10 Successful Acquisitions Involving African Tech Firms

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

There have been many successful acquisitions involving African tech firms in recent memory, with Thawte’s $575 million sale to Verisign in 1999 setting the tone before the likes of Oracle and Visa found value in acquiring African businesses.

Some of the businesses doing the acquiring came from Africa, while others were international. A recent acquisition of an edtech startup was valued at $103 million, while one involving a private cloud infrastructure management software provider was worth around $110 million.

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From the likes of Ubereats acquiring a restaurant tech company to Garmin buying a South African radar tech firm, the deals have seen both parties gaining value from their acquisitions.

Here are 10 successful acquisitions involving African tech firms.

2U acquired by GetSmarter

The biggest South African tech startup investment of 2017 involved Cape Town-based edtech startup, GetSmarter. In May the company announced that it been acquired by U.S. firm 2U in a deal worth $103 million, with the agreement potentially including an earn-out provision of up to $20 million in cash, according to Forbes.

TopCheck acquired by Silvertree Internet Holdings

In 2017 Nigerian e-commerce and financial services comparison platform TopCheck was acquired by South Africa’s Silvertree Internet Holdings. The deal saw TopCheck added to the holding company’s subsidiary Compare Africa Group (CAG), which offers a selection of online price comparison services across markets including South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, according to DisruptAfrica.

iKubu acquired by Garmin

In 2015 South African radar technology startup iKubu was acquired by New York Stock Exchange-listed international GPS specialist Garmin. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. iKubu was developing a special radar that warns cyclists of potential threats behind them by scanning the road, and Garmin was impressed by their innovation, absorbing the startup’s seven staff into their South African subsidiary to operate primarily as a research and development team, according to Techcentral.

WumDrop acquired by Makro

In 2017 South African digital package delivery startup WumDrop was officially acquired by Makro, a popular wholesaler operating physical warehouse type stores and an online store in the country. Makro is part of major wholesale and retail group Massmart’s stable of companies, which merged with U.S.-based retailer Walmart in 2011. Following the acquisition, WumDrop’s delivery expertise were integrated into Makro stores and as part of the e-commerce operation, according to Bizcommunity.

orderTalk acquired by UberEats

In May this year global food delivery giant UberEats acquired South African restaurant tech company, orderTalk, representing a successful startup exit for Cape Town and London-based venture capital firm Knife Capital. Founded in 1998, orderTalk is now based in Dallas, and the terms of the deal were not disclosed by either party, according to Ventureburn.

successful acquisitions
Earlier this year UberEats acquired South African restaurant tech company orderTalk. Image – AP Photo – Lee Jin-man

Fundamo acquired by Visa

The year 2011 was a good one for South African mobile financial services firm Fundamo, as it was acquired by global payments giant Visa in a $110 million deal, according to CFO. Fundamo’s platform enabled the delivery of mobile financial services to unbanked and under-banked consumers around the world, and Visa was looking for additional functionality for its mobile services clients. At the time, Fundamo was present in over 40 countries, including 27 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Weza Tele acquired by AFB

Kenya-based fintech startup Weza Tele was bought in 2015 by Ghanaian financial services giant AFB for $1.7 million, according to Techpoint. At the time it was the largest acquisition of a Kenyan tech startup. While some acquisitions see the company that is being acquired absorbed into the bigger firm, in this case AFB left Weza Tele to operate as a standalone company.

Yeigo Communications acquired by Telfree Group

In 2009, Yeigo Communications, a South African tech company that created voice IP, instant messaging, text messaging and push email services applications for mobile phones, was acquired by the Swiss-based Telfree Group when they purchased 51 percent of the company, integrating the software into Telfree’s products as part of the acquisition, according to Forbes.

Nimbula acquired by Oracle

In March 2013, American multinational computer technology corporation Oracle announced it has agreed to acquire Nimbula, a South African provider of private cloud infrastructure management software. The company was founded in late 2008 by Chris Pinkham and Willem Van Biljon, who had developed the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Nimbula’s acquisition cost Oracle $110 million, according to Infoworld.

Thawte acquired by Verisign

It wouldn’t be right to have a list without including a true pioneer. In 1999 South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth got the ball rolling on impressive acquisitions of African companies with the sale of his online security firm, Thawte, to Verisign for $575 million. Shuttleworth built and ran the company from his parent’s garage, but soon became so impressive that a global leader in internet security came knocking at the door, and a deal was done that made Thawte’s South African founder a rich man, according to Businesstech.

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