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The African technology start-up ecosystem is thriving. Despite a lack of support and funding for app-based companies, innovators are finding ways to bring new thinking to deep-rooted businesses like finance, education, insurance and telecoms.
By 2021 the global app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion with 6.3 billion app users, up from $1.3 trillion and half the number of users in 2016, said this App Annie report. Our continent’s current share of the market is small, but with the app economies of western nations growing more slowly, expansion will now be driven by fast growing economies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The app economy encompasses device makers, app developers, platform companies, network operators, corporate users and more. In Africa, while device manufacturing and native platforms are very limited, app makers do have a unique opportunity not only to disrupt existing businesses, but to create entirely new ones, or to take a dysfunctional public service and make it work.
Whether it’s shaking up the property market, making emergency medical response more responsive, or creating a new way of advertising, African innovators are leaving their mark in the global tech start-up economy.
Here are our picks for the top five African tech start-ups to watch in 2018
Now in its fifth year, meQasa is Ghana’s leading real estate platform, showing thousands of properties across Ghana and matching trusted agents with home seekers. The platform secured a $500,000 investment in 2015 from Frontier Digital Ventures.The investment expanded meQasa’s sales and marketing capacity and saw it acquire its fiercest competitor, Jumia House Ghana, two years later.
In Africa, while device manufacturing and native platforms are very limited, app makers do have a unique opportunity not only to disrupt existing businesses, but to create entirely new ones, or to take a dysfunctional public service and make it work.
Daystar University and One University partnered up to tackle the lack of physical space and high university costs in Kenya through a platform called Daystar Mobile. The smartphone degree program increases the accessibility of higher education by making all course material digitally available. Following the impact of the platform, its inventors have made plans to expand their model to countries outside Kenya.
Sliide is one of the most used apps in Nigeria. Through its unique model that rewards users with airtime for interacting with its content, it tackles the issue of high-cost data, all the while promoting news and branded content. The app is designed specifically for emerging markets and has gained international recognition for its accessibility. To date, the app has won several awards, with its co-founder and CEO, Corbyn Munnik, being named one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30.
Currently making waves in the healthcare market, biotech startup LifeQ uses a combination of complex sensors and models to analyze the human body. Founded in 2015, the technology delivers personalized health information to help consumers better understand their bodies. LifeQ calculates and identifies users’ health risks as well as ways in which users can adapt behavior to reduce risks. It also alerts users to specific threats or conditions and continuously monitors identified diseases. The Stellenbosch-based company has secured partnerships with international giants Garmin and Striiv.
An Uber-style location-based app, Flare improves ambulance emergency response times in Nairobi through smartphone technology that links people to the nearest vehicles. With over 50 emergency contact numbers in Nairobi, it can be difficult to even find an ambulance. The app aggregates all the city’s ambulance companies, tracks their vehicles and monitors traffic. This makes possible a significant change in the response time, which goes down from an average of 162 minutes to 15-20 minutes, according to Flare’s founders.