Though the global pandemic nearly stuck the world in limbo, however, operations in both local and global tech space not only continued uninterrupted, but the ecosystem thrived in unimaginable ways.
In the thick of things are African women-led startups whose innovations qualified them to raise a series of funding. We have compiled a list of startups that received funding in 2020.
Carry1st, Indicina, Kasha, Native Nylon, Okra, Premier, Playsense, Yebo Fresh- all women-led startups demonstrated resilience even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked the whole world.
Buttressing this point is Sarah Dusek, managing partner and co-founder of Engyma Ventures. “After an “extraordinary year” it was “incredible” to see women-led startups still thriving and creating expansion plans, despite the pandemic.”, she said.
Launched in 2019, the Capetown based startup co-founded by Lucy Hoffman is a mobile games publisher that caters to the first generation of African smartphone users.
Earlier in May 2020, Carry1st secured a seed funding round of US$2.5 million which was to enable it to expand its team, develop its tech, and build more new products.
The funding round led by CRE Venture Capital with participation from Perivoli Innovations, Chandaria Capital, Lateral Capital, Transsion’s Future Hub, and Kam Kronenberg III increased Carry1st’s total investment to US$4 million. Six months later in November 2020, the startup won AppsAfrica Best African App News award for its Gebeta.
Indicina, co-founded in 2018 by Yvonne Johnson, is a digital lending platform that provides insights into customers through predictive analytics and machine learning to spot and reject unsecured loans during the application and underwriting process.
In September, the fintech startup received funding of $150,000 from Itanna, the venture capital arm of Honeywell Group. Through its flagship product Originate, it enables lenders to make analytics-driven credit decisions, thereby improving default rates within the financial sector.
A Rwanda female-focused platform, Kasha was launched by Joanna Bischel in July 2016 to provide menstrual care products, contraceptives, pharmaceuticals, and a range of beauty products, to its customers (mainly females) with utmost confidentiality.
Early this year, the startup raised a Series A round from Finnfund, the United States International Development Finance Corporation. In November, it also received a $1 million cash injection from Swedfund.
The startup, which is focused on health and personal care enables its customers, mostly low-income women to order quality and affordable products through its website, a mobile app, SMS shortcode, or phone call.
Founded by Portia Dhlamini, Native Nylon is an eCommerce platform designed to sell fashion and lifestyle products. It sets out to bridge the gap between affordability and luxury for South African women.
The micro-financing VC, Khula Lula established by Milisa Mabinza, in November, made its first angel investment of R200 000 into Native Nylon. This was to support the venture to not only launch into the online retail market but to stay there and thrive.
The startup offers a wide range of products including clothing, jewelry, art and collectibles, footwear, cosmetics, enabling them to buy products of their choice.
Established in January 2020 by co-founder Fara Ashiru Jituboh, Okra is a Nigerian fintech startup that is building a secure portal and process to exchange real-time financial information between customers, applications, and banks.
In April, at barely 3 months old, the innovative startup secured a US$1 million pre-seed funding round from TLcom Capital to reinforce its effort in building the infrastructure for Africa’s next wave of fintech innovation.
Okra’s mission, which is to help African fintechs and banks build world-class technology and easily solve problems for their customers, still remains the same.
Zambian startup PremierCredit is a micro-lending platform co-founded by Chilufya Mutale in 2019. As a female-focused platform, the startup provides micro-loans to Zambian entrepreneurs and small-scale traders mostly women. It increases their access to funding which will enhance their ability to grow sustainable enterprises.
It recently raised US$650,000 in funding from Enygma Ventures to help it expand further, although it is already operational in Zimbabwe.
PremierCredit’s collaboration with its partner bank in Zimbabwe also enables the startup to support the informal sector as well as underserved communities.
Co-founded by Meg Faure, Play Sense is a South African edtech startup focused on children especially toddlers and preschoolers. Owing to the pandemic, it now offers a home-based education solution, including online interactive sessions between teachers and learners.
The platform, which has at its core child development, has created a unique play-centric curriculum for young children, equipping parents with needed skills and knowledge to raise their children.
In April, the edtech startup secured $458,000 in funding, enabling it to launch its home-based, pre-school learning model online.
Founded in 2018 by entrepreneur, Jessica Boonstra, Yebo Fresh is a digital retail platform that provides accessible quality, fresh foods and other essential commodities to private households, communities, and organizations in Capetown.
In November, it announced that it got an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from E4E, Mark Forrester, Dale Williams, and the founders of cars.co.za.
The online retailer also plays a vital role in the township economy, especially during the pandemic as it supplied goods to NGOs and township businesses such as fast-food restaurants and Spaza shops.
This list may only be about 8 women-led startups, but there are many others in Africa that have scaled new heights this year. We can only hope that 2021 will usher in more funding opportunities for more women-led startups in Africa.
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