Here at Disrupt Africa we’re privileged to meet innovative and enthusiastic startups from across the continent on a daily basis. But – we have to admit – every now and again we meet one that gets us really excited. We’ve fought amongst ourselves long and hard, to bring you what we think are 12 of the top African startups to watch in 2017.
Launched in 2012, Egypt’s Instabug isn’t exactly new to the scene. However, 2016 saw the startup up its game, come out of a four-year beta phase, and make some serious waves. Instabug allows users to offer feedback from within apps to report bugs and issues with the product. The app allows for in-app conversations, powerful crash reporting, advanced analytics, and there’s a range of other cool features too.
In February 2016, Instabug was selected to participate in the Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator accelerator; and announced it was coming out of beta testing at last (fair, seeing as the app was already running on 100 million devices at the time. By June, the startup announced it had closed a US$1.7 million seed round led by Accel Partners, to allow it to expand its suite of tools to provide a comprehensive support kit for mobile apps. Oh, and by the way, Instabug has been used to report 20 million bugs already… and counting. 2017 will be exciting for these guys.
Tunisia’s RoamSmart is something of a startup world veteran, also launched in 2012. But the startup is on a renewed push to take the world by storm, and we think they might just do it in 2017.
RoamSmart’s solutions aim to assist mobile operators to manage their roaming businesses more efficiently; helping operators to optimise workflows and monetise existing roaming sources through an automated data reporting and analysis platform.
The startup has clocked up 29 clients, including Vodacom and Orange – they’re clearly tapping into operator demand. But RoamSmart has set itself high targets for the coming months: accelerated growth and surpassing 50 customers worldwide. Initially funded through private funds and bank loans, RoamStart secured its first funding round in 2016 to help it on its way to world-domination. We’re excited to see what’s next in 2017, aren’t you?
For our third pick, we’ve gone with a very new candidate. Founded in January 2016, Egyptian ed-tech startup Tutorama spent most of the year in closed testing, working through technical kinks and refining its business model.
Tutorama is a platform connecting parents with top quality local tutors in their area. Parents can schedule and pay for sessions as well as monitor the progress of their child online. It’s not only Disrupt Africa who thinks this startup has got what it takes to shake up the ed-tech space.
In April, Tutorama won first place in the ideas track of the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, securing US$50,000.
Hot on the heels of the startup’s first win, global startup pitching competition Seedstars World crowned Tutorama winner of the Egyptian edition of the contest. It will soon represent the country at the Seedstars global finals in Switzerland, standing the chance to win US$1 million funding. We think they have what it takes.
Kenyan career development startup Fuzu only launched in late 2015… but did this team hit the ground running or what? Fuzu provides a one-stop career development platform, which aims to allow users to learn new skills and find jobs regardless of their levels of education.
The platform provides career counselling, learning solutions and information about open positions and industry updates, providing support and guidance at different stages of user’s career. For employers, it offers advanced search and recruitment solutions with competence evaluation and algorithm-based ranking to identify the best fitting candidates.
The startup immediately received backing from the Rockefeller Foundation and Accenture, and by December 2016, Fuzu announced it had raised US$1.88 million in funding to support its business development, and expansion from Kenya to other African countries as well as to Asia.
Kenya’s Flare app is a great example of a startup responding to a local pressing challenge. Created by startup Capsule, Flare is a mobile solution that aggregates available ambulances onto a single system, and allows patients or hospitals to request emergency help via smartphone.
“Today, there is no well-functioning emergency response dispatch system like 911. In Nairobi, Kenya it takes up to two hours to get an ambulance. During an emergency, patients struggle to locate and connect to private ambulance companies through their individual dispatch phone numbers. They are often unaware of their options and waste critical time. Meanwhile, there are up to one hundred available ambulances sitting idly around Nairobi waiting for patients,” explains co-founder Caitlin Dolkart.
The app was under construction and testing with ambulance companies throughout 2016; with the startup raising funding (US$150,000, still open) in the last quarter of the year to enable a full-scale commercial launch. We’re looking forward to seeing the emergency response space in Kenya thoroughly shaken up in 2017.
Tanzania’s Jamii is our next tip from East Africa. Jamii offers a mobile micro-health insurance product for the low income and informal sector. The startup has built a mobile policy management platform that performs all the administration activities of an insurer, and allows users to access cheap insurance via USSD.
Launched in January 2015, the startup has racked up some impressive successes so far. It received backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and won the Tanzanian leg of Seedstars World – progressing to the global finals (just a reminder: up to US$1 million funding up for grabs).
