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Tech and the future of African business

Growth in Africa’s tech sector has been stratospheric in recent times.



Tsitsi Mutendi.

Twitter, a global social media giant, is now owned by a South African-born, U.S.-based billionaire Elon Musk. Elon is not a stranger to controversy and is defiant in his pursuit to create outlandish but advanced solutions, with Tesla being the most prominent. His focus on innovation and solutions has made him the billionaire he is. However, his heritage as an African brings us to the emerging solution and wealth builders on the African continent. It’s clear that the global pandemic caused a lot of havoc and loss globally; however, amidst the chaos, the boom in technology has created riches at traditionally unprecedented rates worldwide, which has seen recent university graduates being turned into young billionaires. A new generation of business leaders who are charting a new path for the next generation of wealth holders are emerging and being hailed “the new tycoons.” They are hungry to take a slice of these billion-dollar empires with their innovations. 

Africa’s tech sector is no different, and we see its growth going stratospheric. Africa has been dubbed the “Promised Land” for Internet innovation thanks to its burgeoning technologies, open markets, and endless opportunities,. We have seen rising tech companies becoming “unicorns” – tech firms valued at $1 billion or more in recent years, coupled with a widely held belief that Africa can escape its poverty by skipping enormous stages of development through the use of technology. Those proponents of this belief put their faith in technology’s ability to help Africa leapfrog and escape a history marred with exploitation to a future where it is a world leader in tech development. It is correct to say that Africa has shown leadership in tech advancement in certain areas. The creation of platforms like M-Pesa in Kenya and Ecocash in Zimbabwe revolutionized the unbanked majority. It allowed them to use mobile platforms to be players in the monetary economy. These platforms came with convenience and innovation. Jumia was subsequently listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Andela, with its $100-million Series-D fundraising round, has trained hundreds of software developers and engineers for companies around the world, and Kobo360, a leading tech startup for the logistics industry, has raised over $30 million in private equity from Silicon Valley. Wave, a mobile money provider based in Francophone Senegal, raised the biggest ever Series A round in Africa. Payments processor Flutterwave made it possible for online transactions to happen across the continent like never before.

We have seen tech hubs growing across the continent to support this movement toward tech advancement, primarily in the economic centers. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, with more than 200 million inhabitants, has been at the forefront of this movement. According to a 2019 report by the Center for Global Development, Nigeria overtook South Africa as the leading investment destination for technology with 55 active technology hubs, which accounted for $94.9 million in funds raised. Nigeria is considered Africa’s most significant technology market and accounts for 24 percent of Internet users in Africa, with 154 million people online in December 2021, as per figures from Internet World Stats, 2022. Nigeria alone has more than 200 financial technology (fintech) companies, with the sector attracting global interest from companies such as Mastercard and Visa. South Africa came in a close second with $60 million raised and 59 active startups. Notably, in Francophone Africa, where Wave comes from, Senegal’s tech ecosystem – which is home to around 70 startups – had only raised around $26 million in 2021, and the emergence of Wave shifted the space for the region.

According to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, North America-headquartered investors accounted for 42 percent of all African venture capital deals in the last five years, with only 20 percent of venture cash coming from Africa-based investors, forcing the continent’s entrepreneurs to seek support from the West. The new tycoons in the African tech space are driven by much more than capitalism. There is a keen sense of responsibility towards their countries and the continent that moves beyond monetary gain rather than creating real impact. The solutions being tackled by tech in Africa are focused on finding creative solutions to fill gaps left by the governments. These solutions range from edutech solutions to bridge the weak public education systems and make learning more accessible and effective to providing financial freedom through innovative fintech solutions that ultimately engage large segments of the population previously outside the banking system, and that cannot access traditional financial services.

Let’s look at some of these emerging tech millionaires and their solutions.

Abasiama Idaresit: Through his digital marketing agency, Wild Fusion, this Nigerian-born digital marketing expert has provided online strategy solutions to a number of leading international corporations located in sub-Saharan Africa, including Visa, Samsung and Unilever. Idaresit founded his firm in 2010 on a bootstrap budget, but the $6-million enterprise is slated to make $10 million in one year.

