Global investment in start-ups plummeted in 2022. According to Bloomberg, it was the year of the worst drop in venture investment in two decades, while business information platform Crunchbase pegs the decline at 35% compared to 2021, a total of $236bn (€222bn) less. However, in the midst of this downturn, Africa is the only continent where investment in innovative start-ups has grown. This increase is barely 5%, according to data collected by the Africa: The Big Deal observatory, but it is enough to claim this particularity.
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“African tech can become a safe haven,” warns Samir Abdelkrim, a French-Algerian journalist and analyst who knows the African continent’s innovative ecosystems well, to explain an unusual scenario in global investment in start-ups. In recent years, the African start-up ecosystem has attracted the attention of many investors and analysts have struggled to explain its particularity. When only a few were taking risks and growing an uncertain market, the goal was to convince investors of the potential of this ecosystem. Today, Africa’s uniqueness has established itself as an attractive space for innovative businesses.
The data are clear enough to confirm this trajectory. The main reports on start-up investment in Africa coincide in the increase, although there are some differences because they use different methodologies and have different approaches. These disparities in approach mean that the total amount of capital attracted by African start-ups varies from the lowest estimates of around $3.3 billion to the most optimistic estimates of almost double that amount.
The ‘Big Four
Nigeria continues to be the continent’s start-up champion and strongly leads the list of the most attractive countries. Together with Kenya, South Africa and Egypt, it consolidates the primacy of the Big Four. This quartet monopolises 75% of investment, according to the annual report by Briter Bridges. Similarly, fintechs – dedicated to offering financial solutions – continue to capture the lion’s share of investor interest, but their hegemony is a little less overwhelming. Expert Mareme Dieng had already warned last year of this diversification dynamic and her prediction has come true.
In terms of the rest of the spaces, Ghana, which completes the quintet, regaining a position it lost last year, and Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco stand out as contenders in the different studies.
In terms of sectors, the data from Africa: The Big Deal reveal a decline in fintech investment, which is offset by a consolidation of sectors such as energy, logistics, trade and telecommunications, for example. Dieng includes in this list of sectors with a solid projection the companies that develop solutions based on Artificial Intelligence, in addition to cleantech (companies that use clean technologies to reduce the environmental footprint) and those that address health.
“Last year start-ups that are rethinking the food chain were a nice dream, now it is known that there is no alternative but to do so. Just like companies in the energy sector, African solutions were almost assumed to be folklore and now it has become clear that they are the only option,” says Abdelkrim. In short, he stresses that “it is the most appropriate time to think about new models in different areas, and African experiences are very valid”.