Jamii has promised launches in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa over 2017, and is raising funding. We’ll definitely be keeping a keen eye on this startup.
The bitcoin fad may well be ebbing worldwide; but this South African startup has found an innovative use for bitcoin and blockchain technology which we think is worth following. South African startup Custos Media Technologies uses bitcoin bounties as a means of cracking down on piracy of digital media.
The startup embeds bitcoin bounties as watermarks within videos, which can still be watched normally. However, if the media passes out of the control of the intended recipient – usually a reviewer offered a pre-released version of the movie – there is a small bitcoin reward that can be collected by one downloader using a free tool.
Once someone has pocketed this bounty, Custos can see the transaction on the blockchain and informs the media owner, who can then take whatever action they see fit. We’re not the only ones to have our interest piqued. Custos raised two funding rounds in 2016 – US$265,000 from a South African private investor and the New York-based Digital Currency Group in April, followed by US$420,000 from South Africa’s Technology Innovation Agency in August.
South Africa’s Cape – which rebranded from Asimmetric in November – had a very exciting 2016… and we think it’s just the beginning for this startup. Cape operates a WiFi network and application quality monitoring tool. The Cape Sensor monitors WiFi network and application performance 24/7 by behaving like a real user and reporting issues in real-time before users complain. The Sensor includes features such as mobile connectivity and power backup. It works alongside a cloud-based Dashboard, which Cape says is the simplest WiFi monitoring dashboard available.
Launched in February 2015, Asimmetric (as it then was) became the first South African company to join the San Francisco-based hardware accelerator Highway1. By April 2016, Asimmetric announced it had raised a seven-figure dollar funding round from three United States (US)-based early-stage hardware and Internet of Things (IoT) investment firms, allowing it to launch operations in San Francisco. The startup launched an all-new edition of its product in November, coinciding with its rebranding to Cape… in preparation for great things this year, we’re certain.
Zimbabwe’s Dr CADx is a new kid on the African startups block, but we think these guys are worth keeping an eye on. Founded in August 2016, the startup is developing a computer-aided diagnostic system to help doctors diagnose medical images more accurately, and to provide pervasive radiology diagnostics in regions which currently do not have radiologists.
Designed to be used by medical professionals on existing computers and tablets, the solution is able to diagnose most diseases if it is supplied with the sufficient training data, although the startup’s initial focus is on lung diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and lung cancer, as well as head injuries and breast cancer.
In September 2016 Dr CADx’s prototype achieved an accuracy of 82 per cent in distinguishing between chest X-rays of healthy people from X-rays of patients with TB and those with lung cancer. The startup was named winner of the Zimbabwean edition of Seedstars World, and is heading to the finals to compete for that US$1 million prize to help make trials of the tool possible in 2017, with a view to a full launch of the solution in 2018.
Nigerian digital printing startup Printivo was voted the country’s most investable startup in 2016, beating the likes of Hotels.ng, Andela, and iRokoTV to take the top spot… and we’re not about to disagree – it’s a great venture. Launched in 2014, Printivo aims to help Nigerian startups and SMEs print business and marketing materials with ease, and hopes to grow Nigeria’s US$200 million print market, which has until now had no credible online presence.
Late in 2015 the startup hit the headlines announcing it had closed a six-figure funding round from early-stage technology venture capital firm EchoVC Partners. We also know the startup is already working with blue chip firms such as Google, Samsung, Stanbic IBTC, Honda and Uber. It’s time to sit back, grab the popcorn, and watch what this startup pulls out the bag next.
Nigeria’s SpacePointe develops products geared towards small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a particular focus on retailers. The startup has been busy over the past couple of years; making waves at the DEMO Africa event in 2014 – following which it was selected to pitch at DEMO Fall in Silicon Valley-, and launching extensive pilots in 2015.
But 2016 was its strongest year to date. In June, SpacePointe announced it had raised US$1.2 million in funding from multiple investors, enabling it to launch two in-store business management and point of sale (PoS) applications into the market. The first, CommercePointe, integrates in-store business management and PoS applications with a marketplace platform working off the same inventory, designed for the informal sector.
PointePay is a mobile application with multiple payment options acceptance options, including cash, e-wallet, and debit or credit card. It allows retailers to manage product and inventory, as well as employees and customers, while also offering value added service such as the ability to sell wireless top-up and perform mobile wallet loads. The startup is busy pushing its products out to as many customers as possible, and we’re eager to watch uptake soar in 2017.
