere by handling shipping and delivery of worldwide orders. One startup saw the need for entrepreneurs and investors to easily travel to South Africa for business and created Travelstart, now South Africa’s leading online travel agency, who recently raised $40 million. Techstars recently invested in the first East African startup in Kenya, The Bamba Group, a company improving the monitoring and evaluation of development agencies working in humanitarian organizations through the use of cloud-based software.
Other areas of the world are supporting African economic growth by creating ways for them to be financially and economically sustainable. DoPay, a London-headquartered startup, offers payroll services to users that do not have bank accounts on their own. Similarly, Atlas Money allows users to quickly and easily transfer money internationally and domestically all around the globe.
The global tech ecosystem is on the rise.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the United States alone has over 27 million entrepreneurs. This planet can finally agree on something – the need for a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurship is not only good for the growth of individual economies and countries -- it can improve the world as we know it.
The entrepreneurial landscape in Africa is improving right before our eyes. As we continue to see daily improvements in the African economy, we need to prioritize mentoring these early stage startups to support growth while the opportunity is still there. And Africa is by no means the only continent with a rising population. By 2060 there will be close to 5.2 billion in Asia, 2.8 billion in Africa, 1.3 billion in the Americas, and 0.7 billion in Europe.
Now is the time to start paying attention to startups in emerging markets. As the global population continues to increase, it is important for accelerator programs to recognize the potential in untapped markets, like some are currently doing in Africa. The key is to look ahead at areas with the potential for growth -- not just at the markets already booming. The opportunity is here -- let’s accelerate the globe’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.