10 International Companies Investing In African Tech Entrepreneurs

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Forty million young people in sub-Saharan Africa are unemployed, and
almost 35 percent lack the basic skills they need to perform a job, WorldBank reported.

Over the next 25 years, Africa’s working-age population is expected to double to 1 billion, the United Nation’s World Population report.

Technology skills are a particular concern. Inernational tech giants have been backing African entrepreneurs, investing millions of dollars in education, mentorship and training.

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Supporting entrepreneurship or investing directly in African tech founders and their businesses, large international companies are backing thousands of tech entrepreneurs across Africa.

Here are 10 international companies and businessmen investing in African entrepreneurs.

Hewlett Packard

At the end of 2018, Hewlett Packard pledged to empower 100,000 students across Africa in the next three years through its HP foundation’s HP Life program. The initiative aims to train 100,000 young learners in Africa by 2021, giving them the skills to become successful tech entrepreneurs, according to a press release.

Microsoft

U.S. software giant Microsoft was one of the first U.S. tech giants to begin investing in Africa when it launched its 4Afrika initiative in 2013, with a $75 million budget dedicated to training the youth in Africa, according to Techcrunch. Microsoft’s focus with this program and the investment connected to it has supported entrepreneurship by delivering affordable access to the internet, developing skilled workforces and investing in local technology solutions throughout Africa.

Huawei Technologies

Chinese mobile phone company Huawei has been focused on training ICT professionals in South Africa. Since 2017 Huawei has formed part of a co-operation agreement with the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority to train 1,000 ICT professionals over five years, according to Huawei.

Orange

French mobile operator Orange runs Orange Digital Ventures, a program that invests directly in African entrepreurship and startups within a number of industries including logistics, e-commerce, transport, energy, fintech, and e-health, according to ITNewsAfrica. In 2018, the investment arm of the mobile operator invested in South African fintech startup Yoco, as part of a $16 million series-B funding round, and it was involved in Kenyan startup Africa’s Talking‘s $8.6 million investment.

Google

In September 2017, Google launched a mentorship program focused on supporting African tech entrepreneurs with a new Google Launchpad space in Nigeria. Google Developers Launchpad Africa in Lagos is a mentorship program that aims to provide tech startups and entrepreneurs with tools to build sustainable businesses, according to IOL. In March 2019 Google announced the launch of 18 new Womenwill chapters across sub-Saharan Africa, boosting efforts that have already seen the tech giant training around 1.5 million women across the continent, according to Ventureburn. These chapters aim to create economic opportunity for women through training, events and advocacy.

empower women African tech entrepreneurs
Google has started a service in Nigeria, as well as Ghana and Kenya, allowing mobile phone users to access emails through text messaging. That comes as the company’s office in Lagos has begun working with small business owners in this nation of more than 160 million people. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Alibaba

In 2018 Chinese e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma announced a $10 million fund that will support African entrepreneurs who are working within the digital economy to address Africa’s most important challenges. The founder and executive chairman of global e-commerce giant Alibaba launched the program, dubbed ‘Netpreneur’, with $10 million set to be awarded to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade, according to Ventureburn.

IBM

U.S. tech firm IBM has been investing in Africa for many years, supporting entrepreneurs through the funding of incubators and innovation spaces. It launched one such space at the iHub in Nairobi during 2015, and is committed to investing $61 million between 2015 and 2025 in a new laboratory at WITS University’s Tshimogolong Precinct tech hub in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to Htxt.

Cisco

California-based tech conglomerate Cisco Systems has invested in Africa’s entrepreneurs in a number of ways. The company supported African tech startups in 2015, with specific focus in the acceleration and financing spaces. It partnered with Intel and Deutsche Telekom to launch Challenge Up!, an internet of things accelerator that African startups across the continent could apply for. Cisco Capital has also launched a low-rate financing program in South Africa that will assist small businesses to invest in next generation technologies, according to the company.

SAP

German software development group SAP has been investing in the next generation of African entrepreneurs since 2015 through Africa Code Week. This program aims to empower kids in school with coding skills. In 2018 alone, the initiative empowered 2.3 million youth – totaling more than 4 million since 2015, according to the company. The students were schooled in programming using Scratch, an open-source interactive coding language that was developed by the MIT Media Lab.

Bestseller

At the beginning of 2019 the African Leadership University raised $30 million in series B funding from Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen to expand the institution’s graduate program across the continent. The CEO of Bestseller, a global clothing and accessories company founded in Denmark, is therefore investing in Africa’s entrepreneurs by enabling the Mauritius-based education institution to make its leadership-focused graduate programs available to more young Africans, according to Quartz.

Correction: Africa Code Week, the corporate social responsibility initiative funded by German software development group SAP, empowered 2.3 million school children in Africa in 2018 alone and more than 4 million since 2015. A previous version of this article stated otherwise.