African startups land deals at European tech events
Seven African tech companies wooed investors, networked and showcased their products at two of the world’s biggest tech gatherings in Europe.
For African tech startups, finding investors means getting into the spaces where venture capitalists gather.
Seven companies received exactly that, by attending two of the world’s biggest tech events: Web Summit in Lisbon, and Slush in Helsinki.
With 70,000 attendees from 1 to 4 November, Web Summit gathers CEOs, founders, investors, media, politicians and cultural figureheads. It’s a unique opportunity to meet people looking to use technology to reshape the world.
Muchu Kaingu, CTO of Lupiya, went to Web Summit with startup funding already in place. With his wife Evelyn Kaingu, CEO of Lupiya, their micro-finance company Lupiya had already raised $1 million in 2020. They were looking for a new round of funding to grow the business and expand into markets beyond their home country, Zambia.
“As Africa rapidly digitizes, we’re seeing wider adoption of ecommerce. There’s more demand for online payment options,” he said. “We have learned that our customers require holistic banking services, providing low barrier to entry investment opportunities, and allowing customers to easily transact using online channels.”
Through ITC’s #FastTrackTech Africa project, powered by the Switch ON initiative, Lupiya and Zambian food delivery platform AfriOnline each had a booth for a day. Kaingu also received a coveted slot to pitch on stage for about 80 people.
“We’re now talking to three technology partners,” Kaingu said. “These are partners we can leverage to continue building our platform. We’re also talking with an internationalization partner to register a holding company in the US, which would give us better access to capital.”
And his meetings with investors have already taken concrete steps forward. Lupiya has signed non-disclosure agreements with two investors, a first step in exploring possible fundraising to grow their market internationally.
Visions for how to scale
In Helsinki, NTF V and #FastTrackTech sent five companies to network among the 12,000 attendees that gathered during Slush, which has established its reputation on its high investor/startup founder ratio and its focus on being an event “by founders for founders”. Souleymane Gning represented Senegalese online insurance company Assuraf. Abdoulaye Maiga went to pitch his ride-hailing app Teliman, which lets users find motorcycle taxis and Tigabu Abriham showcased Eshi Express, an online delivery service in Ethiopia.
From Uganda, Eric Nana Agyei represented MobiPay, which provides small farmers with digital payment solutions. Also in agritech, Jean-Delmas Ehui brought ICT4Dev from Côte d'Ivoire, to showcase how his company uses data to help small farmers improve their harvests.
They all held meetings with other company founders, as well as potential partners and investors. For many of the African businesses, Slush opened a window on how to scale businesses that they had often bootstrapped with their own money to bring services that hadn’t previously existed in their countries.
When Maiga started Teliman in 2018 in Bamako, the city didn’t have any motorcycle drivers – much less an app to link customers to that service.
“Now we have about 500 drivers on the platform, and on average they’re doing 10-12 rides a day,” he said. The benefit of attending the event in Helsinki was to see how tech companies around the world are tackling problems that he also faces in Mali.
Among the immediate takeaways that Maiga noted were meetings with third-party providers who could help manage costs for critical web services like Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services.
“For us, it was interesting just to see the different meetings and the different presentations, because it was very inspiring in terms of seeing what’s being done in the world,” he said. “It gave a vision of how to scale from being smaller to being bigger.”
About the project
Netherlands Trust Fund V - NTF V
The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF) (July 2021 – June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre. The programme supports MSMEs in the digital technologies and agribusiness sectors. Its ambition is two-fold: to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of food systems, partially through digital solutions, and drive the internationalisation of tech start-ups and export of IT & BPO companies in selected Sub-Saharan African countries.
FastTrackTech Switch ON
The International Trade Centre’s #FastTrackTech project is harnessing the transformative power of the digital economy to generate jobs and contribute to the economic growth and productivity. The project is powered by the Switch ON initiative. ITC’s recent initiative, Switch ON, focuses on digital connectivity, prioritizes investments in the sector and calls on policymakers to create the right conditions for small businesses in developing countries to profit from digital trade and entrepreneurship. It also focuses on delivering affordable networks and unlocking access through education and digital literacy.