AfricArena 2019 announces expanded world tour to include Cairo, Kigali, Abidjan and renewed partnership with VivaTech, Paris for African startup showcase. Image: Supplied.
CAPE TOWN -   AfricArena, known as the stage for Africa’s tech future, launched into it’s third consecutive year post a high-impact raise of $2 million+ for startups during it’s 2018 campaign. 

Last year, AfricArena predicted that the total investment in the African tech ecosystem would crack the $1 billion dollar mark. By close of last year, this prediction had been realised with the total investment in African tech startups doubling and breaking through the billion dollar ceiling. 

Now with the a renewed focus on the next $1 billion, AfricArena returns as an established premium stage showcasing Africa’s best startups and innovators in front of an audience of local and international investors looking for world-class talent.

“On the back of a highly successful second edition of AfricArena, with over US$2.3 million in deal impact and much more in ongoing deals, we are accelerating the development of AfricArena” states Christophe Viarnaud, Founder of AfricArena and CEO of the International Digital Firm Methys. “This year, AfricArena will expand its pan-African footprint to find the continent’s best startups. We will add Kigali, Abidjan and Cairo to the global Tour. As we’ve done In 2018, we will also take some of the AfricArena Challenge winners on an investor roadshow to Paris, San Francisco and New York in May. With a fully open collaboration model bringing an increasing number of sponsors and ecosystem partners, AfricArena is committed to support the success of the African tech ecosystem by attracting investors and corporates.” 

The Next 1$ Billion for African Tech Startups

The launch event, in partnership with Wesgro and Silicon Cape, featured a panel discussion on “The Next $1 Billion Investment in Tech Startups”. Panellists included: Andrea Böhmert, Co-Managing Parter of Knife Capital; Kieno Kammies of Cape Talk, Timothy Willis of Aerobotics; and Isaac Matsa of DataProphet.

Earmarked as a potential African unicorn, Timothy Willis, COO of Aerobotics, shared: "Aerobotics is an artificial intelligence AgriTech start-up serving clients around the world. Being headquartered in Cape Town with an exciting vision, we attract some of the best talent and we’ve worked hard to gain the trust of more than a thousand farmers in ten countries. Winning the AfricArena VivaTech Challenge strengthens our expansion springboard into Europe.” 

The panel discussed how international investors are aware that Africa’s narrative is changing an increasing number of companies with real substance and competitive differentiation. Investors wanting an early-mover advantage are making their move now and AfricArena is seen as an optimal entry point for many to identify and engage with innovative African startups.

“With investment into Industry 4.0 being a focus for many economies, there is a demand for new ideas,” said Isaac Matsa, Country Sales Manager of DataProphet. “The manufacturing sector has experienced a huge shift in the fourth industrial revolution and through AI, we have helped organisations achieve the optimal state of production. AI enables a substantial improvement to traditional analytics available to manufacturers. Investment follows when an innovative technology is proven to address a need. We applaud innovation platforms such as AfricArena that aid in the identification and scale of African tech.” 

With stories of African startup exits, IPOs and record funding activity, investors are receiving the right signals, locally and globally. The big question raised was can investors deploy such money in a way that brings expected returns?  

“Doing business in Africa is both complex and complicated,” states Andrea Böhmert, Co-Managing Partner at Knife Capital, “Doing business on other continent is equally challenging. We don't have the luxury of large home markets. The majority of lucrative exits have been international exits. Unless we can convince investors that companies can scale sufficiently to generate the required returns, money will fly into less risky asset classes or geographies. While the momentum is building, we need more success stories such as those coming from the efforts of incubators and accelerators like AfricArena. Other barriers include political stability, ease of doing business and access to skills. We, the ecosystem players, need to make it easier to compete on a global level - our entrepreneurs - the really good ones, will do the rest.”

“In my opinion, the recipe for success is co-investment by local and international investors, providing entrepreneurs with the best of both worlds,” concludes Böhmert.

The AfricArena Tech Summit

The startup successes from AfricArena have consistently proven global impact such as most recent success story, RxAll. The Nigeria-based startup was the AfricArena 2018 Deep Tech Challenge winner. Last month, they emerged as the Grand Winner at the world-leading DeepTech event, Hello Tomorrow – a partner of AfricArena. 

RxAll competed alongside 4,500 DeepTech startups from 119 countries to win the grand prize of €100,000. It is the first African start up to win the contest.

AfricArena is celebrated as the largest tech ecosystem accelerator on the African continent. Last year’s event saw more than 80 startups presenting to over 150 investors with 25 countries being represented. The conference serves as a platform for the continent’s best startups and innovators to showcase their world-class talent in front of an audience of both local and international investors. 

In May this year, AfricArena will be taking their 2018 Open Innovation winners to the biggest startup conference in Europe, VivaTech. Recognising that technology is revolutionising Africa, VivaTech will feature, for the second time, a dedicated [email protected] section – showcasing 50 African startups from four key sectors.

The AfricArena World Tour 2019

Ahead of VivaTech, AfricArena will kick off their 2019 journey on 30 April, visiting 12 of the fastest-growing African tech cities including Nairobi, Kigali, Abidjan, Casablanca, Lagos, Tunis, Dakar, Cairo and Johannesburg. The Tour will also cover New York, Paris and the host city of the Tech Summit – Cape Town. Whilst in-country a ‘pitch battle’ will be held – giving each startup the opportunity to present their product or idea as a digital clock counts down three minutes, followed by a Q&A session. 

Dedicated Tour Challenges present a potentially lucrative angle for sponsors. Each sponsor can pose a challenge they are faced with or would like to solve within their corporation. 

Startups can then present a tech solution during the pitch battles. One challenge winner per city will be pre-selected and invited to the AfricArena 2019 Conference on November 11th & 12th in Cape Town. The Summit will be preceded by a two day ‘Unconference’ on 9th & 10th focusing on collaborative learning and outdoor networking activities.

“The South African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA) is once again excited to support AfricArena,” comments Tanya van Lill, CEO of SAVCA. “The event highlights the creative start-ups in and around Africa. It brings together various players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, who each work together to make a positive contribution to African economies.”

Key themes for the 2019 AfricArena Summit are: AI/Machine Learning , 4th AI & Tech for Good, SmartCity, Agritech, Financial & Commerce inclusion, Healthcare, Privacy &  Ethics and Traveltech. African startups will compete on several open innovation challenges in front of global investors and corporates. 

AfricArena is anchored and endorsed by sponsors including BNP Paribas, Air France KLM, Vinci Energies, AWS, Saint Gobain, Engie, Silicon Cape and the City of Cape Town. Included are key ecosystem partners MEST, SAVCA, ABAN, Startupbootcamp, Vivatech, Hello Tomorrow, La French Tech, AFD/Proparco, EuroQuity and BPI.

Sponsoring the event for a third consecutive year, Wesgro’s CEO, Tim Harris, commented: “Cape Town is Africa's tech capital, with a recent research study confirming that the Cape Town-Stellenbosch ecosystem is the most productive in Africa. The announcement that Amazon and Microsoft Azure will be building data-centres in the Mother City, strengthens our position as the strongest tech ecosystem on the continent, and one of the best in the world. We thank AfricArena, its network of partners and La French Tech for their major contributions to drive connectivity and collaboration between Africa's diverse tech ecosystems, and choosing Cape Town as the host City for AfricArena"

Africa is the Future and African Tech is where to invest right now. AfricArena offers the ideal deal-making platform where corporates, angels, VCs and CVCs, incubators/accelerators and entrepreneurs can join forces for the good of innovation and the growth of the African tech ecosystem.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE