10 African Firms Considered Among The Most Innovative Companies Globally

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Innovative companies
The 10 African firms considered among the most innovative companies globally include a trucking logistics firm and a solar-powered internet service provider. Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, the founder and CEO of 54gene. Image supplied by 54gene

From firms employing digital solutions to streamline logistics to a mobile message-based system to root out counterfeit goods, African companies are developing innovative solutions to problems that have applications globally.

Monthly U.S. business magazine Fast Company has recognized hundreds of innovative companies throughout the world in a 2020 list, including a handful of African businesses.

The African startups made the list of 434 businesses alongside well-established tech brands including Snap, Microsoft, Tesla, Spotify, and Canva.

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Here are the 10 African firms considered to be among the most innovative companies globally.

54gene

Africa’s version of popular DNA genetic testing company 23andMe, 54gene collects DNA samples for research to improve healthcare for people of African origin and developing treatments for diseases that impact all populations, Weetracker reports. Genetic data from Africa is still very limited. 54gene aims to detect and identify DNA markers that have been ignored by researchers and is in the process of collecting DNA data from multiple African countries including Nigeria, where it is conducting a study of 100,000 Nigerians. 54gene was founded in 2019 by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, who has a Ph.D. in cancer biology from the University of London, according to LinkedIn.

MPost

Founded in 2019, Kenyan tech startup MPost provides a platform that allows any mobile phone to function as a mobile post office. This means that a person’s mobile number is converted to a formal Kenyan postal address. Through the app, users get access to postal services and service alerts when mail arrives, which they can choose to either pick up or have delivered, Techweez reports.

Tongoro

Founded in 2016 by Sarah Diouf, Tongoro is an African-made fashion label that is sold exclusively online through the brand’s Senegal-based e-commerce website. The Tongoro fashion label, which is designed and produced in Dakar, has been worn by globally recognizable celebrities including Beyoncé and featured in high-end magazines such as Vogue. Diouf uses the label to showcase local fabrics and patterns, as well as the work of African makers and tailors, according to WantedOnline.

Copia Global

Copia Global is an e-commerce firm giving underserved Kenyans in rural areas access to goods they’d normally have to travel for. Copia uses technology combined with a network of more than 5,000 local shopkeepers who serve as ordering and delivery points across parts of Kenya. The e-commerce platform was founded in Silicon Valley in 2013 by social entrepreneurs Tracey Turner and Jonathan Lewis and is now based in Nairobi, according to Ventureburn. Expansion plans are underway to extend Copia Global’s services to neighboring Uganda.

Lumkani

Lumkani is a social enterprise launched by South African students in 2014 to deliver a networked heat detector device to decrease risks of fire in South Africa’s rural and urban informal settlements. The company has produced an early-warning fire detection system that was developed with informal settlements in mind. Small blue heat detectors are embedded in homes and networked. In case of a fire, text messages are sent to community leaders and fire departments so that a response can be sent.

mPedigree

Kenyan company mPedigree has developed a solution to the problem of counterfeit goods. The company, which operates in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, and Tanzania, embeds a unique code into a product label, which shoppers can text to the manufacturer to verify the item’s authenticity, according to FastCompany. The startup works with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to identify counterfeit medicines.

Kobo360

Nigerian e-logistics firm Kobo360, known as the “Uber for Trucks”, helps to connect the supply of trucks with the demand for transportation services by cargo owners. Kobo360 has partnered with global logistics brands including Dangote Group, DHL, Unilever, and Lafarge — operating in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Togo. It has serviced more than 1,450 businesses and aggregates a fleet of 10,000 drivers and trucks. Launched in 2017 by CEO Obi Ozor and chief technology officer Ife Oyedele, the Nigerian company took part in the Y Combinator accelerator program in July 2018 and YC has been an investor ever since.

Tizeti

Nigerian solar-powered internet service provider Tizeti aims to become a “Comcast for Africa”, building and operating solar-powered towers in Nigeria, while also providing residences, businesses, events and conferences with unlimited high-speed broadband internet access, covering Lagos, Ogun and Rivers State in Nigeria. It has also launched in Ghana. In September 2018, the Y Combinator-backed company raised $3 million in a Series A round of funding that was dedicated to its expansion into Ghana, according to the company.

Twiga Foods

Twiga Foods is a Kenyan mobile distribution platform co-founded in 2014 by a former Coca-Cola executive Kenyan Peter Njonjo and American Grant Brooke. A cashless platform, Twiga Foods uses tech to allow vendors to order and pay for vegetables and fresh food from smallholder farmers in Kenya, resulting in a more efficient supply chain. Twiga reduces the need for middlemen who add cost and inefficiency to the supply chain. In October 2019, Twiga secured $30 million in funding led by U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, according to Techcrunch.

PiggyVest

Launched in 2016, Nigerian startup PiggyVest is an automated savings platform that enables Nigerians to reach their savings targets through a combination of discipline and flexibility. The fintech business now has more than 195,000 registered users making use of the app to save money. In 2018 the startup attracted the $1.1 million from a group of investors led by LeadPath Nigeria, according to Techmoran.