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Tech Titans: 35 Trailblazers Who Shaped Africa’s Tech Landscape in 2023

Tech Titans: 35 Trailblazers Who Shaped Africa's Tech Landscape in 2023

Africa’s tech ecosystem is booming, and 2023 has been a particularly defining year for innovation and progress.

From visionary policymakers and venture capitalists to tech journalists and startup founders, a diverse group of individuals have played a pivotal role in shaping this exciting landscape.

Empower Africa is proud to present the “Tech Titans: 35 Trailblazers Who Shaped Africa’s Tech Landscape in 2023,” a celebration of the individuals who have driven transformative change throughout the year.

Each of these 35 titans has made a significant contribution, and their collective efforts are propelling Africa’s tech ecosystem to new heights.

1. Mounir Nakhla (Founder and CEO of MNT-Halan)

Nakhla’s leadership has revolutionized Egypt’s fintech scene with MNT-Halan, a leading mobile money platform.

His dedication to financial inclusion has empowered millions of Egyptians and paved the way for broader fintech adoption across Africa.

This year, MNT-Halan became Egypt’s first unicorn.

2. Pascal Murasira (Managing Director for Norrsken, East Africa)

Murasira’s passion for supporting early-stage tech startups is evident in his work at Norrsken, a Swedish impact investor. His commitment to nurturing innovation has empowered countless East African entrepreneurs and fueled the region’s tech growth.

3. Oyin Solebo (Managing Director, ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator)

Solebo’s expertise in nurturing tech talent has been instrumental in the success of ARM Labs, a leading accelerator program in Nigeria. Her dedication to empowering young entrepreneurs is shaping the future of Nigeria’s tech scene.

4. Agnes Gathaiya (Country Director, Eastern Africa – Google)

Gathaiya’s leadership at Google has been instrumental in driving internet access and digital literacy across Eastern Africa. Her commitment to bridging the digital divide is ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the tech revolution.

5. Andrew Fassnidge (Founder, Africa Tech Summit)

Fassnidge’s vision for the Africa Tech Summit has created a premier platform for connecting investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers across the continent. His tireless efforts have fostered collaboration and fueled investment in Africa’s tech sector.

6. Eunice Ajim (Founding Partner, Ajim Capital)

Ajim’s investment savvy has made Ajim Capital a leading force in Africa’s venture capital landscape. Her focus on early-stage tech startups with high growth potential is unlocking innovation and creating jobs across the continent.

7. Caleb Maru (Founder of Tech Safari)

Maru’s Tech Safari platform is a go-to resource for news and insights on Africa’s tech scene. His dedication to storytelling has shed light on the continent’s tech revolution and inspired countless innovators.

8. Irene Phoebe Kiwia (Co-Founder, Adanian Labs)

Kiwia’s work at Adanian Labs is at the forefront of artificial intelligence development in Africa. Her focus on using AI to solve local challenges is paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable future.

9. Addis Alemayehou (Chairman, Kazana Group)

Alemayehou’s visionary leadership has made Kazana Group a leading player in Ethiopia’s tech sector. His commitment to building world-class technology companies is putting Ethiopia on the map as a tech hub.

10. Keet van Zyl (Partner & Co-Founder, Knife Capital)

Van Zyl’s sharp eye for promising tech startups has made Knife Capital a leading venture capital firm in South Africa. Her dedication to supporting early-stage ventures is fueling innovation and job creation across the country.

11. Alex Okosi (Managing Director, Africa, Google)

Okosi’s leadership at Google is driving digital inclusion and economic growth across Africa. His focus on connecting people and businesses through technology is having a transformative impact on the continent.

12. Mumbi Ndung’u (Chief Of Growth & Operations, Power Learn Project – Africa)

Ndung’u’s commitment to developing Africa’s tech talent is evident in her work at the Power Learn Project. Her dedication to equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed in the tech industry is shaping the future workforce.

13. Aida Diarra – Senior VP and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, at Visa

Aida Diarra stands as a formidable figure in Africa’s technology and finance landscape. With a career marked by innovation and a commitment to driving financial inclusion, Diarra has been a catalyst for transformative change.

14. Maxime Bayen – Co-Founder, Africa: The Big Deal

Maxime is passionate about the role of entrepreneurship and tech in economic development. He has been working within the African startup ecosystem for almost a decade.