Ghanaian startup Tress showed us it means business by going straight for a global launch in February 2016, having been incubated at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). Tress is a social haircare app primarily for black women, which allows women to discover new hairstyles, find out detailed information about hairstyles such as the exact products used, the name of the stylist, and the price range, and share their favourite hairstyles and receive compliments and haircare secrets from the community.
Only four months after launching, Tress was selected to join the Y Combinator Fellowship Programme in Silicon Valley, and took part in the eight-week programme complete with US$20,000 in funding. With the global black haircare industry valued at over US$500 billion, we’re eager to see how much of the market Tress will dominate this year. So there you have it, the Disrupt Africa top 12 to watch for 2017.
We got nine out of 12 in 2016… pretty sure we’ve got 12 for 12 this time round.
Transitional Justice: Evaluating the Importance of Reparation, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation- A South African Perspective
Image source: Days Of The Year website
According to Benyera, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. Anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence and injustice during this time could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Further to this the perpetrators of violence would give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution.
The TRC hearings made international news and many sessions were broadcast. The TRC played a crucial role in the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa and, despite some flaws, is generally regarded as very successful.
The mandate that the TRC was given was to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, reparation and rehabilitation. The TRC had several members which included; Archbishop Desmond Tutu (chairperson), Dr Alex Boraine (Deputy Chairperson), Mary Burton, Advocate Chris de Jager, Bongani Finca, Sisi Khampepe, Richard Lyster, Wynand Malan, Reverend Khoza Mgojo, Hlengiwe Mkhize, Dumisa Ntsebeza (head of the Investigative Unit), Wendy Orr, Advocate Denzil Potgieter, Mapule Ramashala, Dr Faizel Randera, Yasmin Sooka and Glenda Wildschut.
TRC AND RECONCILIATION ACT
TRC was set up by an Act of Parliament, the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. This Act gives effect to the aim of TRC which is to:
- make proposals for measures that will give reparation to victims of human rights violations; and
- rehabilitate and give back the human and civil dignity of people who suffered human rights violations.
Further to this the Act also says that the Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation must endorse and provide recommendation to the President in terms of ways of assisting victims. It is the President and Parliament, and not this Committee, who will decide what to do and how to do it. The recommendations from the Committee will be in the Final Report sent to the President after the Commission has completed its work.
Therefore the role of the Committee is to make recommendations which deal with interim reparation which is for those that require immediate assistance because of the gross human rights violations they suffered.
The Act requires the President and the Ministers of Justice and Finance to establish a President’s Fund. Victims who qualify for assistance will be paid from this Fund.
The importance of reparation, reconciliation and rehabilitation can be described as what can be done to assist victims overcome the damage that they suffered and to make sure that these human rights violations or abuses never happen again. Although this could include money, a financial payment is not the only form of reparation and rehabilitation that the Committee recommends. The Committee looked at individuals, communities and the nation as a whole when making recommendations to achieve reparation and rehabilitation.
In terms of Compensation section 1 of the Promotion of National Unity Act 34 of 1995 defines reparation as any kind compensation, ex gratia payment (payment in favour of), restitution, rehabilitation or recognition which would mean that government is responsible for the payment of reparations. The (TRC report vol. 5, 1998. Ch. 5) stipulates the following five elements of the reparation and rehabilitation policy:
1. Urgent interim reparation: These reparations are more focused on individuals with urgent financial or services need and there was a small budget to facilitate it. The urgent interim reparation was the first form of monetary reparations and it was meant for approximately 17 000 victims who were in dire need of help (Daly 2003: 378).
2. Individual reparation grants: These kinds of grants were those paid to Individual victims of human rights violations for a period of six years would receive monetary reparations. These reparation grants needed to promote three goals, namely,
According to Daly 2003, it was of paramount importance to recognise the victims’ suffering and restore the victims’ individual dignity, facilitate service delivery and subsidise daily living costs.
MECHANISMS FOR RECONCILIATION
According to the Justice site, the committee on TRC had come up with guiding principles which then aided with proposals that prompt and promote reconciliation these included the following;
Development centred: A development-centred approach means that individuals and communities are helped to take control back. To take control of their own lives through the dissemination of information and the use of knowledge particularly with regard to available resources and to help them use these resources in the way that benefits them most.
Simple, Efficient and Fair: All the available resources were used in a way that would give the most benefit to the people who receive them.
Culturally Appropriate: The process of rehabilitation needed to be sensitive to the religious and cultural beliefs of the community.
Community-based: Community-based services and delivery should be strengthened and expanded. For the people by the people.
Capacity Development: Local capacity building as well as the delivery of services were addressed as part of addressing the imbalances of the past.
Promoting Healing and Reconciliation: The aim of TRC was to bring people together and to promote understanding and reconciliation.
The TRC land reform programme consisted of three components that were adopted: According to an article by Diale the components were as follows; first, the restitution of land to those that were dispossessed of land after 1913; second, redistribution to rectify the racially skewed distribution of land which was resultant of colonial and apartheid policies, and; third, tenure reform for those whose tenure was insecure because of past discriminatory laws and practices.
The Restitution of Land Rights Act, No 22 of 1994, geared the Chief Land Claims Commissioner which would oversee the Regional Land Claims Commissions, which subsequently investigate cases and take them to the Land Claims Court for settlement. Because of the slow initial rate of delivery, the Restitution Act was amended in 1999 to provide for administrative settlements of claims: the Land Claims Court which would be used only in those cases where agreement could not be reached – as in the Dukuduku land claim.
Dukuduku Land Claim case
The Dukuduku forest in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa is subject to one such claim to land restitution, which remains unsettled for over 10 years. The Dukuduku forest was supposed to be incorporated into the wetland park as an World Heritage Site. The forest houses many subsistence farmers, of which some form part of the group of land claimants. There is an interplay of community and authority and in so doing setting the pace of where claims for historical redress materialises both in processes of land restitution and in the acquisition of land through ‘illegal squatting’.
Knut G, suggests that Dukuduku forest encompasses and explores the strongly desired and well deserved restoration of lost rights to land and resources and the formalisation of these rights which then draws on both our past and the present to form a caveat with its intricately woven complexity it defies such straightforward processes. The land claim process feeds into existing struggles and creates new ones, and in this way, the larger cause of the land claimants – to obtain recognition of property claims and land belonging – is infused by conflicts external and internal to the community of claimants.
In closing, redressing the imbalances and injustices of the past require countries to find ways of emerging from conflict and repression by addressing human rights violations. Transitional justice is entrenched in accountability and redress for victims. Ignoring massive abuses is an easy way out but it destroys the values on which any decent society can be built. Therefore the toughest balancing act must be engaged by finding a balance between the law and politics of the past and in doing so putting victims and their dignity first, it signals the way forward for a renewed commitment to make sure ordinary citizens are safe in their own countries – safe from the abuses of their own authorities and effectively protected from violations by others.
Written by: Dr. Kim Lamont-Mbawuli
Sunsets and Waterfalls Book Launch: Restoring Hearts for a Better South Africa
Sunsets and Waterfalls Founders, Cindy Jacobs and Toni Erasmus (Source: Toni Erasmus)
Being plunged straight into an unprecedented global pandemic and having been challenged with the devastating realities of our country, Sunsets and Waterfalls (S&W) saw an opportunity in realising that South Africans hold the answers to their own generational outcry. With that being said, straight out of a pandemic, Sunsets and Waterfalls (S&W) was birthed. Founded by Cindy Jacobs and Toni Erasmus, S&W is a platform for South African women, children and families – empowering all to share their raw and real stories.
These two women have a shared vision to drive change at both grassroots and government level, where they aim to develop and impact South Africa and her leaders to restore the soul of our nation by tackling the core issues of our nation- one story and one heart at a time.
On the 1st and 2nd of May 2021, Jacobs and Erasmus launched their poetry book “Sunsets and Waterfalls”, a poetry book designed to connect and empower all people to own their raw and real stories. The book is a compilation of over 300 poetry pieces and 300 impactful line art illustrations by Carter Constant, depicting the raw and real-life events and stories of two women who have bravely overcome the traumatic experiences and enlightenment of their broken hearts.
“We need young leaders with new ideas, new approaches and empathy to effect meaningful change.” This was the view of Melene Rossouw, co-founder and director of the Women Lead Movement, speaking at Gallery South, situated in Muizenberg on Sunday, 2 May 2021 – one of the events of their weekend launch.
Young as they are, they recognise that this is not an exclusively personal and individual journey. They know that the soul of the nation, South Africa, is deeply wounded, and they seek to enable people in local communities to become active change drivers who can pursue social change at both grassroots and government levels.
“I’m really honoured to be sharing this day with both Toni and Cindy,” said Rossouw. “In my brief but deeply insightful engagement with these two exceptional leaders, I was transcended in both mind and soul,” she said. When she met them, Rossouw was immediately struck by the young women’s authenticity born of their ability to consciously explore their own wounded histories, personal and political.