Adii Pienaar: At 28, Adii Pienaar leads a startup that has generated more than $3 million in annual revenue. Pienaar helped launch WooThemes before Automattic acquired it for a reported over $30-million; in 2019, his startup Conversio was acquired by the CM Group — reportedly for over R100-million (over $6.7-million).

Jason Njoku: The massive popularity of Nollywood films propelled Nigerian Jason Njoku, the founder of the “Netflix of Africa,” to millionaire status. The mastermind behind iRokoTV, the world’s biggest distributor of Nigerian films, created a hugely successful platform that garnered more than 500,000 subscribers. The startup has raised more than $12 million from New York- and Swedish-based hedge funds and investment firms.

Funke Opeke, Founder, Main Street Technologies. Funke Opeke moved back to Nigeria after working as an executive at Verizon. When she noticed how poor Internet connectivity was in Nigeria, she started Mainstreet Technologies, the company behind the development of the MainOne Cable, to provide network solutions to businesses in Nigeria and West Africa in 2008. MainOne went live in 2010 as West Africa’s first privately-owned, open-access, undersea high-capacity 7,000-kilometer cable stretching from Portugal to West Africa with landings along Accra, Dakar, Abidjan, and Lagos. The company, which services businesses in more than 10 African countries, is now an Equinix subsidiary, and the acquisition, subject to regulatory approval, is pegged at $320 million. When completed, it will become the largest acquisition of a tech company in Nigeria and the first landmark deal made by an African woman tech CEO.

Mitchell Elegbe, Founder, Interswitch. Interswitch is a leading African integrated payments and digital commerce platform company headquartered in Lagos. Elegbe is group managing director and CEO and a member of the board of directors at Interswitch, a business he conceptualised and has led since 2002 when the company went into operation. Under his leadership, Interswitch has remarkably diversified its business, broadened distribution channels, and expanded into new markets across Africa, driving revolutionary payment innovation and social impact and delivering strong growth in revenue and profits (recognised by Deloitte in 2014 as ‘Africa’s fastest-growing technology business’). In 2019, Visa bought one-fifth of Interswitch at a valuation of $1 billion, making Interswtich Africa’s first fintech unicorn.

Odunayo Ewenyi, Founder, Piggyvest is arguably the biggest digital savings and investment technology platform in Nigeria. They have over 3 million users. Piggyvest enables Nigerian debit cardholders to save small amounts of money frequently with minimal effort. They automate the process of saving tiny amounts. The concept and product are simple; savers can deposit as little as $1 a day into their online account, and cannot touch their savings, until an agreed withdrawal date (unless they are happy to pay a five-percent early withdrawal fee), while all the time accruing around six-percent interest per annum on automated savings. 

Shola Akinlade, Co-founder and CEO, Paystack, U.S.-based digital payment powerhouse Stripe, acquired Nigeria’s Paystack, reportedly for over $200 million. Founded in Lagos in 2015, Paystack says it now has more than 60,000 clients, including corporations like Domino’s Pizza and telecom giant, MTN.

Obi Ozor, Co-Founder, Kobo360, Obi Ozor is the co-founder of Nigerian logistics firm, Kobo360. The Goldman Sachs–backed platform matches truck drivers with consignments. Kobo360 is like a haulage twist on the Uber concept. Ozor was once Uber Nigeria’s operations chief (and an investment banker for JPMorgan). Kobo360, which serves the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and DHL, was launched in 2017 to overcome inefficiencies in Nigerian logistics infrastructure. Kobo360 has expanded into Kenya, Ghana, Togo, and Uganda and has over 23,000 drivers on its platform. Ozor and his co-founder, Ife Oyedele, were selected to join the Endeavor network of high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

Gregory Rockson, Daniel Shoukimas, and James Finucane founded Ghanaian health tech startup mPharma, securing $35 million in a Series-D funding round to expand its operations across existing and new markets. mPharma is a Ghana-based healthcare startup that manages pharmaceutical inventory on behalf of mom-and-pop pharmacies across Africa. The healthcare startup was founded in 2013 to provide innovative financing and inventory management solutions to hospitals, pharmacies, and patients. It currently serves about 1 million patients annually through 300 partner pharmacies in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Gabon.

