Much has been made in recent years of Africa’s burgeoning tech sector, with the WEF recently reporting that African startups are on track to break the $1 billion mark for investment for the first time. Beyond the startup sector, multi-billion-dollar deals are taking place across the continent, as companies from Africa and beyond look to reap the benefits of operating in the world’s fastest-growing region.
However, the growth of Africa’s tech economy is not evenly distributed. A majority of investment, new companies, jobs created, and new projects have taken place within just a small handful of countries, often headed by governments that have invested significant resources into growing their respective tech sectors over the past five years. If you’re wondering where the action is happening right now, read on to find out which countries are emerging as Africa’s major players in the tech economy.
It would be impossible to have a conversation about the state of African tech without mentioning Kenya. The country has been a hot-bed of activity for years now, managing to siphon much of the investment from Silicon Valley giants. In addition, Kenya has excelled when it comes to homegrown ventures, with the country being home to what is now being termed Silicon Savannah, a sprawling tech hub on the outskirts of Nairobi. Major examples of Kenyan tech innovation include the M-Pesa mobile money platform, which has allowed millions of Africans to enjoy access to banking with nothing more than a mobile phone.
Rwanda has emerged as one of the true comeback kids of the continent. Having recovered from the trauma of the 1990s, Rwanda has aggressively sought to establish a peacetime image of itself as a dynamic and cosmopolitan high tech hub. The country has been the subject of glowing reports from the likes of Fortune magazine in recent years, with much of the attention focused on the capital Kigali, with companies located in the city specializing in payment solutions, fingerprint scanners, and mobile phone manufacturing, among other things.
3. South Africa
South Africa may have experienced sluggish growth over the past year, but it is still miles ahead of other countries when it comes to the tech sector. The country is home to 80 tech hubs, the highest number in the continent. Much of the growth comes on the back of the country’s thriving entertainment sector, with casino gambling being one major potential driver of future growth. South Africa is already the biggest gambling nation on the continent according to PWC. Much of this has been fuelled by the popularity of five-star casino resorts such as the sprawling Sun City Resort near Johannesburg. This means that it is well placed to capitalise on the stratospheric growth of the global online gambling industry. Major players outside the country such as Betway are already enjoying booming trade in South Africa, thanks to their ability to meet soaring demand for online slots, roulette, poker, blackjack, and live casino games. It is only a matter of time before e-casinos set up shop inside the country’s borders.
Nigeria is Africa’s fastest-growing economy right now, with an increasing share of that growth coming from the tech sector. The United States invested a record $5.8 billion in the Nigerian economy last year, with much of that going towards the tech sector. There are a number of areas that Nigerian tech workers specialise in, including telecommunications, cybersecurity, and transportation. One particularly promising development lies in Nigeria’s high-tech energy sector, where wind, solar, and mini-hydro plants have grown at a faster rate than anywhere else on the continent.
Ever since the Egyptian government announced plans to transform Egypt into a high-tech economy a couple of years ago, things have been moving at a breakneck pace. The booming IT sector is on track to reach double-digit annual growth this decade and has been bolstered by the hundreds of thousands of IT, engineering, and mathematics graduates that enter the domestic labour market every single year. Steps have been made to reduce the complicated barriers to starting a business, while the Rise Up Tech Summit that takes place in Cairo every year has helped place Egypt on the map as a dynamic tech hub for investors.
These are the countries that currently dominate Africa’s tech scene. Whether these countries will continue to pull ahead depends largely on the policies of national governments. Watch this space to find out.