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'2017 was a year of growth for African start-ups'

'2017 was a year of growth for African start-ups'

Barbara Mallinson, a member of the judging panel evaluating the Southern Africa edition of the Global Start-up Awards (GSA) in 2018, said 2017 was a good year for Africa's start-up ecosystem.

"It feels like 2017 is when the start-up scene finally grew up in Africa. For years, innovative things have been built and taken to market, but very few of these innovations managed to scale and exit successfully. This year was different. We've seen funding and scaling and exits on a level that's comparable to the States or Europe. Startups that stood out to me include Luno for how they got their timing right. The combination of the perceived risk of holding local currency and the global trend to get into crypto-currencies has resulted in huge growth and a significant Series B for the crypto-currency exchange and wallet. There is also Sweep South and I'm just a fan of their model and can see it working in many different areas."

Mallinson believes despite the usual ongoing challenges faced by African start-ups, greater access to funding and other avenues of support will encourage home-grown entrepreneurs to compete.

"There'll still be the usual market access challenges that we've come to tolerate over the past few years but on top of this, there'll also be greater competition from other start-ups. These days, it's a whole lot easier to start a business, receive operational support and gain access to funding than it was before. And because of this, many more people are choosing to do so."

Mallinson also emphasises the value of a wider geographical reach.

"Nearly all of the continent's most successful start-ups have come from cities such as Jo'burg, Cape Town, Cairo, Nairobi, Accra, Kigali, Kampala and Lagos. It's not surprising, since each of these cities has an established and flourishing start-up eco-system that plays host to numerous incubators, accelerators, investors and industry events. The next step however, is to scale these opportunities beyond the big cities, where needs are often greater and innovative solutions could make a bigger difference."

The Southern Africa edition of the Global Start-up Awards has a total of thirteen award categories including best start-up founder, best incubator and best fin-tech start-up of the year.

Judges will make shortlists from all the online nominations received before a jury scores each of the finalists per category. A public vote will then be conducted and added to the jury's score.

Winners will be crowned for each participating country in the region before the Regional Awards take place in the third quarter of 2018 followed by the global award show.

Online nominations will open on 5 March 2018 via the competition's official website.

Mckevin Ayaba, Regional Director for GSA-Southern Africa, said, "Start-ups from here don't get to be on the limelight because we don't always have the people who can help them make it to the next level. We want to recognise them because technology is shaping the future of the world and we need to encourage start-ups to keep doing this important work."

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