African Tech Company of the Year

Technology in Africa is constantly evolving and companies face unique challenges on the continent as they try to keep up with international competitors while providing suitable services to the African consumer. The HumanIPO team picks out which companies it believes have performed best.

Tom Jackson: Any from Facebook, Nokia, Opera, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Samsung, MediaTek, Google, Omidyar Network, Cisco, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Alcatel-Lucent (and probably many more), each of whom have played a role in one or both of Internet.org or the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI). Internet access as a universal right is now on the global agenda, and through these initiatives these companies have put it there.

Selipha Kihagi: South Africa-based MTN is my tech company of the year. Through its MTN Foundation, the company has donated ICT equipment, built ICT centres, partnered companies for mobile money services, launched a 4G LTE network and even launched internet cafés across Africa.

In Ghana, MTN has built a total of 22 ICT centres and invested more than US$6.5 million in various community development projects across the country, with the November launch of a centre to serve more than 500 visually impaired students.

I believe MTN has contributed a lot in promoting social development across the African region through ICT.

Richard Cutcher: What a rollercoaster year it has been for iROKO Partners in Nigeria. In June, one of Africa’s most high-profile startups made the bold move of adding a true offline option for its Nollywood movie sales by beginning to sell hard copies in South African stores, while just a month earlier it had launched a business incubator and raised US$2 million for it within just three months. While its strategy impressed some and bewildered others, it all took a turn for the worse at the end of October when iROKING chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Ugwu was fired for alleged gross misconduct. Queue a slagging match, which certainly impressed nobody. Whether iROKO’s 2013 was successful or not, only 2014 will probably tell, but it was certainly entertaining.

Paul Adepoju: Jumia Nigeria. Despite being a dominant force in e-commerce, it continues to evolve and provides its customers with new offers. It also thinks outside the box which is why it has successfully entered into several unbelievable partnerships. It introduced an extraordinary app and also got so many exclusive deals. The stories from Jumia Nigeria just kept rolling in.

Gabriella Mulligan: Liquid Telecom is proving itself dedicated to providing Africa with reliable and quick internet access, being the company to have rolled out the most fibre across the continent to date with a fibre network in excess of 17,000 kilometres. Liquid currently operates a fibre network in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and connects onto the five main undersea cable systems landing in Africa; WACS, EASSy, SEACOM, SAT3 and TEAMs. In November, Liquid became the first provider to build a fibre optic cable into Somalia, connecting the country to the undersea cables for the first time, as well as to its neighbouring countries. Liquid CEO Nic Rudnick this year said the developments in internet access in Africa should act as a spur to industry players to imagine how much potential and work there is to be done, adding once the “pioneering” stage of laying fibre and providing connectivity across the continent is concluded, operators will then need to concentrate on improving speeds. Rudnick has called on governments and regulators to decide upon a framework to facilitate private sector initiatives for the roll out of cross border fibre.

Nick Sato: Kenya’s leading mobile service provider Safaricom. The telecom is arguably the biggest single company in East and Central Africa, with market capitalization of over KSh350 billion (US$2.9 billion).

2013 was Safaricom’s best year yet, announcing a 47 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to KSh25.5 billion (US$304 million) for its full financial year ending March 31, 2013, buoyed by M-Pesa, SMS and data revenues.

Safaricom has been Kenya’s highest taxpayer six years in a row, while it has over 19 million Kenyans as subscribers (almost 48 per cent of the country’s population and 80 per cent of market share), compared to the 17 million subscribers rival Airtel boasts across the whole of Africa.

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