Built in Africa, for the World

Local champions are going global

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Your tour guide on African Tech 🧭

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More than 25 years ago, the US had its dot-com boom.

American tech companies grew from small garage projects to trillion-dollar names like Google and Meta.

In two decades, the startup bug spread across the world - taking over Africa too.

There are over 6,000 startups active on the continent today.

Just ten years, ago, you could fit them all in a room.

The continent has seen massive growth in tech, with over $20 billion invested and thousands of jobs created.

They say, “Every flame starts with a spark.”

African tech had its first real spark in the early 2010s - 10,000km away from the continent.

Andela and the Developer Revolution

In 2011, 19-year-old Iyin Aboyeji had an epiphany.

Iyin Aboyeji (AKA “E”) went on to start two Unicorns - Andela and Flutterwave.

His best friend in college had worked in Silicon Valley as part of a work-study program at his school in Canada.

He caught the startup bug and raved about it to Iyin, who was instantly fascinated.

And when he watched the movie, The Social Network, his mind was made up.

He was going to launch a startup in college.

The Social Network (Columbia Pictures)

Iyin’s first startup was an online exam prep platform for students called Bookneto.

Like most firsts - it failed.

But startup life is too much fun to hang up your playing boots.

So, he launched another one called Fora, to help Nigerian professionals take foreign MBA courses online.

Fora did okay, but okay wasn’t enough, so Iyin looked to pivot.

And he stumbled on an even bigger problem:

  • Silicon Valley companies needed more software engineers (at the time)

  • And Africa had many great engineers who were underpaid.

He had a hunch → he could get skilled engineers locally and outsource them to global companies.

To test the idea, he put out a tweet looking to fill four software engineer positions at Fora.

He got 700 applications in one day.

That day, he shut down Fora and started Andela, a developer factory for Africa, serving global clients.

His idea was simple.

He’d gather young Africans, train them to write code and outsource them to global companies like Microsoft and Google.

This time, he had help from five other cofounders - and it worked.

Andela started in a studio apartment in Lagos but quickly grew into a massive startup.

In one year, it raised $10 million in VC funding.

The following year, it caught the world’s attention when Mark Zuckerberg visited the country.

Suddenly, African tech was on the world map.

Andela was writing the African tech story → solving problems and changing lives on the continent.

Some people had never written a line of code before joining Andela.

But in two years, they were working for a global firm earning dollars.

Ten years later, the results are in, and Andela’s spark lit a huge fire:

  • It opened up career paths for more than 175,000 engineers to date

  • Andela alumni have founded many thriving startups in Africa

  • $20 billion has been invested in African startups to date

Andela may not have been Africa’s first startup, but it kicked off a developer revolution that brought us here.

Today, African tech is a long way from its early days.

So, it’s worth asking… what’s up next for African tech?

Going global

Local startups are outgrowing their local markets, and finding out how much exists outside Africa.

And it’s a lot.

Asaak started in Uganda as an asset financing startup for gig workers, helping them buy bikes and smartphones.

Last year, they acquired Flexclub, a Mexican startup that provides bikes to gig workers on credit.

To their surprise, the business works even better there, thanks to better regulations.

And they’re not alone:

  • Helium Health started in Nigeria and acquired Meddy, a Qatar-based telehealth startup, to help it expand into the Middle East.

  • Moove Africa has expanded beyond Africa and is now active in the UK, UAE, India and Thailand - and it’s growing fast.

  • And Kuda has now become a bank in the UK.

African startups are going global, and this story sounds familiar…

Afrobeats to the world

Afrobeats and Amapiano are taking over global airwaves.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Local artists have made great music for a long time but stayed small.

As more money and attention poured into African music, local artists slowly took the world stage.

They used social media and streaming platforms to feed their audiences.

And the past few years have been a wild ride.

Artists like Burnaboy, Tyla, and Davido have become global sensations.

Global attention = Global money + Grammy Awards.

And now, Afrobeats artists headline shows worldwide and have signed to the biggest labels.

They no longer make music for Africans alone. The world is their oyster.

African tech and Afrobeats have a similar story arc, and there’s a lesson in here for local startups.

African startups have global attention, and it might be time for them to take the global stage.

Some African solutions may be a perfect fit for problems around the world.

Asaak found that while Mexico has 10 times the GDP of Uganda, it has a huge unbanked population.

Interest rates on loans were as high as 200%.

When they moved there, their product fitted right in.

Africa’s credit problem had a friend halfway across the world, crying out for the same solution.

And this is shaping up to be the next chapter of the African tech story → local products chasing international markets.

As more local startups shoot for global markets, we’re set up for an exciting phase of African tech on the world stage.

What do you think of African startups building locally for the world?

Hit reply and let us know.

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