5 cellular operators backing African tech startups 1

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

Broadly speaking, 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 realisation has seen trade-in method toward African tech startups. Here are 5 operators, whether through VC funds, competitions or partnerships, which are backing tech startups at the continent.


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

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


Some other operator willing to again African tech startups, via its early-stage funding programme 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 4 my town” assignment, the Social Undertaking Prize, and a developer task. Orange additionally lately released the Entrepreneur Membership, a web platform providing entrepreneurs in Africa and the Center East with a variety of forms of help.


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

Generally, the operator has targeted on partnerships with innovative African agencies, which include 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, aimed to assist Virtual innovators in Africa and Latin America through its US$10 million budget and mentoring programmes.

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 programmes, the final of which changed into held final yr. It remains to be seen if that initiative might be reprised, but.


As compared with their counterparts in East and West Africa, South African operators were pretty bloodless in terms of 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.