Almost a third of funding raised by African startups in 2017 was in the fintech sector as investors bet on consumers turning to more formal financial services in a region where just 17% of the population have banking accounts. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017, according to a report from Disrupt Africa.
Fintech was the biggest attraction for investors, the report says, with 45 startups raising one-third of total funding. The success of mobile money technology like M-Pesa in Kenya and across East Africa has long shown the potential for other underserved markets. M-Pesa’s success is likely also behind for the increasing presence of mobile networks in the African financial sector and the convergence of the two sectors (pdf page 11).
While fintech is seen as disrupting the traditional financial sector in more advanced economies, in Africa it is bridging gaps that have not been addressed by the banking industry to begin with. Between 2015 and 2017, African fintech startups including names like Flutterwave and Paystack jointly raised more than $100 million.
Aside from fintech, investors also favored e-commerce and agri-tech in 2017. E-commerce startups saw funding quadruple to $16.7 million.
Overall, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya remained the countries with highest funding raised, consistent with their record from previous years. Even though a higher number of South African startup raised funds, Nigeria’s funding surpassed South Africa’s, skewed by a hefty $40 million raised by coding school Andela—nearly the same amount as all Nigerian startups raised collectively in 2016.
Away from the big three countries, investors also gambled on startups in Ghana and Egypt. Investors have shown interest in Somalia-based startups—a first for the country—and venture funding momentum is picking up in Uganda, Tunisia and Morocco.