10 African Brands You Should Know Right Now

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By: Victoria Greene
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In the last few years, interest and education in IT have skyrocketed in Africa, creating a lot of would-be entrepreneurs looking for financial backing for their new, innovative business ideas.

Traditionally, banks are reluctant to fund first-time entrepreneurs with no trading history. This is where angel investors and venture capitalists are stepping in to fill this gap. As of 2017, over 1,000 investment organizations are searching to invest in early-stage African startups, and they are seeing significant returns on their investments. It’s certainly an exciting time for African businesses, and for business in Africa in general.

Here are 10 African brands you should know right now.

1. Solar Powered Power-Houses
Solar power uses Africa’s most abundance sustainable resource, the sun, to give people to access to electricity off of the grid. iShack, as mentioned in this previous post, is leading the charge, bringing solar powered home systems and appliances to thousands of the 625 million people currently without electricity in Africa.

The boom in solar power will hinge on innovative producers and regulators coming together to build a diverse, sustainable energy infrastructure. Tanzanian energy providers, Off-Grid Electric, are also set to power over 1 million homes in East Africa by 2017’s end, gaining $25 million from private investors, as well as a further $5 million from USAID.

2. Internet Service Providers
Google and Facebook have both set up initiatives to get Africa connected to the world wide web. Facebook’s Free Basics, for example, develops informational websites for areas where mobile data coverage is prohibitively expensive for many to enjoy. Google’s Project Loon uses weather balloon devices to spread internet connectivity to far-flung locales.

Kenyan-based internet service providers, BRCK, have also created hardy internet modem devices, designed to offer 3G, 4G and Wifi connectivity through a unit with 8 hours battery life.

3. Talent-As-A-Service Superstars
As African startups look to scale up their businesses, accessing the right talent for the job can be a struggle. Combining Silicon Valley tech and specialist contractors, African entrepreneurs can temporarily fill these skill gaps with high impact initiatives designed to jump-start developing businesses across the continent.

Gebeya offers comprehensive IT training, as well as a business opportunity marketplace for Africa’s emerging IT talent and business leaders worldwide.

4. Safer Drivers
Building trust in ride-sharing services, SafeMoto app connects Rwandan motorcyclists and passengers, keeping road safety paramount to their business model.

Through its tracking and rating system, the app categorizes motorcycle drivers through their skills and safety on the road. Those with the lowest score get pushed further down the list displayed to passengers seeking a ride through the app.

5. Shim Stock Metal E-Tailers
The steel industry has been a major economic asset to South Africa for 103 years, but competition worldwide is fierce, and many regulations are making it tough for suppliers to thrive in this sales environment.

Shim Stock Metals in South Africa utilize ecommerce tools to get them noticed on the global stage. Their site offers multiple payment options and great deals on international orders, as well as maintaining the highest standards of regulations and advice to customers.

6. Boosting Africa’s Farming Industry
With over 200,000 using the service, the One Acre Fund has been pioneering in raising a new generation of young African farmers. This initiative provides seed and fertilizer as well as training on agricultural practices to its associates.

Payments can be arranged under a credit agreement, providing access and flexibility for those just starting out. One Acre Fund also helps with the harvesting of its client’s crops with vehicle hire and advice. The scheme has been rolled out to Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania so far.

7. Ecommerce Giants
Africa has a growing ecommerce market, as the middle class is getting larger with their income and purchasing power also increasing. Konga is a leading electronics brand that offers consumers payment security and comprehensive customer service.

The brand’s affiliate marketing program is packed with advice for smaller business owners. These affiliate programs, combined with simple dropshipping business models, can help African retail brands reach a wider audience and diversify their product range.

8. Language Barrier Warriors
With 11 separate languages in South Africa alone, the Aweza app breaks down language barriers with an easy-to-use and thoroughly tested translation database.

Through your smartphone, Aweza can translate words and phrases, as well as crowdsource certain phrases to ensure the app becomes more accurate over time. For many, having the tools to communicate can help bring communities together through mobile technologies.

9. Emergency Services Responders
Hailed as ‘The Uber for Ambulances’ Flare the app (still currently in the development stages) is soon to launch in Kenya, transforming the lives of locals who sometimes have to wait up to two hours for an ambulance to get to them in an emergency.

Using geo-targeting, the app tracks every available response vehicle in a city, saving emergency service workers time in finding an available driver via a series of phone calls. Emergency response vehicles are properly certified and vetted through the Flare system.

The company’s founders hope that the model will help lower some of the costs for ambulances as time goes on and the app becomes more mainstream.

10. Real Estate Rockstars
MeQasa streamlines the process of both renting and buying a home, as well as offering an easy way for landlords and real estate brokers to advertise.

This free of charge service runs through an app, and even though the brand is only three years old, MeQasa has received critical acclaim as one of Ghana’s top globally competitive brands in 2016 and 2017.

Over the next few years, the opportunities for African startups will continue to grow. It is expected that by 2025 more than 360 million Africans will own a smartphone, giving new opportunities to young innovators to get creative and help make people’s lives easier both here and abroad.

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