12 African startups to watch in 2016 - CNBC Africa

12 African startups to watch in 2016

Special Report

by Gabriella Mulligan, Disrupt Africa* 0

Photo: Pixabay

Yesterday CNBCAfrica.com published Africa has a technology problem, just how bad is it? The article generated lots of social media feedback with some arguing that this presents Africa with an opportunity. Today we bring you an article on promising technology startups that Disrupt Africa kindly allowed us to republish.

2015 has been a busy year in Africa’s tech startup ecosystem, with startups launching, raising funding, getting acquired, or closing down, on a daily basis.  Of the startups just setting out on their journey, some have lingered on our mind.  So here, meet the 12 emerging African tech startups we at Disrupt Africa will be watching in 2016.  We expect exciting things.



Egypt-based startup Yaoota operates a shopping search engine helping users compare products and prices in a variety of online stores.  Launched in July 2014 and initially self-funded, Yaoota helps shoppers navigate through the increasing number of online products in Egypt, compare prices, and shop directly from the merchant.

In October, the startup raised US$2.7 million in funding – the largest investment in an Egyptian tech startup to date – from the Abu Dhabi-based KBBO Group to aid its expansion across Africa and the Middle East; so 2016 promises to be an exciting year for the startup.


Moroccan startup DabaDoc allows users to find doctors and book appointments online.  

Initially launched in Morocco in 2014, the startup expanded to Algeria and Tunisia in May, listing over 2,000 doctorsacross the three countries.  In September, DabaDoc launched in Nigeria and South Africa, as part of a rapid pan-continental expansion push; and by that time featured doctors in 72 different specialties across 50 cities.

DabaDoc has already been recognised in a number of competitions. It was selected as one of 10 startups in the MENA region to participate in the Aspen Blackstone programme in Silicon Valley; and it took first place at the GIST competition in Casablanca.


Shield Finance

Kenyan startup Shield Finance uses proprietary technology and leverages mobile money to offer underbanked employees affordable salary advances directly to their mobile phones, generating revenue on interest charged on salary advances.

The startup has been gaining acclaim recently at a number of competitions.  In June it came out on top against five other teams at the DEMO Africa pre-pitch event held in Nairobi, becoming the second startup to book its place at the main event in Lagos, Nigeria in September. In July, it was a winner in the finance category at the PIVOT East mobile startups pitching competition in Nairobi.

In August, Disrupt Africa reported Shield Finance raised an undisclosed round of funding from a local angel investor.  Nonetheless, the startup is still looking to raise a seed round of US$350,000 for equity, which will be used to hire sales staff and ramp up its technical capacity in readiness to scale.


Also from Kenya, social enterprise WeFarm has developed a peer-to-peer (P2P) knowledge sharing platform for small-scale farmers in rural communities, which allows farmers to ask questions via SMS shortcodes and receive answers from other registered users.

The platform is open to anyone, including experts and those wishing to do business with farmers, and is available in both English and Swahili. It is approaching 50,000 questions asked on the platform, with 60 per cent of its users active monthly.

Launched in November last year, WeFarm already has over 38,000 users, and is targeting more than 500,000 active farmers by the end of 2016.


Rwandan startup SafeMotos is looking to address the country’s shocking road traffic accident statistics, particularly with regard to motorcycles – with 80 per cent of road accidents in Rwanda involving a motorbike.


SafeMotos is an Uber-esque hailing app for Rwanda’s popular motorcycle taxis.  However, there is a twist in the app’s backend, which makes the most of the vehicle telematics industry. The company installs smartphones on motorbike taxis to track drivers’ behaviour and register data, pushing bad drivers to the outskirts of the system.

The startup has raised US$85,000, and plans to hit 400 trips per day in the next couple of months.


Kenyan startup CladLight is also using tech to improve transport safety.

CladLight’s Smart Jacket uses wearable technology to make riding a motorcycle more safe. The jacket is equipped with signal transmitters on the back of the jacket, displaying the direction in which a driver intends to turn when the bike’s indicators are used. It also has a GPS tracker, allowing owners to determine the vehicle’s location.

The startup has raised over US$40,000, and hopes to mass produce Smart Jackets for motorcycle assembly plants, insurance companies and bike retail stores.