Davis Musinguzi, Rocket Health’s co-founder and CEO. Launched in 2012, Rocket Health offers online medical consultation, collection of samples, and delivery of medicines. They also have a USSD service for those without an Internet connection. After nearly a decade of operation in Uganda, the startup is now set to scale its integrated digital health solution to more regions across the country and within East Africa over the next two years, following a $5-million Series-A funding. In the long term, it will pursue growth opportunities in West Africa. Other telehealth startups in the space across Africa include Ghanaian health tech startup mPharma, which revealed plans to set up 100 virtual centers in its markets by the first quarter of the year, and Quro Medical. This South African startup offers home care complemented by telemedicine service. Rocket Health runs its own lab, and pharmacy delivery services, which Musinguzi said helps them remain in control of the delivery of products and services. They charge a $3 consultation fee and $1.5 for drug delivery. The company has grown from a few thousand virtual consultations a year to about 400,000, propelled by the demand for remote healthcare during the pandemic.

Tech is becoming an emerging giant in the African industry sphere. The above companies are just a slice of the tech space and the innovations created by the next generation of business owners. The mindset and focus of this new wealthy set of Africans are yet to emerge. There is no clarity in their choice for philanthropy and how they will navigate this space. Will they choose the previously favoured methodology of the current generation, or will they create tech solutions that speak to philanthropic change? Another interesting question is, will the Millennials transition to Gen Z with a more intentional structure, or will they also face the generational transfer issues their predecessors have experienced? Only time will tell as these innovators continue to disrupt the space.

Tsitsi Mutendi is a co-founder of African Family Firms, an organization that aims to facilitate the continuity of African family businesses across generations. She is also the lead consultant at Nhaka Legacy Planning and the host of the Enterprising Families Podcast.

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Led by Egypt’s richest family, Orascom Construction sees profit drop 43.1 percent in Q1 2022

Nassef Sawiris owns 28.97 percent of the multinational construction group, or 33,825,323 shares.



Nassef Sawiris.

Despite reporting a double-digit percent increase in profit in 2021 due to improved collections and liquidity management, Orascom Construction reported a profit of $15.3 million at the end of the first six months of 2021.

Orascom Construction is Egypt’s richest family-founded multinational engineering and construction corporation.

The leading engineering and construction behemoth reported a profit of $15.3 million in the first quarter of 2022, down more than 43.1 percent from the $26.9 million in profit reported in the first quarter of 2021, according to recently published financial results.

Despite a 20-percent increase in revenue from $816.6 million to $979.9 million, the group’s earnings power was hampered by a surge in direct costs above $880 million, combined with an increase in operating expenses during the period under review.

Osama Bishai, CEO of Orascom Construction, commented on the financial performance, saying: “We indicated in the previous quarter that we expected to experience challenges associated with the changing global economic environment.”

“As always, we continue to prioritize project controls, cost optimization, supply chain, and collections. Our new awards strategy is also unchanged as we continue to focus on high-quality projects across our geographies in sectors in which we are competitive,” he said.

The group was able to keep its project backlog at $5.5 billion by awarding $617.5 million in new contracts during the first quarter of 2022.

Despite the depreciation of the Egyptian pound, the backlog is consistent with the level achieved a year ago, as it was supported by high-profile infrastructure projects in Egypt denominated in foreign currency, as well as projects in other markets in the Middle East, Africa and the United States.

As part of its commitment to shareholders, the board proposed a $27-million dividend distribution to be paid in the third quarter of 2022. This is the group’s fifth consecutive year of dividend payments.

Orascom Construction is a leading global engineering and construction contractor, with active operations and investments in the Middle East, Africa, and the United States.

