Next week 40 of Africa’s finest startups will descend upon Nairobi, Kenya for the second annual DEMO Africa 2013. DEMO Africa has quickly risen to become the must-attend event for investors, entrepreneurs, tech media and others looking for Africa’s “next big thing”.

On Wednesday, October 23, we here at Appfrica and our partners at VC4Africa are hosting an invitation-only investor reception. If you’re an investor interested in early stage companies coming from emerging markets I encourage you to contact either our team or ben@vc4Africa.com to see if there are slots left. We couldn’t be more excited to be working with the V4Africa team who have truly pioneered a platform that I can only describe as ‘the AngelList’ of Africa!

What’s the purpose of the reception? Ben described it best on his blogpost earlier today:

Part of this year’s activities will include special networking events for investors. This is in the continued effort to foster a culture of investing in innovative early stage companies that have the potential to become Pan African if not global success stories. In addition to well known firms like Intel Capital, Jacana Partners, eVentures Africa, Fanisi Capital and The Blue Mirror Fund, there will be a growing number of ‘new breed’ angel investors mixing in the crowd. Take for example Jerome Kisting, the backer of Kenyan based m-Kazi, or Pule Taukobong, an investor in 7 companies including Wabona and Enzi. These individuals represent an emerging class of investor now coming up across the continent. They provide a critical link for entrepreneurs looking to break rank and they offer entrepreneurs much more than their cash, often sharing critical insights and a rolodex of valuable contacts entrepreneurs would struggle to gain access to otherwise.

Entrepreneurs from across the continent who are in attendance who might be interested in our own Apps4Africa Acceleration program, are encouraged to look for Appfrica staff onsite at DEMO where they’ll be scouting. In case you want know what goes on at DEMO, check out this mini-documentary which our team shot last year called Inside DEMO Africa 2012. You can find similar video at cheetahcode.com

We extend a special thanks to our friends at DEMO Africa, Lions@frica, the U.S. Department of State and AfriLabs for their support of another awesome event!

VentureOut 2013

Thirteen international startups have been selected by the VentureOut Challenge, an initiative of infoDev and CRDF Global, to compete before a live audience and a panel of mobile experts in Chisinau, Moldova on November 1, 2013. The winners included Apps4Africa 2012 Challenge winner ProWork.

Top mobile app entrepreneurs from 33 countries competed in the VentureOut Challenge. The goal: Internationalization of their mobile applications — entering new countries, continents, or going global with their amazing apps. Stakes are high: $10,000 seed funding; Mentorship with international and regional mobile experts; Dragon’s Den exposition in Chisinau, Moldova; and TechCrunch Disrupt Europe Scholarship to Berlin.

The VentureOut initiative was launched to help mobile app entrepreneurs to expand internationally. The finalists include ventures from Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia and represent mobile applications ranging from mobile health focusing on patient-centric health applications to location-based services and different sorts of entertainment including music, gaming and television.

The 2013 VentureOut Mobile App Competition Finalists

  • GoMetro is a transit app for emerging markets that combines trains, buses, rapid transit and taxis into one app using multiple data sources. Alicia Ernstzen, South Africa, gometroapp.com
  • Grikly is a business networking application that allows users to share contact details easily. Dwayne Samuels Jamaica, grik.ly
  • Idram Mobile Wallet empowers users to make payments and transfer money using only their phone. Narek Vardanyan, Armenia, mobile.idram.am
  • M.A.D.E. is a disaster and emergency focused native mobile app providing users with information about what to do before, during, and after natural disasters and national emergencies faced by the Caribbean. Ade Inniss-King, Trinidad & Tobago
  • Manifesto instantly records video or audio with one tap and shares it seamlessly. Dorian Postevca, Moldova, seemanifesto.com
  • Marodi.tv is a replay TV platform for mobile and web playing TV programs from channels in Senegal and Cameroon. Jimmy KUMAKO, Senegal, marodi.tv
  • Nearest Locator helps you easily find the nearest ATMs, banks, eateries, hospitals, pharmacies and more. Ayoola ajebeku, Nigeria, getnearest.com
  • Prowork empowers businesses by bringing project management and collaboration together on one platform. Francis Onwumere, Nigeria, prowork.me
  • SweetSOA offers web services to businesses. Jerome Campbell, Jamaica, sweetandsoa.com
  • Teddy the Guardian is a teddy that uses state-of-the-art medical sensors to capture, report on and share a child’s vital signs like heart rate, body temperature and oxygen saturation. Ana Burica, Croatia, teddytheguardian.com
  • Tuning Fork is karaoke with real-time pitch verification. Dilara Rustam-Zadeh, Azerbaijan, tuningfork.az
  • Waabeh is Africa’s audio market place helping with discovery and distribution of audio content from the continent. King’ori Maina, Kenya, waabeh.com
  • X-Rift is a location-based augmented reality game for mobile devices. Daniel Tonkopiy, Ukraine, x-rift.com

