An African Unicorn is a startup that has reached the unicorn status, meaning they have a valuation of over $1 billion. They are also referred to as “Africa’s Silicon Valley” or “Africa’s tech giants.”
In Africa, the startup scene is still in its infancy. But there are some companies that are creating a shift in the way African startups operate and what they look like. These new types of startups are undoubtedly leading the way for African entrepreneurs to build their own successful businesses.
Less than a decade ago, Africa had not a single unicorn. But today, the continent accounts for about 7 startups worth over $1 billion. Africa’s fintech unicorns have already capitalized on the opportunity to scale up and expand further into the region and beyond.
Without further ado, here’s a list of Africa’s nine unicorn startups ranked in terms of their valuation:
Flutterwave – $3 billion
Flutterwave is a Nigerian company that offers innovative payment solutions to its customers. They have created a platform that allows people to send and receive money without the need for a bank account. It was founded in Lagos, Nigeria in 2016 by two Nigerian entrepreneurs -Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola. It has since grown to become an African unicorn with headquarters in San Francisco. As well as offices in Lagos, Nairobi, Accra, and Johannesburg.
Flutterwave is an African company with a global reach. Since its inception, Flutterwave has processed more than 200 million transactions valued at over $16 billion across 34 countries in Africa. The company also said that it now served 900,000 customers.
The African fintech recently announced that it raised USD $250 million in Series D funding round. As a result, the company’s valuation tripled to over $3 billion in just twelve months. As the brand continues to transform the way Africans transact on the continent and worldwide, Flutterwave has become the highest valued African unicorn with this investment.
OPay – $2 billion
OPay is a digital payments platform to send and receive money from any bank in Nigeria. It was founded in 2018 by Yahul Zhou, a Chinese billionaire entrepreneur. OPay facilitates the people in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and other African countries with the best fintech ecosystem.
OPay’s headquarters are located in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s an international FinTech startup, backed by Chinese investors. Big corporations from all over the world are looking to invest in OPay.
The company raised a total of $570 million in funding over 3 rounds. With its latest funding raised in August 2021 from a Series C round, it is currently worth over $2 billion.
Chippers Cash – $2 billion
Chippers Cash was established in San Francisco in 2018 by two African entrepreneurs – Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. It’s a fintech startup that facilitates cross-border payment across Africa.
They have successfully implemented the use of digital payments to reach new customers and provide them with the same convenience as their western counterparts. The company’s fintech services work in Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Kenya.
In 2021, Chippers Cash hit a $2 billion valuation after raising its first Series C round of $100 million led by SVB Capital. The company received $150 million in a Series C extension round led by Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange platform. Increasing the total Series C capital to $250 million.
Wave – $1.7 billion
Wave is a Senegal-based mobile money provider created in Senegal by two Americans – Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk, in 2017. It offers free deposits and withdrawals via its mobile application and applies a fixed transaction fee of just 1% for money transfers between individuals. Unlike its competitors, Wave passes additional fees on bill payments from users on to businesses.
The company recently raised $200 million in a Series A round valuing the company at $1.7 billion. The funding is the largest Series A round raised for the region. Thus making it the first francophone African unicorn.
Andela – $1.5 billion
Andela is an African company with a mission to provide the best talent from across Africa to companies, organizations, and individuals who need their skills. Four professionals founded Andela together – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ian Carnevale, Jeremy Johnson and Christiana Sass, with the goal of creating opportunities for African tech talent by connecting them to global companies and investors.
Beginning in Lagos, Nigeria, but now reaching across multiple continents, Andela has become the talent network trusted by hundreds of the world’s top companies to help them seamlessly tap into global brilliance.
The company has raised a total of $381 million funding in multiple rounds with the latest funding raised in September 2021 from a Series E round. Bringing the company’s valuation to $1.5 billion as a result.
Interswitch – $1 billion
Interswitch is a financial services provider with roots in Lagos, Nigeria. They have offices across Africa and offer services for businesses, individuals and government entities. Interswitch has been able to grow at a rapid pace because of their focus on technology and innovation in the financial sector.
The company was founded by Mitchell Elegbe in 2002. Interswitch has set its sights on digitalizing financial services across Africa, moving from traditional banking to new digital-based solutions. Such as mobile banking, online payments, and remittances for people living outside of their country.
In 2019, Interswitch reached the African unicorn status after a $200 million equity investment by Visa which gave the firm a $1 billion valuation. Its latest funding was raised in November 2019 from a corporate round.
Esusu – $1 billion
Esusu was founded in 2018 by Indian Samir Goel and Nigerian Abbey Wemimo. It’s a new fintech company that offers credit services to individuals who are looking for loans but don’t have access to traditional banking products. The company has partnered with several banks in Nigeria and Africa in order to provide loans for the unbanked and underbanked.
The startup recently reached unicorn after a $130 million Series B funding led by Softbank, in January 2022.
Fawry – $1 billion
Fawry began as an idea in 2007. Technology expert Ashraf Sabry came up with the vision of introducing electronic bill payment in Egypt, in order to beat the pressing need for convenience and easy payments in a country where traffic congestion and complex procedures are daily challenges that face consumers.
Starting from 5000 points of service in two cities, Fawry teams successfully rolled out the service to reach 225,000 points of service in 300 cities nationwide.
Fawry is not only the first-ever Egyptian fintech startup to reach a market cap of $1 billion. But also the first-ever African tech startup to go public through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) on African soil.
Jumia – $1 billion
Jumia was the first e-commerce marketplace in Africa to offer customers the ability to pay online and cash on delivery. The company has grown rapidly since its inception and now has over 100 million users across the continent of Africa.
In 2012, Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec, alongside Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Kofi Afaedor, created Jumia in Lagos, Nigeria. It has now expanded its operations to include 14 countries. The company’s headquarters are located in Berlin. However, they have offices all over Africa, including Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria, with over 5000 employees worldwide.
In 2016, the company rose to become the first African unicorn with a ten-figure valuation. In recent times, however, the valuation has continued to change. It dropped below $1 billion in 2019 due to its volatile share price. As of March 2022, Jumia has a market cap of $0.78 billion.
To sum up, Africa’s unicorns provide a perfect storm for innovation and growth. With the population of over 1 billion, Africa certainly has a lot of untapped resources. The African continent is a hotbed for innovative ideas. It’s also home to some of the most innovative minds in the world.
Experts have dubbed the continent as the new frontier for innovation and entrepreneurship. Africa has seen an increase in tech startups, which we often refer to as African unicorns. These startups have created an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors to seize on this changing market.
The African economy has experienced rapid growth in recent years. But it still faces challenges like poverty and lack of infrastructure. Investing in African startups can help solve these challenges by providing capital for infrastructure development, creating jobs and improving access to healthcare.