10 African startups that might be the next unicorns 🦄

Entrepreneurs & investors should keep their eyes on these growing African startups.
10 African startups that might be the next unicorns 🦄
Ofek Liepaz

Africa’s economy is the fastest-growing in the world, making it the perfect climate for both entrepreneurs and investors alike. There are already several unicorns in Africa, and investment keeps streaming in.

With African startups raising over $1 billion in the first half of 2021 alone, the number of multi-million dollar companies on the continent is on a sharp upwards trajectory.

I’m super interested in startups and company growth, so I researched some of the hottest African startups right now. Below are 10 startups from all over Africa that you should keep on your radar.

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Please note, this list is in no way exhaustive and is listed in no particular order.

10 Hot African Startups to Watch 👀

🧫 Immobazyme — South Africa

Immobazyme’s COO and co-founder Ethan Hunter gave me this executive summary which definitely explains things better than I could!

“Immobazyme was established in December 2019 with a mission to engineer and develop immobilised enzymes and analytical platforms, which enable the production of high-value products. Through realising this mission, Immobazyme hopes to catalyse the African biotechnology industry by developing innovative skills and utilising local biological resources.

Headquartered in Stellenbosch, South Africa, Immobazyme is a spin-out company of the University of Stellenbosch and a member of the University of Stellenbosch Enterprises Group (Innovus).

Through the use of the proprietary novel enzyme immobilization platform of which the founders are inventors, called PepTrap™️, Immobazyme is developing systems and products that can be utilized to solve prevalent issues in a number of industries.

“The PepTrap™️ technology, licensed out by USE to Immobazyme, is a unique platform for enzyme immobilization that is greatly more affordable than existing technologies. “ — Ethan Hunter, COO and Co-Founder of Immobazyme

Beyond the cost advantage, PepTrap™️ uses simple and naturally abundant materials in its synthesis, which in combination allow this technology to be utilized at industrial scales.

Immobazyme is pursuing three major aspects in our current business model:

  1. Industry research collaborations - Engineer and develop immobilized enzyme platforms and technologies for a range of potential industry partners
  2. Sale of PepTrap™️ immobilized enzyme systems - Sale of unpacked PepTrap™️ columns for laboratories in which researchers can immobilize their own enzymes for analytical purposes
  3. Novel product development pipeline - Develop novel immobilized enzyme products using Immobazyme’s novel industrial enzyme product development pipeline

🚑 AURA — South Africa

AURA is basically like the Uber of emergency services.

If you need an ambulance or armed response, simply open the app, request emergency assistance, and a vehicle will be dispatched to your location depending on what you need.

It is such a simple and clever tool that can revolutionise the emergency response game!

🖱️ WootLab — Nigeria

Wootlab offers a solution that helps both unemployed workers as well as companies in one brilliant platform.

Wootlab enables companies to outsource their engineering and development teams by connecting them with a pool of freelancers and unemployed workers, predominantly in Africa.

They also offer skills development services, as well as bundle packages to help out SMEs, making WootLab the perfect solution for the development of tech companies in developing countries.

🏃 Strove — South Africa

Strove is a Cape Town-based startup that offers a solution to improve employee wellbeing through incentives to exercise.

Once a company signs up, employees can sync their Strava, Apple Health, & Google Health with the Strove app, and then they receive various vouchers and rewards for reaching their exercise goals.

Chris Bruchhausen, CEO — 

“Strove’s initial focus was on physical well-being, and now we’re also incorporating a mental well-being component which will add features such as in-app meditations and wellbeing surveys, covering mental well-being  indicators such as stress, sleep, work, etc. We’re also starting to work with neuroscientists to build courses for cognitive behavioural techniques.

Strove’s primary focus is to help employees with stress & burnout through regular exercise and mental health.

“Integrations with Garmin and Fitbit that are currently in the pipeline will definitely help grow their client base. Strove also offer a white-labelled version for big corporates, and are currently in the final stages of being implemented at some of South Africa’s biggest corporates. The next step for Strove is to break into the UK market.”

🐖 Piggyvest — Nigeria

This Nigerian startup offers a platform that helps people manage their finances more efficiently.