All finalists will receive ongoing mentoring from exceptional entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe who have experience building companies and taking them global.

Beyond mentoring the finalists, infoDev and CRDF Global will offer resources for any growing mobile startup to learn necessary skills, make connections, and find inspiration to go global. The conference in Moldova will also include hands-on training sessions to help entrepreneurs identify and develop their customer base and learn other critical aspects of business modeling.

About infoDev

infoDev is a global partnership program within The World Bank Group. Its Mobile Innovation Program supports growth-oriented mobile app businesses by enabling entrepreneurship, building mobile innovation communities, and researching the app economy of emerging and frontier markets. www.infodev.org

About CRDF Global

Founded in 1995, CRDF Global is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, training and services. www.crdfglobal.org

Congrats to Apps4Africa 2011 Challenge winner Farmerline and the other teams from Kenya and Senegal who have been named winners in InfoDev’s mAgri Challenge. Winners will receive a spot at InfoDev’s Mobile Startup Camp as well as other resources aimed at helping them grow their businesses.

The four winners, along with fourteen of the best startups from infoDev’s business incubator network, will be invited to November’s Mobile Startup Camp. The Camp is designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage entrepreneurs. A five-day program of lectures and hands on workshops will provide participants with an opportunity to refine their product strategies, business models and marketing pitches, sharpen their negotiating skills and network with investors and peers.

It will also include a Demo Day – a pitching competition before a panel of industry experts and angel investors.

“We were looking for prototype-stage startups in a niche market, and were surprised to receive so many applications of high quality,” says Maja Andjelkovic, Mobile Innovation Specialist at infoDev. “These entrepreneurs are showing not only the potential impact mobile agri applications can have in Africa and around the world, but also the considerable talent behind innovation driven startups on the continent.”

Members of the jury representing leading private sector players in the mobile industry were also impressed by the entries.

Ernest Akinola, West Africa Government Relations for Blackberry said “The winners demonstrated robust and well thought through concepts, but many more entries showed niche applications for specific needs within the agri sector. I wish the best of luck to all of the founders who entered.”

Echoing Akinola’s remarks, Arjun Thomas, Global Product Manager for Nokia Life said, “The competition unearthed very interesting applications. As these startups grow, adapting the business case to ensure steady and versatile revenue generation streams will be critical to their success.”

We would like to congratulate all of the applicants, including the four winners and six runners-up below.

mAgri Challenge 2013 Winners

  • Farmerline, Ghana: uses voice and SMS to collect data, share new farming techniques, and better link smallholder farmers to other actors along the agricultural value chain. Its survey tool allows agricultural workers and NGOs to conduct immediate surveys with thousands of farmers at a fraction of the cost of traditional techniques.
  • Intellect Tech, Kenya: helps farmers and insurance firms track compensation claims in real-time. The platform improves transparency and facilitates faster processing of farmers’ insurance claims.
  • mLouma, Senegal: connects farmers to food purchasers by displaying real-time market prices and localizations. The service will improve the efficiency of the agriculture supply chain, helping farmers to get a better price for their produce.
  • Price Calculate, Kenya: aids agricultural producers to calculate the competitive price at which they can offer their products. The app educates producers on the market structures between them and their final consumer (local or international), helping them make more informed price decisions.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida about the changing business landscape of Africa the opportunities that exist on the continent. I shared about the general market trends of the African continent as well as specific examples from the tech sector, from startups to companies worth over $100 million that are still Africa based and African owned. The slides I used can be downloaded from Statfrica.com or here on Slideshare.