“We want the entire South Africa to join in as we believe: When hearts unite, mountains move!”
Rethinking African Leadership: Right resources, wrong leaders
African Leaders at the African Union building (Source: AU)
How possible is it that the continent with the most of the world’s natural resources, hardworking labour force and favourable climate conditions could have earned the title of being labeled poor and be reduced to beggars than those that have less resources? The scenario that Africa has created of being rich but not prosperous has presented a paradox whose puzzle needs a careful consideration to spot the missing link to enable Africa retain its rightful title, “The prosperous land of opportunity.”
Since the management of resources and the driving of the development agenda falls mainly on leaders, the attainment of real meaningful development can best be achieved when there is in place the right leaders who are selfless and put the interests of their countries and continent above their own. With many African countries having attained independence decades ago, what type of leaders should be put in place to change the African Narrative?
Development focused leaders
Over 20% of current African leaders have been in power for over 20 years and seem to have run out of ideas of what to do differently. They instead usually maintain the status quo of running affairs despite shifts in various development fundamentals. This trend has resulted in rampant corruption, political instability and economic stagnation because the leaders become preoccupied with how retain power and silence challengers at the expense of development. Most African countries are engulfed in discussing political issues and other non-development essential matters that have painted their countries black, thus affecting local investor confidence. For a country to be able to produce enough for exports, it must be able to focus on producing more than local demand and create a suitable environment for the each sector to thrive.
However, African countries have focused their efforts on political issues and planning how to win the next election instead of what milestone to achieve. This derails efforts to work towards real development. African countries have nicely drawn up development plans with well elaborated visions and objectives but the challenge has been implementation. Therefore, Africa needs leaders who are focused and determined to develop it.
Local solution believers
Speaking at the UN general Assembly in 1984, former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara argued that „it was time for men of Africa to come to their senses and turn to their societies to develop solutions that will be credible even at the international level. Leaders must carry out profound changes so that they free themselves from the foreign domination and exploitation that lead only to failure of the countries.‟ Africa needs leaders who believe in local solutions and will advocate advancing these solutions. Not leaders who always parade problems before advanced countries, seeking for aid and solutions like beggars who are helpless.
Statistics have shown that, while Africa receives help in various sectors, it loses more. The Health Poverty Action report research found that while about $134 billion flows in Africa in each year largely in form of loans, foreign investment and aid, over $192 billion is taken out in profits made by foreign companies, tax evasion and in costs of adapting to climate change which results into a net loss of about $58 billion annually. For how long will African leaders seek foreign help when they can believe and try local solutions suggested by their people? It is interesting to note that while it is the responsibility of leaders to improve the living conditions of their people and provide better health facilities, a number of African leaders would rather seek medical care from advanced countries.
Unsurprisingly, a number of African leaders have died in foreign countries while seeking treatment and this point to the fact that they do not believe in their medical facilities. Africa needs leaders who will eat, drink, work, rejoice and face problems together with their people and make a difference together. It is not enough to build hospitals that leaders themselves fail to go to or have schools which they cannot send their children. Therefore, Africa needs leaders who will inspire confidence in their people and be open to listen and support local solutions.
The leaders that Africa needed at the time of independence achieved their aspirations and gained the freedom that they sought. But times and challenges have since changed and African problems are no longer about seeking independence and therefore, Africa needs leaders that can read the time and accommodate change. The problem of having long serving leaders has been that they want to use the development mechanisms that worked decades ago and apply it in today’s world. Knowledge and technology have advanced; populations have grown and therefore needs have increased and changed. Africa needs leaders who will collaborate to develop it.
The ideal African leader is one that will upscale the interests of Africa first and work with others to maximise the African potential in trade, resources and prosperity. What is worrying about Africa is the fact that it trades more with countries outside the continent than among member countries. The share of exports from Africa with the rest of the world ranged from 80 – 90% for the period 2000 to 2017 (Economic Development in Africa Report, 2019) while intra Africa exports averaged only 16.6%. To boost economic fortunes, leaders must support the Africa Continental Free Trade Area with a view of working together in solving local problems.
Africa also needs leaders who accommodate the views of the youths who are creative, energetic, and innovative and not view them as a threat. Youths are usually updated with latest changes that should be incorporated in the development matrix of today’s world and therefore, they should not be side-lined with an out-dated proverb “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” when the future and tomorrow is now.
Indeed, despite the abundant availability of needed resources for development, Africa’s current situation can largely be blamed on leaders it has had. Leadership mindset change is therefore needed now than ever before.
Written by: Nchimunya Muvwende, an Economist