15. Maya Horgan Famodu – Partner and Founder, Ingressive Capital

Famodu’s impact on the investment landscape is significant, with Ingressive Capital playing a crucial role in supporting early-stage startups and fostering innovation across the continent.

16. Omar Laalej – Managing Director, Al Mada Ventures

Laalej’s strategic vision at Al Mada Ventures has positioned the firm as a key player in fostering technology-driven solutions, contributing to the digital transformation of industries across Africa.

17. Ralf Fletcher – CEO, Topco Media

Fletcher’s leadership at Topco Media has elevated the visibility of African tech achievements, creating platforms that celebrate success stories and inspire the next generation of innovators.

18. Tunji Andrews – CEO at Awabah

Andrews’ commitment to financial inclusion shines through Awabah.

In November, Awabah, a digital technology company focused on building wealth and providing financial sustainability to informal sector workers, was named the Best Newcomer at the GSA Africa Awards.

19. Rebecca Enonchong – CEO of AppsTech

A stalwart in the tech industry, Enonchong’s leadership at AppsTech has played a crucial role in driving digital transformation, providing innovative solutions to businesses across the continent.

20. Zekarias Amsalu Dubale – Founder, Africa Fintech Summit

Dubale’s vision for the Africa Fintech Summit has fostered collaboration and dialogue, positioning Africa as a hub for fintech innovation and investment.

21. Paula Gilbert – Editor at Connecting Africa

Gilbert’s role as an editor at Connecting Africa has been pivotal in amplifying the voices and stories of Africa’s tech ecosystem, fostering a sense of community and shared knowledge.

22. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji – Founder of Future Africa

Aboyeji’s commitment to nurturing African tech talent is evident through Future Africa, where he empowers entrepreneurs with the resources and mentorship needed to bring their ideas to fruition.

23. Folake Owodunni – Co-Founder & CEO, Emergency Response Africa

Owodunni’s leadership at Emergency Response Africa has harnessed technology to save lives, providing innovative solutions for emergency response and healthcare access across the continent.

24. Aki Anastasiou – Journalist, MyBroadband

A leading tech journalist, Anastasiou’s insightful reporting at MyBroadband has been instrumental in keeping audiences informed about the latest developments and trends in the African tech landscape.

25. Hardy Pemhiwa – Group President & CEO, Cassava Technologies

Pemhiwa’s leadership at Cassava Technologies has been transformative, leveraging digital solutions to enhance connectivity.

26. Tage Kene-Okafor – Reporter at TechCrunch

Kene-Okafor’s insightful reporting at TechCrunch has brought global attention to African tech innovations, bridging the gap between the continent and the international tech community.

27. Ramez El-Serafy – CEO at Flat6Labs

El-Serafy’s leadership at Flat6Labs has been instrumental in fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem, providing crucial support and mentorship for entrepreneurs across Africa.

28. Magalie Gauze-Sanga – Founder, Koree

Gauze-Sanga’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through Koree.

Koree, a Cameroonian fintech company, was crowned the winner of the 2023 Ecobank Fintech Challenge.

29. Kidus Asfaw – CEO & Co-Founder at Kubik, Inc

Kubik won the startup of the year award at the Global Startup Awards in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The company employs cutting-edge technology for recycling and repurposing plastic waste into green, cost-effective, and long-lasting low-carbon building materials.

30. Lionel Marumahoko – Board President, Uncommon.org

Marumahoko’s commitment to education technology at Uncommon.org has opened new possibilities for learning.

31. Kola Aina – Founding Partner at Ventures Platform

Aina’s role at Ventures Platform has been transformative, providing strategic investment and support for startups, accelerating their growth and impact on the African tech landscape.

32. Khalil Azzouzi – Partner at Azur Innovation Management

Azzouzi is one of the driving forces behind Azur Innovation Management.

Founded in 2020, Azur Innovation Management is a venture capital firm based out of Casablanca, Morocco. It invests in agriculture, consumer products and services, manufacturing and beauty sectors.

33. Juliet Ehimuan – Founder, Beyond Limits

Ehimuan’s leadership at Beyond Limits has elevated the role of technology in addressing societal challenges, pioneering solutions that create lasting impact.

