5 cellular operators backing African tech startups 1

African cellular operators have historically been poor concerning innovation, M-Pesa aside.

Operators have fought the concept they’re “dumb pipes”, simply systems upon which extra modern services can run and prosper. But within the previous few years, there was a recognition that they’re in truth pipes, even though now not “dumb” ones. And this realization has seen a trade-in method toward African tech startups. Here are five operators, whether through VC funds, competitions, or partnerships, backing tech startups on the continent.

5 cellular operators backing African tech startups


Kenyan large Safaricom made waves towards the cease of 2014 by launching a US$1 million investment fund for nearby tech startups. Even though things had been sluggish on the funding front, with e-courier startup Sendy the only employer to have acquired investment to date, chief executive officer (CEO) Bob Collymore stated that extra assets were imminent last week.

Safaricom’s support of startups goes past just the fund, however. The enterprise runs its AppWiz task annually, presenting prizes to successful candidates. It has also launched a revolving fund aimed toward helping teenagers-owned corporations and partnered with local startups Dynamic Information Structures and Eneza Training. A black mark on its document is its ongoing prison conflict with Kenyan bitcoin startup BitPesa.


Some other operators are willing to again African tech startups via its early-stage funding program named Orange Digital Ventures; Orange has invested in money transfer startup Afrimarket and subscription video on call for (SVOD) services Afrostream within a closing couple of years.

The operator additionally runs several competitions presenting support and finance to local tech entrepreneurs, consisting of the “I make four my town” assignment, the Social Undertaking Prize, and a developer task. Orange recently released Entrepreneur Membership, a web platform providing entrepreneurs in Africa and the Center East with various forms of help.


Active Generally, Airtel does not have a fund to talk to in the Nigerian startup surroundings but has funded a handful of tech startups through its Catapult-a-Startup initiative.

Generally, the operator has targeted partnerships with innovative African agencies, including Ghanaian fintech startup Zeepay, Nigerian matchmaking carrier MatchUP, and transport app Yuzah. It has also run an app venture for startup builders.


Millicom, which owns pan-African cell operator Tigo, released the Millicom Basis to assist Virtual innovators in Africa and Latin America through its US$10 million budget and mentoring programs.

Now not an excessive amount of greater has been heard of the initiative from an African point of view. Still, the agency has been Active in Rwanda with its think accelerator programs, the final of which changed into held final yr. It remains to be seen if that initiative might be reprised, but.


Compared with their counterparts in East and West Africa, South African operators were pretty bloodless in supporting nearby tech startups. MTN is the one that greenbacks the fashion, but, recently, preserving a Pan-African Entrepreneurship venture in partnership with Jumia in Cape Town.