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Startups, Apps and Social Media Giants in Africa

Web & Mobile

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Did you know that more than 15% of the world’s population lives on the African continent?

It is a truly diverse and fascinating place with many metropolitan cities and opportunities.

As major companies start to see the saturation of their products in other markets, they are turning their attention toward the continent. It is also a place where smaller entrepreneurs are taking on large projects that may profoundly affect the globe as a whole.

Let’s take a look.

Twitter Is Hiring In Ghana

This month Twitter announced that it is opening its first offices on the African continent and is looking to hire nearly a dozen people. This includes engineers and marketing and communications specialists.

“Africa will define the future,” Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, said in 2019 after a visit to several African countries.

These hires will be working from home until Twitter builds a headquarters in Ghana in the future. Twitter is not the first big social media company to set its sights on Africa.

Facebook has several offices there, including in Nigeria, and a somewhat controversial presence.

Facebook In Africa

Over the last five years or so, Facebook has launched a number of global initiatives branded as a way to “connect the unconnected,” which have been panned by many international activists as a simple bid for market control.

Long before their famous Cambridge Analytica scandal, Indian activists actually stopped them from operating one of these initiatives in their country. Meanwhile, Facebook has spread widely across many African countries.

When you look at numbers, it makes a lot of sense that social media giants are turning toward Africa. Social media penetration is at almost 80% in Northern and Western Europe and at more than 70% in North America. On top of this, many western corporations are banned entirely from participating in the world’s largest market: China.

Meanwhile, it is a different story in Africa. The highest social media penetration can be found in Northern Africa, at 45%. The lowest is in Central Africa, at only 8%.

Keep in mind that Africa as a whole has a much larger population than Europe or North America. In fact, Europe’s population as a whole is in decline.

Many of Europe’s Mediterranean countries have some of the lowest birthrates in the world. It is inevitable that companies have to go where there are more people to be converted if they want to keep growing.

However, there are many more things happening in Africa. Many of its large cities are full of brand new startups.

African Startups On The Rise

In Northern Africa, there are a number of exciting startups.

Egypt’s capital Cairo in particular is a sprawling metropolis where a lot of interesting things are happening. It is not only one of the largest cities in Africa, but one of the largest in the world.

Over 21 million people live in the Cairo metropolitan area. To put things in perspective, roughly the same amount of people that live in the entire state of Florida live in this one city.

Egyptian fintech startup Thndr has a lot of buzz, despite only officially launching in 2020.

They have developed an investment platform that enables users to easily utilize traditional investment products, like stocks and funds. Thndr is actually quite special because the startup has procured the first new brokerage license granted by Egypt’s Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) in over ten years.

Egyptian Delivery Apps

Ordera is another Egyptian startup. This food delivery app launched in 2019.

It was among only  20 companies picked for the Saudi Arabia-based accelerator program run by 500 Startups and Misk Innovation. By the middle of last year, Ordera had a six-figure seed funding round to help it expand its team and launch in new cities.

Ordera is not the only popular food delivery app in the country.

While you can use Uber Eats in Egypt, other popular apps include Otlob, Akelni, and Elmenus. Mrsool is another catch-all delivery app, which you can use to have almost anything delivered.

A Tunisian Startup With Plans To Expand Into Europe

Tunisian startup Onboard is a few years old but saw big success in 2020.

They offer a SaaS platform that innovates customer experience management for hardware providers by utilizing 3D smart manuals.

In May of 2020, Onboard was chosen for the Flat6Labs Tunis accelerator program.

It received the equivalent of $65,000 USD in funding. This was followed by $175,000 USD in funding from Kepple Africa Ventures and local entrepreneurs.

This led to the creation of a private beta, the launch of a 1.0 version of their platform, and the announcement that Onboard plans to expand into Europe.

Kenya’s Digital Landscape

The startup boom is not only in Northern Africa.

A number of big things are happening throughout the continent, including Kenya.

Last year, Facebook opened a content reviewing hub in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, a city of more than 4 million people. Also, the Kenya retail-tech startup MarketForce, which was founded in 2018, had a huge year in 2020.

Here is what MarketForce says about themselves:

In emerging markets, consumer brands (manufacturers, distributors, and financial service providers) rely on millions of field agents and ‘corner shops’ who act as the first point of interaction between them and their customers.

Outdated forms of collecting data (pen and paper, excel) are still the main system used for sales and distribution management, leading to slow fulfillment of orders and loss of critical customer data; making reporting and decision making for businesses a pain.

MarketForce was born to address this challenge. We are building the most comprehensive field sales and distribution platform for emerging markets.

In December 2020, the startup introduced a new B2B e-commerce marketplace.

They have plans to take it to new locations this year. They will also add new services and offerings to help Africa’s small businesses thrive.

Other Notable Kenya-based Apps

Kenya is one powerful center of mobile revolution in Africa.

A number of apps meant to improve life by addressing the unique needs of users in the African market have been created there. This includes M-Farm, which allows users to access real-time market prices for crops via text message. It also matches Kenyan farmers with buyers.

M-Pepea is another interesting Kenya-based app. It is a fully automated app that aims to revolutionize Kenya’s credit system. It offers instant loans to workers at a fee via their mobile phones. These small emergency loans range from about $35-$350 USD.

Kenyan developers Shimba Technologies launched the MedAfrica app in 2011. It helps users diagnose symptoms and find doctors and hospitals easily. It aims to address how people in developing areas find healthcare practitioners and access and use health information.

Startups In Southern Africa To Watch

Female-owned Zambian micro-lending platform PremierCredit is an interesting startup with a lot of positive social impact in the region. They offer micro-loans to Zambian entrepreneurs and small-scale traders, who are mostly women.

PremierCredit has already launched operations in Zimbabwe in partnership with a local bank.

They provide bicycles, smartphones, and solar equipment using a pay-as-you-go model.

There is also South African edtech startup The Gradient Boost.

It launched an online mentor-guided data science school last year. Their goal is to make digital learning more efficient. The Gradient Boost combines data science modules with guidance from experienced mentors in the field. It has since expanded into Nigeria.

Final Thoughts

This barely scratches the surface of all of the ways that major corporations and small startups are transforming the digital landscape of this massive continent.

As technology, business, and culture grow and change together, fascinating things happen. People shape their digital worlds, and in turn, they shape society as a whole. This can look very different in different places.

One big example of this is how Superapps have swept Asian markets, and have recently been introduced in the Middle East, while not seeming to catch on in Western markets yet.

Some experts think they might never do so. Different populations have different needs and tastes for a complex combination of reasons. As Africa has so many different populations, it will be fascinating over the coming years to see what sticks.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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