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  • Thierry Spanjaard

Africa, next breeding ground for unicorns

For a few years already, the technology world has been focusing on unicorns, companies defined as having achieved a valuation over one billion dollars. One may admit that, just given the difference in terms of standard of living, this seems easier to reach in the most affluent parts of this world than in Africa. However, a few of these unicorns, or soon-to-be unicorns, have been uncovered in Africa. Most analysts identify Interswitch, a digital payments and commerce company providing solutions to the whole ecosystem from individuals to governments and financial institutions; Promasidor, a South African company selling food products online in over 30 African countries; Cell C, a fast-growing mobile network operator in South Africa, and Africa Internet Group (AIG), a group of e-commerce companies headquartered in Nigeria, now all operating under Jumia brand name.

Jumia, often dubbed Africa’s Amazon, has succeeded in turning its difficult macro-economic environment into a recipe for success: when they realized eCommerce was hindered by insufficient delivery services, they started their own one, when they realized they had difficulties hiring people, they started their job platforms, and closer to our scope, when Jumia management considered payment systems were not yet at the level they expected they started their own payment platform.

In our industry, there is a significant number of highly recognized well established players, many of them exhibiting this week at Cartes Afrique, including as Adria Business & Technology, BITS or Business IT Solutions, B3gTech, CMI, Dataprotect, Gemadec, HPS Worldwide, PayLogic, PCard, S2M, all from Morocco; ANSUT from Cote d’Ivoire; Satim from Algeria; Gimtel from Mauritania; Monetique Tunisie from Tunisia and MicroSave with an international footprint.

Other companies are showing up in Africa that would well be among the next unicorns. Building upon the experience accumulated thanks to mobile money platforms, several companies are emerging in Fintech, such as Zoona, from Mauritius that aims at providing reliable financial services to underserved communities, or Mergims, a secure payment platform based in Rwanda, along with several blockchain specialists.

With the growth of population and economy in Africa, will it be the best place where to look for unicorns?

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