The 9 Biggest Moments For African Tech In 2017

Written by Tom Jackson

It was another landmark year in the development of the African tech sector, with major launches, big funding rounds and significant buyouts.

Here, we wrap up the best bits of 2017.

GetSmarter acquired

Global ed-tech company 2U acquired South African company GetSmarter, which offers short-term online certification courses to distance-learning students, in May this year. It is one of the major acquisitions to have taken place in the African tech space, with the price tag for the deal placed at $103 million.

Jack Ma’s money

Alibaba founder Jack Ma visited Africa for the first time in May, attending an event in Rwanda. He used his speech to announce plans to launch a $10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund to back local startups. He’s also been as good as his word, with a host of African startups recently picked to take part in an Alibaba-run programme.

The Andela round

Coding school Andela in October secured one of the biggest funding rounds ever raised by an African tech startup, securing $40 million in Series C funding to take its total funding to over $80 million. The money will be used to help the company expand into new markets.

Zipline takes its drones to Tanzania

U.S. company Zipline, which uses drones to deliver blood and urgent medical supplies to rural areas, scaled up its operations in Africa this year after raising a large amount of funding. The company, which launched in Rwanda last year, expanded to Tanzania, where it will be using more than 100 drones to make up to 2,000 deliveries each day.

Googling in Africa

Google had a busy year, most notably expanding its Launchpad accelerator to Africa. It also partnered Nigeria’s Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) to run a three-week European tech hub tour, and entered into a four-way partnership to invest in a wholesale broadband infrastructure project – CSquared – designed to bring fast and reliable internet access to cities across Africa.

Safaricom goes into e-commerce

Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom entered the e-commerce space in November with the launch of Masoko. It signals the company’s ambition to go head to head with the likes of Jumia as it diversifies its offering.

Taxify rivals Uber

Estonian taxi app Taxify is going all out to beat Uber by expanding across Africa. It expanded to its latest African city – Kampala – in October, and has also integrated M-Pesa payments in Kenya, and launched luxury service Taxify Comfort.

Big bucks for solar

East African pay-as-you-go solar firm M-KOPA Solar once again scored big in 2017, securing $80 million in expansion funding as it looks to expand to new markets and offer new products. In general it was a good year for solar companies, with BBOXX, SolarNow and Oolu also raising large funding rounds.

Welcoming the World Bank

Even the World Bank is getting excited about Africa’s startup scene, having launched its XL Africa programme early in the year. The programme offered startups access to a tailor-made curriculum and the chance to receive mentoring from global and local experts. It received more than 900 applications. Twenty startups were eventually chosen to take part.

Tom Jackson is co-founder of Disrupt Africa, a news and research company focused on the African tech startup ecosystem.