10 Technologies That Attracted Investment In Africa During 2018

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

African tech firms pulled their weight in 2018, attracting investment from global giants such as Google which dedicated budgets and resources to innovation across the continent.

From an artificial intelligence research center launched in Ghana to the rise of fintech, VC firms scrambled to back African tech companies in 2018.

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Here are 10 technologies that attracted investment in Africa during 2018.

Artificial intelligence

Global tech giant Google has been focused on deriving value from AI for some time, and their investment in researching the technology is evidence of how important they believe it to be, having spent $30 billion on artificial intelligence research in 2016, according to Forbes. Last year its investment in AI was focused in part within Africa, when it announced that it will establish an artificial intelligence research center in Ghana that will be dedicated to AI research and its applications in a wider African context, according to Quartz.

Fintech

The year 2018 saw many tech firms across Africa securing funding deals, with unconfirmed figures for total investment expected to soar above $1 billion, including estimates for many undisclosed deals. Fintech was the most popular tech sector for investment, securing the biggest funding deals of the year, with the likes of South African fintech platform Jumo, the financial services platform for emerging markets, concluding a $64.5 million funding round, and Cellulant, a Kenyan digital payments solution firm, raising $47.5 million in its Series C round in May, according to Quartz.

Public Wi-Fi

Public internet projects have attracted investment across Africa during 2018, as the continent attempts to connect more of its people to the internet. Rwanda has been working hard on a project that will see public transport Wi-Fi launched this year, according to ITWebAfrica. In July Google launched a network of free public internet spaces in Nigeria in order to provide access for more people across Africa’s most populous country. The tech giant is aiming to provide free internet for millions of Nigerians in 200 public spaces across five cities by the end of 2019, according to ITWebAfrica.

Cyber security

Cyber attacks in Africa have increased by 20 to 30 percent over the last year, according to News24. French mobile operator Orange launched a security center in Morocco late last year with the aim of assisting in the fight against cybercrime on the continent, according to ITWebAfrica. The market is lucrative for Orange, as Africa’s cybersecurity investment is forecast to grow from $1.33 billion in 2017 to $2.32 billion by 2020, according to a press release.

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Solar power

Solar energy is another technology that attracted significant investment in 2018. One of the biggest funding rounds of the year involved Kenyan company M-Kopa Solar’s round of funding in March last year. The investment amount, which was undisclosed, included a first ever $10 million investment from FinDev Canada. In July, Francophone social impact fund Gaia made an undisclosed investment in Senegalese solar startup Oolu, according to Weetracker. In October, South African blockchain startup, The Sun Exchange, received a $500,000 seed investment from U.S. hedge fund Alphabit, according to Ventureburn.

attracted investment
Solar startup Oolu is one of the African tech companies backed by Y Combinator. Photo – Oolu

Cryptocurrency ATMs

South Africa’s first cryptocurrency ATM officially launched in Johannesburg in May 2018, thanks to blockchain firm Vendibit, making it possible for South Africans to purchase various cryptocurrencies including Dash, Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum using South African Rands, according to Businesslive. Before the investment in the cryptocurrency ATM, only Zimbabwe and Djibouti had crypto machines in Africa from which the public could purchase Bitcoin.

Mobile money

Mobile money is big business on the continent, with 143 services active in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for about half of the services deployed worldwide. The investment in mobile money continued in 2018, with market leaders such as mobile money firm M-Pesa launching partnerships with international tech firms such as WorldRemit, an international digital money transfer business, to enable cross-border mobile money transfers.

Data-light mobile apps

Slow mobile internet speeds coupled across Africa has seen tech companies investing in data-light mobile apps. An example of this is YouTube Go, a specialized data-light version of the Google-owned online video service that was made available to South African users with a launch of a mobile app in September last year, while Nigerian users have been able to download the app since earlier in the year, according to AllAfrica. Opera News, Norwegian web browser developer Opera Software‘s mobile application, is the most downloaded news app in several major African markets. In January last year their data-light news app was launched, and was downloaded one million times in Africa during that first month, according to VenturesAfrica.

Cloud technology

Last year saw an increased investment in cloud services at business level, as the amount of data and the need to analyse that data continues to grow at an increasing rate. Tech giants Amazon and Microsoft invested in cloud data centers that are currently under construction in Africa, according to BusinessInsider.

Cross-border electronic trade

In November Rwanda became the first African country to establish an electronic world trade platform, thanks to collaboration between the East African nation and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. An electronic world trade platform is a a private sector-led initiative for public-private dialogue that leads to a more effective and efficient policy and business environment for cross-border electronic trade. Small businesses in the country are now able to take part in and benefit from cross-border electronic trade, according to ITWebAfrica.