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African tech trends to watch out for in 2021

We’re into the new year and already getting a sense that 2021 could be different from 2020. Last year saw sectors like edtech and biotech rise to prominence, while e-commerce benefited from the spike in online shopping due to the pandemic.

This year we’re asking what to expect from this year.

I spoke to my team members at TechCabal to get a sense of some of the African tech trends they are seeing. 

FitnessTech – Koromone Koroye

I first discovered the Nike Training Club app when I was a sophomore in college. I was a year into working out consistently, and the app helped me perfect my form and streamline my exercise routines. Fast forward almost 8 years later, the pandemic forced gyms and fitness hubs to close their doors and set up virtual training classes for their customers. 

Following Apple’s announcement of Fitness+ last year, I believe we will see more African embracing FitnessTech products. Nigerian trainer and gym owner, Abayomi Oladinni, launched his fitness app during the pandemic. The app allows his clients to select their preferred trainer, training hours, and location. This year, we see more fitness and health entrepreneurs incorporating technology into their services. 

Music Tech and Skin Care Tech – Edwin Madu

Tech has permeated every industry. But this year I believe a lot of attention will be paid to solutions built by Africans for Africa.

More attention is being paid to tech that enhances the lifestyle and well-being of users. In the music-tech space, musicians like Mr Eazi and Bez Idakula are making sure to invest in local tech solutions that address issues of African musicians and creators. From event management startups to digital streaming platforms, the world should be ready for African music backed by African tech.

In the world of skincare, a solution like BARE is focusing on black skin. From analysis to consultation, the solution harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and it is expected that as more people use it, the AI model will grow and skincare solutions for black people could then be just a few clicks away.

The future of tech solutions in Africa looks good, and most importantly, they will make our lives a whole lot easier.

Lending and Property tech – Olumuyiwa Olowogboyega

There’s a lot going on in lending this year. We’re seeing companies providing more data points to lenders at cheaper rates than credit bureaus. Companies like OZÉ are creating a place where they can collect customer data and recommend them to financiers for loans.

It’s still a long game. At the end of the day, it is important for the cost of doing credit checks to come down. One way around it would be APIs, it would be interesting to see that approach to credit information. 

For property tech (proptech), the big problem has always been how to convince house owners to swap yearly rental collection for a monthly model. The solution Spleet and Fibre are likely to use is one where a middleman finances the cost of rent upfront.

The proptech company would of course pass on the interest to their customers and everyone wins.

Could this be what unlocks the supply problem for proptech startups? 2021 is definitely the year to find out.  

Agrictech – Alex Onukwe

We have already seen three agric-related funding announcements in the first month of the year. The exciting part is that Gro Intelligence, Aerobotics and Pula represent different subsets of agritech. 

Indeed, the agritech wave has been rising over the past year. Kenya-based startups Apollo Agriculture and Sun Culture were in the spotlight last year for solutions targeted at growing yields and profits for farmers. Releaf, a Nigerian startup bidding to organise the palm oil value chain, reportedly made $1m in revenue between 2019 and 2020.

These recent activities indicate that global and local investor interest is zooming into companies solving farm and food challenges. It gives us the confidence to expect more funding action and innovative product launches over the course of 2021.

Alex earlier did a piece on fintech: 

Femtech – Bright Azuh

Women account for half of Africa’s population but are still a minority in its tech scene. 

Femtech companies are expanding their core offerings to serve a wider audience. In 2020,  Kenyan MumsVillage and Nigerian BabyBliss, which started off as niche products merged to become bliss group, an e-commerce business. 

Also, there’ll be more funding for female-owned companies to bridge the gender funding gap in Africa.

According to the World Bank, male-owned companies receive six times more capital on average than female-owned firms. The funding gap between male and female entrepreneurs in Africa is put at about $42 billion by the Africa Development Bank.

In 2019, 98 African startups raised at least $1 million from investors but only 13 of those startups were founded by women. Since 2010, only 10% of West African startups founded by women have raised up to $1 million

But with new initiatives such as FirstCheck, Future Africa coming up, I’m certain the funding gap would keep closing.

Edtech –   Daniel Adeyemi

Last year, due to the pandemic, a lot of Edtech startups got more attention and were forced to ramp up their products and services to accommodate the growing demands of virtual schooling. 

I believe what people realised from the work-from-home movement was that if it’s possible to do productive work virtually, the same could apply to education.  

While Edtech got most of the attention, it’s worth noting that just 19 million out of over 450 million children in African used these Edtech offerings.  A sign that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the problem.

This year I expect more Edtech companies to raise more funding like Valenture Institute, (South Africa), Gebeya (Ethiopia), and uLesson (Nigeria) did.

As these edtech companies continue to grow to reach the untapped market, its important to note that the future of Edtech will be complementing teachers, not replacing them.

So that’s it from us, we couldn’t touch on every sector. What other African tech trends do you see?

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