34. Olumide Balogun – Director, West Africa at Google

Balogun’s role at Google West Africa has been pivotal in expanding the tech giant’s footprint, fostering digital inclusion, and empowering local businesses through innovative solutions.

35. Joyce-Ann Wainaina – Managing Partner, Chui Ventures

Wainaina’s leadership at Chui Ventures has contributed to the transformation of the tech landscape, guiding businesses towards sustainable growth and social impact.

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Egyptian Edtech Startup iSchool Raises $4.5 Million for Global Expansion

New Investments

Egyptian Edtech Startup iSchool Raises $4.5 Million for Global Expansion

Egypt-based edtech startup iSchool has secured $4.5 million in a funding round to fuel its global expansion, with plans to establish a new team in Dublin, Ireland.
 

The investment, led by VentureWave Capital, will serve as a springboard for iSchool to reach new markets and solidify its position as a leader in coding education for children.

Founded in 2018, iSchool offers live, gamified coding classes for students aged 6-18. Its curriculum covers a range of in-demand skills, including Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, app development, game development, and web development.

The startup has garnered significant traction in the Middle East and North Africa, boasting leadership roles in computer science labs, technical training, and partnerships with 35 schools.

Notably, iSchool has spearheaded national-level initiatives in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

With over 26,000 students, 1 million training hours, and 10 million lines of code written by their young learners, iSchool has established a strong foundation for further growth.

The $4.5 million investment will fuel iSchool’s ambitious expansion plans.

The Dublin office will serve as a strategic hub for its international operations, facilitating entry into new markets and fostering collaboration with global talent.

Additionally, the funding will enable iSchool to expand its reach in the MENA region, scale its online platform. and extend its reach in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Ampersand Secures $19.5 Million for Electric Motorcycle Expansion in Africa

New Investments

Ampersand Secures $19.5 Million for Electric Motorcycle Expansion in Africa

Ampersand, Africa’s pioneering electric transport energy company, has secured $19.5 million in funding to scale its operations across the continent.
 

The investment, led by the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) alongside Acumen and Hard Edged Hope Fund, includes $7.5 million in debt from the Africa Go Green Fund managed by Cygnum Capital.

This capital injection will fuel Ampersand’s growth in three key areas:

Boosting production of electric motorcycle batteries: The company aims to ramp up battery production to meet the surging demand from delivery and taxi motorcycle riders transitioning to cleaner mobility solutions.

Expanding battery swap station network: With a growing fleet of electric motorcycles, Ampersand will strategically expand its network of swap stations in Kigali and Nairobi, ensuring convenient battery replacements for riders.

Accelerating R&D: Ampersand plans to invest in research and development, focusing on next-generation batteries, software enhancements, and improved battery-swap technology.

Since its 2016 launch, Ampersand was the first to deploy electric motorcycles in Africa (May 2019).

Ampersand’s motorcycles have covered a collective 180 million kilometers, reducing carbon emissions by 8,000 tons.

The company currently serves 1,700 riders and facilitates 140,000 monthly battery swaps in Kigali and Nairobi.

Founded in 2016, Ampersand is headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda. The company operates in Rwanda and Kenya, with 32 battery swap stations and a fleet of 1,700 electric motorcycles.

The company is recognized for its commitment to affordability and sustainability, with its African-made battery fleet leading in cost-effectiveness for light-electric vehicles.

With ambitious goals to serve one million vehicles daily by 2030, Ampersand is positioned to contribute significantly to a greener Africa and create green jobs.

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BioNTech Launches First Manufacturing Plant for mRNA Vaccines in Africa in Rwanda

Key Developments

BioNTech Launches First Manufacturing Plant for mRNA Vaccines in Africa in Rwanda

German biotech giant BioNTech has taken a significant step toward its ambitious goal of producing mRNA vaccines in Africa by setting up the first BioNTainer at its manufacturing facility in Kigali, Rwanda.
 

This marks a crucial milestone just one year after the project’s groundbreaking.

The first BioNTainer, a prefabricated modular unit designed for rapid deployment and efficient mRNA production, represents a $150 million investment fully financed by BioNTech.

The overall facility spans a vast 35,000 square meters and will ultimately employ around 100 staff members once operational.

While full commercial production is still slated for 2025, BioNTech is on track to complete the construction of all buildings at the Kigali site in 2024.

