Microsoft Supports Five African Startups

Microsoft Supports Five African Startups

Five high-performing African startups considered by Microsoft to be unique, scalable and locally relevant will receive money, mentoring and tech support from the U.S.-based computer software giant, according to a report in ITTNewsAfrica.

The five start-ups include:

– access.mobile, a Ugandan provider of provides customized mobile technology solutions.

– Africa118 (Kenya), a Kenyan mobile directory service.

– Kytabu, a Kenyan a textbook encryption and subscription service.

– Gamsole, a Nigerian mobile game production company.

– Save & Buy, a Nigerian app that helps users save for products they want to buy

The startups will receive innovation grants through Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, including
financial backing, technical support and mentorship. They were identified through Microsoft’s partnerships with 88mph, CC’Hub, HiveColab, and the company’s involvement with local developer communities, ITTNewsAfrica reports.

Uniqueness, scalability and local relevance were key to the selections, according to the report.

“We are excited to be supporting startups that have developed innovative solutions that address key issues in Africa,” said Amrote Abdella, director of startup engagement and Partnerships for 4Afrika. “Our support is aimed at showcasing the importance of local innovation, but more importantly, it highlights the great potential that African innovators have in competing with world-class developers and entrepreneurs.”

Gamsole – Nigeria

Eleven weeks after launching, mobile game production company Gamsole had more than a million game downloads. Five years later, CEO Abiola Olaniran is Nigeria’s highest-paid Windows Game developer and Gamsole has more than 4 million downloads from local and international fans, ITTNewsAfrica reports.

Olaniran competed at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup twice and worked with accelerator 88mph in the past. The company hopes to produce high-quality mobile games that entertain and educate.

Kytabu – Kenya

Kytabu — “book” in Swahili — is a textbook encryption and subscription service in Kenya founded in 2012 by Tonee Ndungu, who suffers from dyslexia, and his father. Kytabu is designed to provide universal and affordable access to learning material. Users can rent a textbook, or part of a book, for any period of time using mobile money for 60 percent savings. Kytabu has a memory card pre-loaded with every textbook in the Kenyan education curriculum and a SIM card that allows the app to be updated over cellular data.

Kytabu also comes with its own app store, where users can download audio books, learning games, virtual classrooms and past tests and exams. In June, Kytabu was identified by the Kenyan Ministry of Education as one of the apps that would benefit the government’s push to digitize and distribute educational content. It was also chosen by Google and the San Francisco tech community via The Gratitude Network as the education app most likely to change the world in this decade.

access.mobile – Uganda

Founded in 2011 by Kaakpema “KP” Yelpaala, access.mobile provides customized mobile technology solutions to a wide range of enterprises. KP stumbled onto the business idea while talking to a coffee exporter in rural Rwanda. He built a mobile app to help the exporter move from a paper- and cash-based system to a digital one, where he can track his transactions and get insight into his flow and inventory, ITTNewsAfrica reports.

access.mobile now helps enterprises of all sizes adopt and integrate technology by digitizing
their operations. The technology provides the ability to collect, analyse and share clear, real-time information about operations and supply chain activity – and carries a 90 percent customer satisfaction rate from rural users who have previously had very limited access to technology. It offers solutions in healthcare and agriculture, but has plans through the Microsoft 4Afrika innovation grant program to expand its reach into other countries and industries.

Save & Buy – Nigeria

Founded in July 2013 by CEO Hugo Opi and partner Toni Osibodu, Save & Buy is an app that helps users save money for specific products they want to buy online. By clicking the Save & Buy button on select eCommerce sites, users start a savings plan customised with a duration date and deposit reminders. Once the full payment has been made, retailers send the products to the users. Save & Buy will be working with the Microsoft 4Afrika grant funding program to move its app over to world-class servers, which will provide a more stable platform for increased traffic volumes, ITTNewsAfrica reports.

The startup also plans to introduce new features such as virtual products (holidays and birthdays), group savings and a credit feature. Its goal is to expand into three African countries over the next three years.

Africa118 – Kenya

Founded in 2010 by Ezana Raswork, Africa118 is a mobile directory service in Kenya. After watching his father trying to find a local vet for house calls, Ezana – who was working at the Yellow Pages – decided to develop a world-class information center in Africa.

Working with mobile partner Safaricom, Africa118 gives users access to an up-to-date and highly accurate database of local services in Kenya. For a cost of 20 Kenyan shillings per search, a user calls in, requests contact information and receives an SMS with the relevant details.

Africa118 reports a 50-percent growth rate since 2011 and has a user satisfaction rate of 8- to 9-out-of-10 users. Users use the call service up to 10 times per month. Through the Microsoft 4Afrika innovation grant program, Africa118 will expand its service by developing an online platform and mobile app. It also plans to expand into Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana and to be in 10 African countries within the next three years, ITTNewsAfrica reports.