This is done through an automated system that saves small amounts of money at regular intervals, and only allows people to access their savings on set dates, thereby forcing its users to effectively save money.

Piggyvest helps users to conveniently save money on an incremental basis.

I don’t know about you, but this is definitely something I need to start using!

💸 Momint — South Africa

I reached out to Momint’s CEO Ahren, and he shared some very interesting insights with me:

“At Momint, we believe that in the future, more and more jobs will be automated, and that’s partially scary, but mostly exciting because what will be left is more leisure time and time to create.

“The current model of having millions of fans to turn that into a career just won’t be sustainable in the future — especially because it’s supported by harvesting personal data and selling Ads.

Momint is all about making blockchain technology accessible to all and making it as simple as possible to grasp and play with.

“Our mission is to create a platform that enables creators to more easily turn to a career in their field. We are starting this with NFTs because it’s a really cool technology that lets people own their own and earn from their content (in terms of publishing, rights and royalties).

We were the first Platform in the world to crack free minting (creating an NFT) — we are also the only platform in the world currently to support 3-Dimensional Augmented reality NFTs.

“We introduced tipping mechanisms only to see Twitter, Youtube and Facebook following suit soon after — showing us that we are moving in the right direction.

“As an African company, that makes us really proud — we speak to Silicon Valley investors regularly who are blown away with what we have been able to achieve in such a small time frame, with such a small capital raise (relative to American venture capital standards).”

👶 Little — Kenya

Little is a leading super app company with a presence in 4 countries — Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. They pride themselves in being affordable, reliable, and even offer free WIFI on all rides! I had a chat with Esther Kairu who is the Customer Experience Manager at Little, and she gave me some very cool insights into the operation.

“Little began as a ride-hailing company in 2016, through a big partnership with Safaricom, a fintech giant in Africa.” — Esther Kairu, Customer Experience Manager at Little

Since then, Little has grown to offer an array of services ranging from ride-hailing, delivery services, utility bill payments, airtime purchase and merchant payment solutions.

It is the largest corporate ride-hailing company and transports over 20,000 corporate clients daily. Plans to expand operations to Ethiopia are already underway.

🏦 Thndr — Egypt

This Egyptian fintech startup wants to make investing easy and accessible for everyone.

The platform does not take any commission on its users’ earnings, and does not have a minimum investment amount like many other investment platforms.

Thndr lets its users invest in public companies, as well as various mutual funds. It also gives its users access to a wide variety of market data, news, and other educational materials, which does an amazing job at simplifying a process that many people deem as very daunting and foreign.

🌴 Eden Life — Nigeria

Let’s face it — doing household chores can be a pain! Especially when you’re working overtime to try meet that deadline. This is where Eden Life comes in.

This startup automates your household chores with an app-based solution.

The Eden Life platform lets you easily find someone to do your cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and gardening, with top quality being one of their key values.

🤳 Ear1 — Nigeria

This platform allows you to pay to connect with your favourite influencers, helping you stand out from the flood of DMs they receive daily, and hopefully form a meaningful professional relationship with them.

Ear1 bridges the gap between influencers and other people in their industries.

Ear1 could be an up and coming musician’s ticket to that record deal they always dreamed of, or it could become another stream of income for well-known lawyers who people keep reaching out to asking for advice.

The possibilities are endless with Ear1, and it has the potential to yield some very positive results!


Famous last words

It’s been a great exercise for me to learn more about African startups in particular and to see how much growth is happening in the various African economies — especially since we’re very much still a startup at Hi5!

The apps listed above also provide valuable insights into what kinds of tools and platforms African consumers want, for those businesses that are looking to break into the African market.

So, if any of these amazing startups turn into our continent’s next unicorns… just remember, I called it! 😁

About the Author

Ofek Liepaz is a curious and entrepreneurial individual with a wide array of interests including the underwater world, the environment, coffee, and electronic music. His extensive experience in the hospitality and events industries, coupled with more recent involvement in the startup industry, has given him a broad worldview with unique insights. He particularly enjoys writing about customer service, innovation, and technology. He is currently working as the Customer Success Manager at Hi5.

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