Egypt’s richest man Nassef Sawiris owns 28.97 percent of the group, or 33,825,323 ordinary shares, while OS Private Trust Company owns 51.8 percent of the Egypt-based contractor for the benefit of the Sawiris family.

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South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, wife join world leaders at 2022 WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland

Motsepe is a member of the WEF Board of Trustees.



South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe. ©Billionaires.Africa

South African billionaire mining mogul Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious Moloi-Motsepe have been confirmed as two of the 35 South African business representatives who will attend an event at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, tomorrow, which is partially dedicated to promoting South Africa as an attractive investment destination.

The event, “Preparing for Africa’s Growing Global Role,” was developed in partnership with the South African Broadcasting Corp.

The 2022 WEF Annual Meeting, which runs from May 22 to 26, is convening at the most consequential geopolitical and geo-economic moment in the past three decades against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19, and the continuing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Motsepe and his wife, a renowned medical practitioner, join South African Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor as top representatives who will offer ideas about how to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in Africa.

Other South African business leaders who will attend the WEF Annual Meeting this week include: Leila Fourie, group CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; Rene Parker, CEO of RLabs; Nicola Galombik, executive director of Yellowwood; and, Bronwyn Nielsen, founder and CEO of Nielsen Media and Associates.

According to a statement issued by the South African government, the event will also provide an opportunity for the government to share an update on South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan, promote the country’s economic reforms, and advance critical public-private partnerships to support its development goals.

Just last weekend, Motsepe, a member of the WEF Board of Trustees, passed Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to re-emerge as Southern Africa’s richest Black businessman.

According to Forbes, Motsepe is back on top as Southern Africa’s richest Black billionaire, with a net worth of $3.1 billion as of press time on May 21, while Masiyiwa’s net worth has dropped to $2.7 billion.

Motsepe’s net worth has increased from $2.9 billion at the start of the year to $3.1 billion at the time of writing, owing to a 6.1-percent increase in the share price of African Rainbow Minerals, the South African mining and minerals company that he founded in 1997.

In addition to other assignments at this year’s WEF Annual Meeting, the billionaire will also speak on, “Sport as a Unifying Force,” alongside Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

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East Africa

Kenyan businessman John Kimani receives $1.2 million in dividends from agro-allied firm, Kakuzi

Kimani owns a 32.3-percent stake in Kenyan agricultural company.



Kenyan businessman John Kimani.

Despite a double-digit decline in the profit of Kenya-based agro-allied company Kakuzi in 2021, Kenyan businessman and leading media mogul John Kimani was paid a dividend of Ksh139.3 million ($1.2 million) from his stake in the agricultural firm on Friday.

Kimani, one of the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s wealthiest investors, owns a 32.3-percent stake in Kakuzi, He also controls substantial equity positions in Centum Investments and Nation Media Group.

The $1.2-million dividend, which was paid into Kimani’s bank account on Fri., May 20, following shareholder approval at the group’s annual general meeting, was paid from the Ksh431-million ($3.7-million) payout approved by the company’s board based on its 2021 financial results.

At the end of 2021, Kakuzi’s board of directors proposed paying its shareholders a dividend of Ksh22 ($0.189) per share, a 22-percent increase from the Ksh18 ($0.154) per share paid last year, despite reporting a 48.6-percent drop in earnings from Ksh622.03 million ($5.43 million) in 2020 to Ksh319.74 million ($2.8 million).

The company’s 8.7-percent drop in revenue from Ksh3.61 billion ($31.5 million) to Ksh3.29 billion ($28.7 million) caused the earnings to decline, which did not prevent the company from increasing its dividend payout by 22 percent.

Kakuzi Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a assured shareholders that strategic plans had been activated to accelerate and enhance returns by diversifying the variety of produce delivered to domestic and global markets in an effort to reward shareholders with an even higher dividend payout in the coming years.

“We are part of a global marketplace and the products we produce often face stiff competition from producers in other countries. We, therefore, embarked on a very significant diversification program several years ago to ensure that Kakuzi is not dependent on any one crop,” Ng’ang’a said.

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