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2017, a bumper year for African tech start-ups

2017, a bumper year for African tech start-ups

Aaron Fu, MD of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) discusses the year that has been for Africa's tech space and prospects for tech entrepreneurs going forward.

Paul Adepoju: How would you describe 2017 so far in Africa's tech startup ecosystem?

Aaron Fu: 2017 has certainly been an exciting one for the African tech start-up ecosystem ... three key themes in my view are rationalisation, inspiration and internationalisation. On rationalisation, MeQasa recently acquired Jumia House in Accra, it represents businesses like Jumia rationalising resources to focus and double down on product lines that have the most alignment with their overall strategy.

Inspiration really has to come from the two major over US$10 million rounds raised from both the East, with Twiga Foods and the West with Flutterwave. These events, while not as frequent as we'd all like them to be, do signify that there is capital willing to be deployed to back high growth founders on the continent and should inspire more founders to work towards building the foundations for potentially explosive businesses.

Finally internationalisation, 2017 saw the launch of yet another global program in Africa, StartupBootcamp in Cape Town, it also saw Alibaba announcing its backing of a Nigerian e-Commerce start-up, outbound we've also seen the first ever African participant delivering a strong showing at Asia's largest FinTech program (Global Fintech Hackcelerator in Singapore).

Paul Adepoju: Tell us a bit more about MEST's incubators?

Aaron Fu: MEST's incubators are the rails enabling start-ups, part of the MEST family to scale their products and teams rapidly across key markets in Africa. We currently have more than 30 portfolio companies and more than 350 alumni across Africa, our incubators will be a nexus for them to come together and work with other partners, start-ups and investors that are part of our community to continue building the next. We've just successfully launched Lagos and Cape Town in 2017 and are actively exploring Nairobi and Abidjan.

Paul Adepoju: What's the net worth of MEST's investments in Africa's start-ups?

Aaron Fu: MEST has invested more than US$20m into our portfolio and operations since inception.

Paul Adepoju: Is it easier now or more difficult for African start-ups to succeed locally and globally?

Aaron Fu: It is easier now than it ever was for African start-ups to succeed, whether that's due to the increasing interconnectivity of various markets, the increasing amount of capital we've seen seeking to back African start-ups and also the incredibly strong talent rising locally, as well as from across the world to lead and join start-up teams.

Paul Adepoju: What is your view on Nigeria's status in Africa's tech space?

Aaron Fu: Despite macroeconomic headwinds, Nigeria continues its path towards leading the way in being the home for massive tech businesses in Africa, it's market size alone is a strong enough factor to continue enabling this.

Paul Adepoju: What of francophone Africa?

Aaron Fu: Our first EITs from francophone Africa joined us this year and I'm tremendously excited at the untapped opportunity that exists in the CFA Franc region - not just because of consistencies in language, currency and regulation as well as geographical density, but also it's a region that has been relatively overlooked by Anglophone-focused tech businesses.


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