The East African startup landscape: everything you need to know [2013]

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So we have told South African startups what’s what when it comes to the happenings of the country’s startup ecosystem. People have been asking us about other parts of Africa and if we could put together a comprehensive guide for other regions as well.

We have heard you and done as you have asked, this time putting our focus on East Africa.

Update: yes, it’s true: we’ve now put together a summary of the West African startup landscape too.

As an entrepreneur, trying to make your mark in Africa can be hard. Making the right connections, talking to the right people and meeting the right partners takes a lot of work. What we’re trying to do here is at least set you on the right path. With some help from the folks at iHub we think we can point you in the right direction.

This list is of course a work in progress, and we welcome contributions from our readers. This round up does have a strong Kenyan focus so we are looking for more information on Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Rwanda, so please send through your additions to the editor. We are also busy compiling a West Africa startup ecosystem list so please send us organisations you think should be on there too.

Venture capital and private equity

East Africa Capital Partners (EACP): A technology, media and telecommunications-focused venture capital fund manager investing in the greater Eastern Africa region. Part of its portfolio under their ATMT Fund includes Wananchi Group Limited.

Savannah Fund: a seed capital fund specialising in US$25 000 – US$500 000 investments in early-stage high-growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Initially focused on East Africa, the fund aims to bridge the early stage/angel and venture capital investment gap that currently exists in Africa. Savannah recently graduated its first class of startups.

Mara Launch Fund: this venture capital firm provides financing for “innovative startups or early-stage businesses with high-risk but high-growth potential”. According to the fund, it is designed to respond to the challenges faced in raising capital by young Africa-based entrepreneurs in the different economic sectors.

Maris Capital: a global VC with an African flavour, with an office in Kenya, this VC claims to “invest in responsibly managed companies”. It also aims to introduce basic business ideas and revive dormant industries in fast-growing African economies.

Fanisi Capital: this US$50-million fund makes direct investments (private equity and venture capital) in businesses with potential for substantial growth. Founded in 2009, the fund focuses on startups and businesses in the East African market.

Incubators and Accelerators

88mph: operating out of Kenya and South Africa, 88mph makes investments in early stage mobile-web companies targeting the African market, focusing purely on ideas with potential to scale across Africa. The programme merged with Google’s previous incubation programme, Umbono, and startups are supported by both 88mph and Google for Entrepreneurs.

iHub: Africa’s most talked about innovation hub, iHub is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. According to the hub, it is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile programmers, designers and researchers.

Hive Colab: Hive Colab is touted as Uganda’s premier innovation hub and collaborative co-working space for the country’s tech community. The lab describes itself as an open space with a focus on young tech entrepreneurs, web and mobile app developers, designers, investors and donors.

NaiLab: based in Kenya, NaiLab is a startup accelerator that focuses on early stage business ideas that are likely to have a large social and economic impact, are highly scalable, require minimum investments to prototype, and have a strong value proposition. It offers a three to 12 month entrepreneurship program for growing innovative technology-driven ideas.

kLab: based in Rwanda, kLab aims to provide an open space for IT entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate in the country’s capital, Kigali. It is open to students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs, and innovators — it aims to provide them with somewhere to work on their ideas and projects to turn them into viable business models.

Outbox: based in Uganda, Outbox is a technology incubation, collaboration space and innovation hub that supports techies and provides further support for people to turn their tech ideas that utilise mobile and web into sustainable businesses.

m:lab East Africa: a mobile incubation centre based in Kenya, formed through partnerships with eMobilis, the World Wide Web Foundation, the University of Nairobi School of Computing and Informatics, and iHub.

Kinu: Kinu describes itself as open space for Tanzania’s tech community to foster a culture of co-creation, spark innovation, and augment capacity building. The hub focuses on growing and accelerating the Tanzanian tech and social landscape.

iceaddis: iceaddis describes itself as a self-sufficient business incubation and innovation community centre aimed at supporting Ethiopia’s economic growth through technology. The hub aims to connect researchers, developers, entrepreneurs, creative workers and customers. It also encourages collaboration between its entrepreneurs and provides them with relevant training.

Angel Investors

VC4Africa has an investor section that lists various individuals investing in the African startup space, which you can have a look at. But we did pick out a few people who are actively working in East Africa.

Ravi Agarwal from Uganda is particularly interested in investing in the engineering and IT sector, while Kenya’s Sarah W. Ngamau is on the lookout for new deals and some investment opportunities. Nicky Khaki is interested in African startup investment and partnership opportunities that promote financial inclusion.


The Kenyan ICT board launched a US$4-million grant to promote the development of local digital content and software apps in 2010.

Kenya Industrial Estates: this initiative aims to provide finances, work space, business development services to businesses in order to foster the development of indigenous industries around Kenya.

Youth Enterprise Development Fund: This fund was established in 2006 with the sole purpose of reducing unemployment among the youth who account for more than 61% of the unemployed in Kenya.


Ventureburn features written and video-based technology startup profiles, as well as news, analysis and opinion pieces on entrepreneurship from an emerging market perspective. If you want to get your business featured, you can fill out our startup questionnaire.

HumanIPO showcases startups across the African continent and reports on news as well. HumanIPO is owned by the group behind 88mph and has editors in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Afrinnovator: based out of East Africa, this startup publication covers technology news in the region with a special interest on startups with an African flavour.

VC4Africa operates as a hub for startups to network with investors, but also publishes features on startups and the African tech ecosystem.

Tech Moran: a tech news site that focuses on Africa’s disruptive technology scene. The site also runs the TechMoran Tour, which it says is “solely to stir innovation and entrepreneurship on the continent with a huge bias to entrepreneurs in high school, universities and colleges and those in innovation hubs pursuing their dream across Africa”.


Chase Bank’s Kilele Planet is an interactive web-based portal and business club targeted at their growing SME customer base. The portal known as Kilele Planet will give SMEs access to lawyers, auditors, tax specialists, trainers and other industry specialists as an avenue for networking and improving their businesses.

Conferences and Networking

Pivot East touts itself as East Africa’s premier mobile startup pitching competition and conference held annually since 2011. It is an m:lab East Africa initiative to amplify East Africa’s mobile developers.

DEMO Africa is one of the flagship initiatives of LIONS@frica and aims to connect African startups to the global ecosystem. The conference says it is the premier venue for launching new technology. The conference is a unique blend of general sessions and one-on-one sessions.

Mobile Web East Africa is part of a series of mobile technology conferences around Africa that highlights key developments in African technology in the region as well as showcase new ones.

AITEC East Africa ICT Summit provides a platform for East Africa’s technology sector that discusses the infrastructure and services aiming to help the region to become a world-class tech space.

Enablis is a global non-profit organisation working in developing countries to support SME entrepreneurs and reduce poverty through job creation with operations in key East African nations.

WMI Africa is an online network that aims to combine the sharing of successful innovative stories for women by women, and facilitate mentoring for young women in STEM.


IBM Innovation Centre aims to help entrepreneurs build, market and sell their solutions with IBM’s online, remote, and face-to-face training and assistance.

Chandaria Innovation Centre: Kenyatta University: launched in 2011, the centre was set up to support new and innovative ideas from Kenyans. The centre accommodates both KU students and other Kenyans in need of support.

Image: Wikimedia Commons



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