Additionally, the company plans to begin local training for specialized personnel and initiate test mRNA production for process validation within the same year.

BioNTech intends to launch clinical trials in 2024 for vaccine candidates targeting malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV – diseases that claim over two million lives annually in Africa, disproportionately impacting children.

Upon successful development and regulatory approval, BioNTech aims to make these vaccines available to lower-income countries at a non-profit price.

BioNTech’s commitment to bringing mRNA vaccine technology to Africa is not just about building infrastructure but also about fostering partnerships and ensuring equitable access to life-saving vaccines.

The first BioNTainer in Kigali symbolizes a promising step in this direction, offering hope for a future where advanced medical solutions are available to all.

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Ghanaian-Swiss Cocoa Upcycling Startup Koa Secures US$15 Million to Revolutionize Industry

New Investments

Ghanaian-Swiss Cocoa Upcycling Startup Koa Secures US$15 Million to Revolutionize the Industry

Koa, a Swiss-Ghanaian cocoa upcycling startup, has secured a landmark US$15 million investment in its Series B funding round to transform the cocoa industry with its innovative approach to sustainability and farmer empowerment.
 

This capital injection was led by the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund from Mirova and the Regenerative Growth Fund 1 managed by Zebra Impact and Mirabaud.

The funding will fuel Koa’s ambitious plans to tenfold its current production, empower 10,000 additional cocoa smallholders, and champion regenerative agriculture practices.

By doing so, Koa aims to tackle the twin challenges of food waste and climate change, while simultaneously boosting farm incomes and carving a sustainable path for the future of cocoa.

Unlike the traditional model that discards the juicy cocoa fruit after extracting the beans, Koa sees hidden potential in it.

Through their newly inaugurated processing facility in Ghana, the company ingeniously transforms the fruit pulp into value-added ingredients for the food and beverage industry, creating everything from smoothies and juices to chocolates and snacks.

By collaborating with Ghanaian farmers and sharing its upcycling technology, Koa empowers local communities, generates additional income for families, and reduces food waste on farms.

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Egyptian Healthtech Chefaa Secures $5.25 Million for Expansion

New Investments

Egyptian Healthtech Chefaa Secures $5.25 Million for Expansion

Egyptian healthtech startup Chefaa has received a $5.25 million boost in a funding round co-led by Newtown Partners (South Africa) and Global Brain (Japan).
 

Other notable investors include GMS Capital Partners LLC (US), Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures (Nigeria), and M3, Inc. (Japan).

This significant investment fuels Chefaa’s expansion, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where it recently began operating in eight cities.

Founded in 2017 by Rasha Rady and Doaa Aref, Chefaa is a female-led e-pharmacy platform dedicated to providing a seamless end-to-end healthcare experience.

Beyond medication delivery, the platform offers online consultations with doctors and tools for managing chronic diseases, all with a patient-centric approach.

The fresh capital will not only strengthen Chefaa’s Saudi Arabian presence but also bolster its mission to spearhead the safe digital transformation of healthcare.

Their plans include scaling operations across Saudi cities, developing further models for digitizing the healthcare supply chain, and investing in platform and service enhancements.

Investors were drawn to Chefaa’s proven success, innovative spirit, and dedication to improving healthcare accessibility. Key factors behind the investment include:

CEO Doaa Aref expressed gratitude for the investor support: “We are incredibly grateful for the trust and confidence that our investors have placed in us. This investment will enable us to accelerate our mission of making healthcare more accessible and convenient for everyone.”

Chefaa’s recent milestone, driven by its focus on innovation and positive impact, marks a significant step forward in its journey to transform healthcare delivery in the region.

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E4E Africa Secures $30 Million in First Close for Fund II to Empower Impactful Startus in Africa

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E4E Africa Secures $30 Million in First Close for Fund II to Empower Impactful Startus in Africa

South Africa’s E4E Africa, a venture capital firm powered by entrepreneurs, has secured $30 million for the first close of its E4E Africa Fund II.
 

This marks a new chapter in their mission to empower impactful startups across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Building on the success of their first fund, which backed prominent names like insurtech Pineapple and home services platform SweepSouth, E4E Africa continues its focus on high-potential businesses driving positive change.

