African startups show strength at Toronto tech fest
The curtain has come down on “Collision 2023”, one of the most anticipated tech conferences of the year in the bustling city of Toronto. Amidst the sea of global startups and tech giants, the presence of some African startups highlighted the continent’s growing prominence in the global tech ecosystem. With their innovative solutions, disruptive ideas, and unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, African startups made a good mark on this year’s conference.
The African startup scene has been steadily gaining momentum in recent years, with advancements in technology, growing access to funding, and a vibrant entrepreneurial culture fueling its growth. Collision 2023 served as a platform for some of these startups to showcase their potential, network with industry leaders, and attract investors from around the world.
“In all, more than 130 startups attended the technology conference, with exhibitions from 76 countries representing more than 30 different industries and speakers from more than 40 countries”, according to Paddy Cosgrave, the chief executive officer and founder of Web Summit, the organizer of the Collision tech conference and exhibition. Some of the immediate benefits to Toronto in the three years the event has run exceed $188 million generated in hospitality revenue alone, including hotels and taxis used by attendees.
The Canadian government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t miss the opportunity to highlight its intent on attracting tech talent. It chose the moment to announce its decision to create an immigration pathway in Canada for the more than 400,000 tech workers on the H1B visa in the U.S. who may see no way forward in their aspiration for a Green Card.
“We’re setting a cap on that new stream for H-1B visa holders at 10,000,” Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said at the conference. “And that program is going to launch officially on the 16th of July.”
The strategy, Fraser said, is to ensure that Canada builds up a sizable pool of talent in the belief that “if we have tech workers here, companies will come here.” The government is taking a long term view of the situation, not deterred by “short-term layoffs” in the sector and focused on what might be a “generational opportunity” to boost such a specialist workforce.
One of standout African startups at Collision 2023 was Go-Geeper, a Nigerian digital platform promoting sustainability practices across the agricultural value chain from agro-input to output and beyond. Among other things, Ge-Geeper provides a marketplace to shop for fresh produce from farmers and have them delivered to your doorstep, Farm-Management-Advisory-as-a-Service (FaMAaaS), micro-lending, commodity linkages and analytics/insights across the entire agricultural value chain.
Deploying digital solutions to promote sustainable agriculture, gender equity and food security, Go-Geeper aims to revolutionize the agricultural value chain across the continent. The startup is gaining meaningful traction, securing partnerships with state governments in Nigeria while it is seeking funding from both local and international investors. Its presence at Collision 2023 highlighted the immense potential of technology solutions in driving sustainability in agriculture and expanding inclusion and economic growth in Africa.
Ethiopian startup, Chapa, also drew attention at Collision 2023 with its innovative approach to financial services. Chapa is a suite of application programme interfaces powering online payment processing and commerce solutions for Ethiopian businesses of all sizes. It’s a gateway that empowers merchants to accept local and international payments from their customers. With a stated mission to empower Ethiopian entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive in the global economy, Chapa is poised to accelerate the integration of Ethiopian small businesses into the global economy.
From Kenya came Tinyafrica, a fintech company seeking to revolutionize payments in Africa by creating integrated payment platforms for businesses and individuals. It was represented by its co-founder Catherine Masolia. A Moroccan enterprise software company, Afritech, run by systems engineer Fahd Mekouar, is set up around measuring customer response and audience-measuring technologies that help businesses improve their sales.
South Africa featured attendants from a diversity of industries including artificial intelligence, venture capital and private equity, augmented reality and social good. Nigerian participants featured more startups exhibiting their businesses, including Afeez Moradeyo of Matraq Integrated Limited. Moradeyo is barely a month old in Canada, having arrived on a startup visa based on his fintech app that enables cross-border payments and supply-chain management for businesses.
Beyond these highlighted startups, numerous other African entrepreneurs showcased their innovative ideas and disruptive solutions at Collision 2023. From agriculture to healthcare, edtech to renewable energy, African startups presented a diverse range of solutions aimed at addressing the continent’s unique challenges while also catering to global markets.
The growing presence of African startups at global tech conferences like Collision 2023 reflects the increasing drive to leverage technology in solving major challenges on the continent and the accelerating momentum in Africa’s tech ecosystem. Highlighted below are some of the African companies that showcased their businesses at Collision 2023:
Periculum An Africa-focused artificial intelligence company based in Toronto. It builds software to enable organizations undertake data analysis and help them make better decisions. Founder: Michael Collins
Matraq Integrated Limited Enables cross-border payments, remittances and customer relations management for individuals as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. Founder, Afeez Moradeyo.
Xcigence Provides a risk management and cybersecurity platform that enables companies stay ahead of cyberattacks and compliance regulations. Founder: Yomi Olalere
Expedier A digital bank focused on the African diaspora community in the Ontario area and Canada in general. Aims to avail customers with banking services to quickly build up their credit ratings, a lack of which is often an impediment to accessing credit in Canada. Founder: Kingsley Madu, working with Somto Ekwegh as a partner.
Go-Geeper A tech ecosystem that connects smallholder farmers to markets, making agriculture more efficient, sustainable and profitable. Go-Geeper provides market access, farm management advisory services, microlending and a food bank. Founder: Johnson Bada
Tiny Africa A fintech company seeking to revolutionize payments in Africa by creating integrated payment platforms for businesses and individuals. It was represented by its co-founder Catherine Masolia
Tech Connect Africa This company creates opportunities for tech to meet culture. This is done through hosting networking events for tech professionals. Founders : Jeminatu Alain-Isama, Ayo Duyile (US-based)
A common thread that ran through the Collision 2023 Conference was the growing impact of artificial intelligence on the future of computing and the daily life of everyone. The conference reconvenes in Toronto next year.