Ayiba was invited to attend the Seedstars Summit 2017 in Lausanne, Switzerland as media partners. We watched entrepreneurs from 65+ countries from around the emerging market pitch for a chance to win $500,000 in venture capital. Here are some of our favorite African entrepreneurs who we caught up with one-on-one during the conference.
The Netflix of Africa won’t need wifi to stream
The youngest competitor of the entire competition was from Mozambique. He founded Blackbox, whose mission is to provide internet-free streaming across Africa. How? By using an offline P2P matched network that connects users to Blackbox’s own wifi network. That way users can stream with zero data. For Blackbox, entertainment is not the goal, though who wouldn’t want wifi-free streaming of Nollywood movies and more. Really, it is about proving the technology. “Have you ever gone to a bank and had the teller say the system is down? With our technology, that wouldn’t happen. There are so many applications for our technology,” said founder Claude Champier. At this point, Blackbox is in beta testing and has already achieved the same speed as wifi in the country. He won Seedstar’s Maputo competition.
An African-made digital piggy bank
Akiba is revolutionising finance by making it collective, granting people the tools for practical and transparent management of their finances. They started off as a group saving platform, but have since pivoted. Akiba, in attempting to digitize the traditional saving circle, learned two key things were inhibiting adoption: trust and short-term saving patterns that were a socio-cultural artifact in Uganda. In terms of trust, “where being a first adopter is a badge of honor in other parts of the world, in Uganda, it makes you a fool,” said Ivan Mworozi of Akiba. Many people have the experience of being scammed and therefore only trust brands they see in media: TV, radio, and newspaper. Those mediums are expensive for startups to advertise on.
Also, “in the US saving is infinite. In Africa, it is goal-oriented,” said Ivan Mworozi of Akiba. “You only save when you need something and banks don’t want that. They don’t want you to withdraw your account to zero. To avoid penalties for withdrawing, most saving in Uganda is done in cash.” Armed with these findings, Ivan and his team set out to create a savings option that matched the cultural behaviour of Ugandans, and facilitate aspirational savings for millennials — another observation made by the team. They have created a digital piggy bank where you can save money and buy items online. Akiba won the local Kampala competition.
Confidential feminine hygiene and contraceptive delivery for women
In Rwanda, accessing critical products such as sanitary pads and contraceptives can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for women. Kasha sells and delivers women’s health products confidentially through a widely accessible retail platform, via any type of mobile phone. No internet, no smartphone required. The founder was formerly employed at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Based in Kigali, they have delivered over 1,000 orders around the country. Kasha now has a subscription model and sees itself as more than a service provider, they are also a tech company that can mine data and give local businesses unique market insight. Why Rwanda? “Because of its innovative tech culture. Rwanda uses drones to deliver blood, it is committed to women’s empowerment, and family planning,” says Joanna Bichsel of Kasha. “It just made sense for us.”
$1 per month health insurance in Tanzania
Jamii is a mobile micro-health insurance product for the low income and informal sector population at just $1 per month. Their mobile policy management platform has been able to cut insurance administration costs by 95% enabling them to quote policies for the low income — a bracket in which 76% of Tanzanians fall. After experiencing the loss of a dear friend after a road accident due to a $25 medical fee that denied him treatment, Lilian Makoi set out to make insurance accessible to all. With support from Vodacom, Jamii was able to lower the cost and timing of underwriting making the price point accessible to all. They are currently working to overcome the next challenge: socio-cultural beliefs that insurance is only for the rich and that the $1 per month price tag and mobile medium are not a scam. They are working with community leaders and reaching people through their social saving groups to gain trust. Access to healthcare is one challenge, but quality healthcare in Africa is a whole other conversation. Lilian’s insurance avoids public hospitals and lists mostly private, missionary-owned dispensaries and clinics to ensure the best health coverage.
Making free internet into a profitable business
Over 70% of the Angolan population does not have access to Internet. Luanda winners, Wi-Connect have created wifi hot spot zones around Luanda and sell digital ad space in the user authentication page to small business to help with operational costs. They service public spaces including cafes, salons, and university campuses. Before customers log on, they either watch an ad or fill out short surveys. This is how Wi-Connect collects geo-specific data around Luanda, thereby monetizing their service while providing a very necessary service for free to their customers. “It has been challenging. In Africa, you’ll find that to solve one problem, you have to solve five others first.” For example, in order to expand their services to university campuses, they had to install solar panels as electricity is not steadily supplied.
Democratizing radiology in Zimbabwe
Doctors, being human, make mistakes and so have limited diagnostic accuracy, which averages 70%. Thus, patients don’t always get the best care and some die. Dr CADx, the Seedstars Harare winner, is a computer aided diagnostic system to help doctors diagnose medical images more accurately and save lives. They are using deep learning to build a computer aided diagnostic system to help doctors diagnose medical images more accurately. “I’m trying to democratize radiology in Zimbabwe. You see, there is only one radiologist per one million people. And even with the shortage of specialists, there is a 30% industry error rate when reading scans. The AI software I have developed is at 82%,” says Gift Gana, Dr. CADx CEO.