For those looking for information on Africa’s internet penetration, visit the deck below…

Apps4Africa 2010-2013Apps4Africa 2010-2013

The Apps4Africa program has come a long way since late 2009 when it was conceived. For one, its evolved from a series of annual competitions into a full-fledged acceleration program. This was to address the primary feedback we got from the first few classes of participants funded by the program that the funding was great, but they really wanted ongoing mentorship, and opportunities for more funding.

As we focused on this on-going relationship with our companies, we realized that was one of the best ways we could help these portfolio companies to continue to accomplish much more, which they did! Entrepreneurs like Eric Mutta went on to raise over $300,000 for his startup Minishop, Alloysius Attah has traveled the world speaking about his company Farmerline, while other companies have found successes in other areas. The biggest need these guys have is maintaining a relationship with advisors and mentors like us as they grow and establish Africa’s next generation of game-changing services and organizations.

apps4africa companies

Announcing our 2013 Participants

So this year rather than continuing the tradition of our challenges, we’re doubling down on this aspect of what we do by launching an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program! This program will work on behalf of four new companies who will join the ranks of our Apps4Africa participants, to benefit from the relationships we’ve established for our community of entrepreneurs. Similar to the previous ranks of A4A winners, these groups are social entrepreneurs using technology to solve challenges for Africa and, in some cases, the world.

These companies will receive funding, support and mentorship in varying degrees.  You can read more about the Apps4Africa EIR program here.

The 2013 EIR inductees are:

  • Remit.ug (Uganda/USA)- A competitor of sorts to Western Union and MoneyGram aiming to facilitate transactions from the African diaspora to relatives in Africa. There are over $62 billion dollars in remittances sent to Africa by the diaspora annually. Remit’s mission is to try to capture a portion of that market.
  • Upstream Analytics (Congo/USA)- An analytic platform used by multinational corporations to ensure the resources they source from Africa are compliant with international standards for avoiding corruption, bribery and illegal operations.  This, for example, might help organizations like Google, Samsung, Shell and others to ensure that the minerals and commodities they source from African countries are not fueling conflict, illicit, or immoral activity.
  • SiftDeck (Kenya) – A customizable application that alerts organizations and businesses to how social media and mobile conversations relate to and reference offline interests. (For example: The recent attacks in Kenya, and subsequent discussion affects countless businesses, places, people, and institutions. This tool catalogs this information and aims visualize the contextual relationships between these things.)

We’re proud to welcome them all to the family!

2014 Challenges

So what of the Apps4Africa challenges?  Well traditionally we visit anywhere between three and sixteen countries in an effort to find and engage with as many young entrepreneurs as possible.  We then run a competitive funding initiative that allows them to compete for $10,000 seed capital.  The ones that make it through the rigorous vetting and judging process go on to receive awards, funding and attention.

We haven’t ended this program, but due to the costs associated with the EIR program and maintaining the other aspects of the accelerator for our 2010, 2011, and 2012 participants, we’re putting off the Apps4Africa Challenge to early 2014.  If you’d like to learn more, you can follow this blog, @apps4africa on twitter or join our mailing-list here.

Africa’s experiencing a bit of a boom in startup activity right now. What’s driving it? Who’s helping to grow the ecosystem? This graphic explores the topic.

Africa's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Infographic available from Statfrica

White lines represent the monetary support organizations like Indigo Trust and Infodev are proving to the innovation hubs of the continent which in turn support entrepreneurs with non-monetary services represented by the gray lines. Mentoring, workshops, events, conferences, investor meetings etc. are the types of things these hubs are responsible for organizing. Meanwhile, Local governments have mostly been responsible for enable policy decisions. Can they become direct financiers of entrepreneurs and/or the network of hubs? The fact that this ecosystem has emerged mostly without their intervention certainly presents that opportunity.

