10 Competitions That Offer African Tech Startups Funding In 2019

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

African tech startups often struggle to find funding for their ideas, but there are now many competitions that offer these companies a chance to win investment.

In terms of funding, 2018 was a record-breaking year for African startups. More startups — a total of 210 recorded — raised 32 percent more funding than ever before, securing $334.5 million in funding, according to DisruptAfrica.

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But those were mostly established startups, not pre-seed or early stage businesses looking for capital. For these, competitions are an important way to get funding and exposure.

Startup competitions are held by a range of enterprises from incubators or accelerators to contests sponsored by brands. They’re available for tech startups across multiple sectors such as fintech, health and energy.

Here are 10 competitions that offer African tech startups funding opportunities in 2019.

2019 MEST Africa Challenge

The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology‘s (MEST) annual Africa challenge give finalists the chance to receive up to $50,000 in equity investment from the Ghana-based accelerator, as well as space in a MEST incubator in either Accra, Lagos or Cape Town. The finals will be held at the 2019 MEST Africa Summit from Jun. 10-12 in Nairobi, Kenya with post-revenue tech startups based in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa able to apply, according to Ventureburn.

Startup World Cup

As the name suggests, the Startup World Cup will allow African tech startups to compete with companies from around the world. The competition offers the eventual winner a $1 million grand prize, with regional finals for African participants in Mauritius, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya before the global final on May 17 in San Francisco, according to TechinAfrica.

Netpreneur Prize

Chinese e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of global e-commerce giant Alibaba, launched a program, dubbed ‘Netpreneur’, with $10 million set to be awarded to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade. The Netpreneur prize will focus on small business growth, grassroots innovation and women founders in particular. A pitch event will be hosted by the Jack Ma Foundation on an annual basis from 2019, with 10 finalists from all over Africa competing for $1 million in prize money, according to ITWebAfrica.

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Proptech Innovation Award 2019

The Proptech Innovation Award is a global competition that rewards top startups in the proptech sector. This year will see over $45,000 worth of prizes awarded to various winners. Participants also stand to benefit from an opportunity to pitch at the third annual PropTech Innovation Award Ceremony in Berlin on May 16, according to Gtec.

Seedstars World

Seedstars World, which describes itself as the world’s biggest startup competition in emerging markets, brings together the best tech startup talent from around the world through local competitions, with the eventual winner given the chance to pitch to global investors at the Seedstars World competition in Switzerland. Ghanaian agritech startup Agrocenta was the winner of the 2018 Seedstars World competition in Lausanne, earning a $500,000 investment from Seedstars as a result, according to Techmoran.

African tech startups
Seedstars World is one of the many startup competitions offering funding for companies. Photo – Seedstars

Sanofi in Africa challenges at VivaTechnology

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi is hosting three innovation challenges at VivaTech in Paris from May 16-18 this year. Healthtech startups selected to take part in these challenges will benefit from a free booth and tickets to attend VivaTech, while attending a pitch preparation workshop. The chosen African startups will pitch in front of a jury of Sanofi executives and other stakeholders, with an opportunity to collaborate as well as receive funding from Sanofi in Africa, according to the company.

Get In The Ring

Dutch startup platform Get In The Ring will be making around $11.36 million available in investment for participants in their annual event involving startups from over 100 countries. As the name suggests, the top companies at each local event will battle one-on-one in an actual ring for a ticket to the global final, according to GetInTheRing.

Starts Prize 2019

Starts is an initiative of the European Commission to bring together technology and art. One of the ways that it does this is through the Starts Prize, which is open to entrepreneurs from countries across Africa. The Starts Prize focuses on artistic works that influence or change the way we look at technology, and on innovative forms of collaboration between the ICT sector and the world of art and culture, awarding around $22,700 to two submissions that highlight those aspects, according to vc4a.

StartUp Energy Transition Award 2019

This competition is open to an international set of startups which are working on ideas that could positively affect global energy transition and climate change. The categories include low-carbon energy production, intelligent grids, platforms and cyber security, energy efficiency, smart devices and storage, innovative mobility and a special prize for quality access and sustainable development goals. A jury will select three tech startups in each category, and they could earn investment opportunities when they pitch their solutions at the annual SET Tech Festival in Berlin, Germany on Apr. 9, according to the festival’s website.

Startup of the Year 2019

Startup of the Year 2019 is a global competition that African startups can apply for if they are less than six years old, with a working beta product or service and less than $5 million in funding. The 100 top semi-finalists will be notified by middle of June this year, after which they are expected to showcase their solutions at an event attended by investors, industrial leaders and stakeholders.