The biggest trends in African tech

By Michael Kachitsa

As startup and innovation culture deepens on the continent, the explosion of tech hubs across Africa has shown no signs of slowing down: the number of tech hubs across Africa grew by nearly 50% over the past year. As these hubs play crucial roles for community, business incubation and ideation, their growth continues to fuel innovation on the continent.

There are also growing signs that tech hubs on the continent are starting to specialize and expand beyond individual ecosystems: in February, Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB), one of the Nigeria’s pioneer innovation hubs, launched a design hub in Kigali, Rwanda. In September, CcHUB also acquired iHub, a leading Kenyan tech hub.

As  internet adoption in Africa continues to grow despite the obstacles of cost and speed, data privacy and regulation concerns have become louder—and governments are stepping up. Kenya passed new data protection laws which comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation while Nigeria is investigating a popular call blocking app for privacy breaches.

For its part, Facebook has also stepped up its fight against misinformation campaigns on the continent and removed a network of Israeli and Russian accounts targeting African politics this year. The social media giant is going after fake news in more local African languages.

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Africa’s most valuable company, South-Africa based Naspers, underwent evolution this year as it pretty much split into two. In September, Naspers listed its international internet assets on Amsterdam’s stock exchange and, in the process, created Prosus—the biggest consumer internet company in Europe.

Assets held by Prosus include Naspers’ renowned Tencent stake as as well as investments in Swiggy, the Indian e-commerce startup and Mail.Ru, a major Russian internet platform. The company’s South African unit also made history as it appointed the first female and first black chief executive of the 104-year old company.

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Naspers’ move beyond the continent also reflected a wider trend: in pursuit of growth and profits, some of Africa’s biggest startups are increasingly making the risky bet of expanding beyond the continent. 

Jumia, the largest e-commerce operator across Africa, launched a landmark IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in April. It marked the first IPO by an Africa-focused tech company on a major global exchange. But the novelty of the event has not proven enough to solve Jumia’s operational inefficiencies and seemingly unending streak of making multi-million dollar losses. In the wake of its IPO, Jumia has wrangled with internal fraud, a tanking stock price as well as tweaks to its business model.