For a more in-depth analysis on startup entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth in Africa download our latest report New African Business.

Statfrica Africa Research Trends

A portal for learning, sharing and discovering more about Africa.

Over the years we’ve collected more data about Africa than we can hope to ever use as one company. However, we know from meeting many other companies, NGOs, schools, investors and others that there is a huge amount of demand for all things Africa. The problem most of these groups have is not that they can’t find information, but that things are changing so rapidly, they can’t find up-to-date information. Usually articles are three to five years old. Its also hard to find information on topics that is immediately applicable like information on contemporary African social entrepreneurs, consumer behavior, and research around trends that haven’t quite caught the attention of corporates global research firms.

With Statfrica we’re making of our incredible amounts of research on these subjects available to all, for free!

Open Courseware, Open Research, Open Data

Perhaps the biggest opportunity though, is to change how classrooms teach Africa to students. I recently spoke at an international business school where much of the knowledge being offered about Africa was from the 80s and 90s, when the most recent text books were published. There was little information about contemporary phenomena like the growing strength of ‘south-south’ trade (from developing nation to developing nation).

The other problem we noticed was that corporations, universities, bloggers, entrepreneurs etc. were spending their time collecting the same information over-and-over again for different purposes. This is an incredible waste of time and while there are options for hiring firms to do this kind of research for you, it can be unbelievably expensive — obviously not a solution for students, smaller non-profits, or young entrepreneurs.

Many Options

For professional analysts and universities, all of our material is available in a way that is modification friendly. We realized that it was rare to find files that can be completely remixed or modified so that they fit within a lesson. With Statfrica Pro, subscribers can download the raw files used to make each presentation in multiple formats (.pptx, .key, .pdf, .html, .ai, .psd). This gives you 100% control over what you use or don’t use in a classroom, boardroom, or conference presentation. There’s also a lot of supplemental material that isn’t available at the free rate.

Take an infographic like the one above and remix it completely!

Interested in a free or paid subscription? Check out pricing here.

By opening up our research repository, we hope to create a community that’s more aware of Africa, and an Africa that’s more aware of itself. In fact, we like to use the tagline “Africa’s Quantified Self”!

For updates specifically related to our research initiatives, please follow us @statfrica on Twitter or visit statfrica.com.

Proud to be Kenyan

Jon Gosier —  September 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

The following post was originally written by Appfrica’s own Ahmed Maawy. The thoughts and best wishes are with him and our other friends in Kenya in these trying times.

Most times being a Kenyan makes me proud. Proud of our capabilities, proud of our achievements as a nation, proud to be part of a people who understand that they hold the keys to their own success.

I write this after the crisis that has found us recently with the attacks at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. Why do moments like these make me super proud?

Kenyans for Kenya

“The “Kenyans for Kenya” initiative is a fundraiser that was started in July 2011 by corporate leaders and the Red Cross in response to media reports of famine and deaths from starvation in Turkana District.” – Wikipedia

Back in 2011 the Turkana District faced a huge famine situation. Kenyans were requested to donate to help famine victims in Turkana, and in a joint demonstration of unity and solidarity for the people of Turkana, donate we did. And we saved lives.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 4.37.44 AM

Westgate Rescue Efforts, Blood, and Monetary Donations

Following the terrible events at Westgate, it is so pleasing to see yet again how Kenyans united, stood together, laid a helping hand, donated blood, and donated money (in a similar fashion as Kenyans for Kenya) to again prove to the world how we are splendid people who can stand on our two feet and solve our own problems.

Kenyan Mall Attack Rescue

Amidst all the issues we face as a country, we stand united in times of need. #WeAreOne.

A Bright Future Ahead of Us

Over the past couple of months, I have been personally involved in setting up a framework for the next generation of technology awareness and capacity in Mombasa as well as the Kenyan Coast. In Mombasa in particular I was key in the formation of the Mombasa Tech Community. The just concluded NaiLab hackathon demonstrated that we were getting things right in Mombasa.