Their expertise lies in fintech, education, job tech, e-health, and energy solutions, where they seek out exceptional entrepreneurial teams building scalable ventures.

E4E Africa’s commitment to founder-centric support goes beyond capital. They leverage their extensive network of experienced entrepreneurs to provide valuable guidance and mentorship, creating a nurturing environment for startups to thrive.

Fund II has already invested in three promising companies: Kwara, a Kenyan core banking platform, TUNL, a South African tech-enabled export shipping provider, and a disruptive player reshaping Kenya’s embedded finance landscape.

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“We are delighted to partner with ISA to support the development of solar energy in Africa,” said Alain Ebobissé, CEO of Africa50. “This partnership will help to accelerate the deployment of solar energy in Africa and improve the lives of millions of Africans,” he added.

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Techstars Selects 12 African Startups for its Second Cohort for Lagos Accelerator Program

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Techstars Selects 12 African Startups for its Second Cohort for Lagos Accelerator Program

Techstars, a global accelerator renowned for its active investment in the African continent, has unveiled its second cohort for the Lagos-based accelerator program.
 
In partnership with Nigerian accelerator ARM Labs, the initiative will inject a total of $120,000 into a diverse range of startups spanning Ghana, Nigeria, and East Africa.

This marks a significant development, as Techstars, boasting a portfolio of over 3,000 companies globally, is poised to play a crucial role in propelling the growth of these 12 selected enterprises.
 
Beyond substantial financial backing, the startups, four of which have at least one female co-founder, will receive extensive support exceeding $400,000 in cash-equivalent value. This includes valuable resources such as hosting, accounting, legal assistance, and various other benefits amounting to over $5 million.

While 2022 witnessed a remarkable $5 billion raised in African tech, 2023 saw a funding slowdown, prompting a more cautious approach among investors. 
 
However, Techstars remains undeterred, extending its support beyond the traditional realms of fintech and proptech.
 
This cohort reflects a diversified portfolio, encompassing sectors like logistics, e-commerce, healthtech, renewable energy, and the future of work.

Meet the Innovative Startups:

1. 24Seven: An asset-light marketplace facilitating small businesses with credit-based inventory ordering and one-hour doorstep delivery.

2. Beauty Hut: An e-commerce platform enabling users to shop from their favorite beauty brands via a web store and mobile app.

3. Eight Medical: An end-to-end platform connecting users to emergency medical resources, reducing waiting times significantly.

4. GetEquity: Facilitating access to investment opportunities by SEC-accredited providers through investment aggregation.

5. JumpnPass: A mobile self-checkout platform allowing shoppers to scan product barcodes, pay for items, and skip queues.

6. One Plan: Assisting workers in Africa’s informal economy to create affordable financial plans for retirement, credit, and insurance.

7. PBR Life Sciences: Providing pharmaceutical, consumer healthcare, and medical device companies with access to high-quality market data.

8. PressOne Africa: Offering businesses deeper insights into phone conversations through a communication platform.

9. Rana: Democratizing access to clean and reliable solar systems for SMEs and residential customers through affordable subscriptions.

10.. Surge Africa: Enabling instant cross-border transfers and reducing fees for individuals, micro-entrepreneurs, and MSMEs.

11. Swoove: Empowering logistics companies in emerging markets with dispatch automation, fleet management, and tracking.

12. Veend: Enabling individuals and businesses with verifiable income to access funds on-demand.

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Catherine Wijnberg

Catherine Wijnberg

She is an advocate for change, women, and entrepreneurs.

In 2006, she founded Fetola with a mission to deliver sustainable solutions addressing the triple threat of unemployment, inequality, and poverty on a massive scale.

Under her leadership, Fetola has evolved into one of South Africa’s leading business growth agencies.

Renowned for its national business accelerators, Fetola empowers emerging SMEs, fueling economic growth and creating vital employment opportunities.

Catherine positions Fetola as a key player in nurturing healthy SME ecosystems across industries, contributing to the overall vibrancy of the business landscape.

Beyond her role at Fetola, she is a keynote speaker and author passionate about effecting scalable impact at the ecosystem level, leadership development, and innovation.

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Eloho Omame

Eloho is a Nigerian entrepreneur, an early-stage investor, and a strong advocate for gender & inclusion in Africa’s venture capital space.

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