South African startup Giraffe wants to improve access to job listings for the low and medium skilled jobs market using mobile.

Jobseekers sign up to Giraffe by sending a shortcode via SMS or visiting the Giraffe website. The platform asks a series of questions, culminating in a short digital CV.

Employers log onto the platform and submit a staffing request. Giraffe’s algorithm automatically contacts all suitable candidates via SMS, and asks if they would like to interview. It then automatically schedules interviews for those who respond affirmatively, and forwards their digital CVs to the employer.

Launched in February this year, by December the startup had hit 70,000 users only 10 months after launching.

It was crowned “the best startup in South Africa” at the Seedstars World competition held in Johannesburg, with the Giraffe team to represent South Africa at the global final of Seedstars World in Switzerland in 2016.


South African startup SweepSouth provides a platform that allows ​users to book home cleaning services online from their ​phone, laptop or tablet, connecting homeowners with “an experienced, reliable, vetted and insured cleaner in minutes”.

Launched in June 2014 and self-funded, the startup said it had reached an operational break-even point by September.

In May this year it raised its first funding round, led by Newtown Partners – a local seed fund established by Vinny Lingham and Llew Claasen – and also including Pule Taukobong’s AAN and Polo Leteka Radebe’s Identity Development Fund (IDF).

SweepSouth said the funding would enable it to accelerate its growth further and scale rapidly – so this startup is definitely one to keep an eye on in 2016.

Vula Mobile

South African startup Vula Mobile connects general health workers in remote areas with specialists in hospitals via a mobile app.  The startup is initially focusing on eye health.

Vula Mobile allows health workers to capture patient information, take photographs, do a basic eye test and record a brief medical history before sending it directly to a specialist. They can ask for advice over a dedicated messaging platform, and decide on the best course of care for the patient.

Initially backed by grants from the likes of the SAB Foundation, DG Murray Trust, The Innovation Hub and the Shuttleworth Foundation, Vula Mobile is currently raising its first round of investment.

The startup pitched for funding at the Sparkup! Live event in Cape Town in May, walking away with funding offers to the tune of ZAR1.1 million (US$90,000) from Ernst Hertzog, Brett Commaille from AngelHub Ventures and Vasili Sofiadellis



Ghanaian startup meQasa is a web and mobile based real estate platform, providing a free service which helps brokers, landlords and other real estate industry professionals conduct business efficiently online, while also simplifying the search experience for prospective tenants and buyers.

In October, meQasa hit the headlines having raised US$500,000 in funding from VC firm Frontier Digital Ventures to boost its bid to become Africa’s Zillow. With the funding, meQasa promised to ramp up the development of its mobile and web service experiences, and expand its sales and marketing outreach, so 2016 will be a busy year for them.

The startup is also a portfolio company of the MEST incubator in Ghana.


Nigeria has been tipped to become a major force in Africa’s e-commerce sector, with 89 per cent of the country’s internet users already shopping online or expecting to do so in the future, according to recent research.

One Nigerian e-commerce startup taking the market by storm is discount online shopping platform DealDey, which earlier this year raised US$5 million from Investment AB Kinnevik, with the plan to challenge heavyweights Jumia and Konga.  The startup says it has 1.5 million subscribers.

Promising to become “the strongest e-commerce site in Africa”, DealDey has plans to scale rapidly to all of Nigeria’s major cities, then to Ghana, and across the continent.

It is also rolling out new services as a wild pace, in September launching two new platformsPromoHub – allowing merchants to offer promotional deals that can be redeemed at the merchant’s location; and LYF, a socially-driven business listings, reviews and transactional platform, which already has 20,000 businesses listed.


Nigeria’s GoMyWay is addressing traffic congestion and carbon emissions, by trying to encourage ride-sharing among drivers in Africa’s most populous country.

GoMyWay looks to connect passengers with car owners going the same route with empty seats to spare, in a bid to create a people-powered transportation network.

Having initially launched in Nigeria earlier this year, GoMyWay quickly announced plans to expand to South Africa, followed by Kenya and Ghana.

 *This article first appeared on Disrupt Africa and is republished with its permission 

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