The events that have happened in Kenya (not only one, but twice) go to prove that we hold the keys to solving the problems we face.

Follow Ahmed on Twitter

The Fifth Estate

Jon Gosier —  September 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

The title of the upcoming WikiLeaks biopic THE FIFTH ESTATE invokes the words of French philosopher Montesquieu who left us the concept of the Three Estates of the Realm (Church, Citizens, and The Government). Essentially the three exist to check the power of the others. Edmund Burke argued the Press makes up a Fourth Estate (a check on the aforementioned three). Later William Dutton argued that a Fifth Estate are not just the users of transmedia but all those connected through the internet and who use it to take action. Great recent examples of this ‘Fifth Estate’ at work are WikiLeaks, but also those who opposed SOPA in the U.S., communities like Global Voices, and my former colleagues at Ushahidi and the greater Crisis Mapping community.

The Fifth Estate

In Africa these connections look very different than they do in North America and Europe. The first four estates are roughly the same: The Church, Citizens, The Government, and The Press. But its hard for me to see how those the connections relevant to developed countries, are always relevant to those in developing countries. The needs are different. What it means to accomplish significant change is very different.

So, I argue that Africa isn’t a place, but a space — a state of mind that exists in the diaspora, those who live there, and others connected beyond borders.

Africa is not a place, it's a space.

The above image was created by Kai Krause to represent the mind-boggling scale of the physical size of Africa. However, I like it because to me it represents how, even when removed and living in other parts of the world, Africans are still the stewards of Africa.

I personally do not see the distinction between people who are African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Kenyan, Uganda, whatever. There only those who take responsibility for participating in the development of the continent and those who don’t. Focusing on to narrowly on where you’re from or where you’re physically at misses the point and further excludes you from a broader community. This difference in ‘connection’ matters, especially when you look at the untapped wealth the African diaspora holds around the world.

Untapped Wealth of African Diaspora

So I like to think that the African diaspora, is the real Fifth Estate of Africa. They have the money, the political sway, the mobility, and personal security that allows them to truly affect change in Africa. They aren’t connected specifically through technology (though many are) but mostly through heritage and community. The question is whether or not the Diaspora will exercise this power or not.

Think of it like this. Africa has vast quantities of land, minerals, solar energy, wildlife and agriculture that has been commoditized to its own exclusion and detriment. The only thing left to be exploited is its own agency and human capital. Its no wonder then that ‘The Diaspora’ is now who development agencies are turning to as a resource to fund projects and programatic work. Same story but hopefully with a different ending.

You can view the slides below or download them here.

This presentation was given at the Kongossa Web Series 2013 in Montreal, Canada. thanks for inviting me!

On Tuesday August 6th, 2013 we were honored to host a pre-screening of our documentary THE CHEETAH CODE at the social impact/civic hack space the OpenGov Hub!

THE CHEETAH CODE is a web series and forthcoming documentary featuring interviews with the creative entrepreneurs and technologists who are changing the face of business in Africa. ‘Inside DEMO Africa’ is an excerpt of the film that was shown at the screening, it chronicles entrepreneurs from across the African continent as they arrive at DEMO Africa 2012 to pitch investors and network. You can watch this excerpt in its entirety on Vimeo.

Jon Gosier and Kaushal Jhalla

Jon Gosier (Founder of Appfrica & Director of THE CHEETAH CODE) with Kaushal Jhalla (World Bank Innovation Team)

Christina Crawley (OpenGov Hub)

Christina Crawley welcomes guests to the OpenGov Hub.

Reggie Showers (Urban Youth)

Reggie Showers of Urban Youth having a conversation.

Thomas Genton (U.S. Department of State)

Thomas Genton of the United States Department of State watching himself on screen.

Wayan Vota (Kurante)

Many thanks to Wayan Vota of Kurante who helped us get set up for the event.

Guests chatting before the screening.

Guests chatting before the screening.