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The West African startup landscape: it’s not just about Nigeria [2013]

Africa Map

We have been working on getting you up to date with the different startup ecosystems in Africa. We began this with South Africa and then moved on to East Africa. People have been asking us about other parts of Africa, such as the West and if we could put together a comprehensive guide for that region as well.

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

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 Nigerian focus so we are looking for more information on Togo, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger so please send through your additions to the editor.

Venture capital and private equity

A wholly owned subsidiary of First Bank of Nigeria, First funds is focused on providing risk capital to small and medium scale enterprises.

Adlevo Capital: This Mauritius-based private equity fund manager was founded on the belief that meaningful development in sub-Saharan Africa will be driven by the application of technology to business processes across all sectors. A load of the investments it has made have been in major West Africa tech players such as Rancard, Paga and Interswitch.

Gold Venture: Born out the Venture Capital Trust Fund initiative in Ghana, its basic objective is to design and execute distinctive and innovative approaches to assist clients in meeting the challenges of the complex and ever-changing business environment.

Sanaga Venture: Sanaga Ventures actively invests in and supports new and emerging ventures across the African continent. It offers finance and coaching to assist in building the capacity of our partners to the stage where they can achieve financial sustainability and critical mass in their operations.

Jacana Partners: Jacana Partners is a pan-African private equity company that invests in entrepreneurs, builds successful small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and delivers sustainable financial and social returns.

“We do this because we are passionate about entrepreneurs as the key drivers of job creation and long-term economic development in Africa,” says the VC.

Spark: This investment group describes itself as” not a fund and we are not an incubator”. Spark says it is a company that builds companies with a focus on Lagos, Nigeria as the gateway to Africa. With its US$2-million fun it focuses on well-defined and scalable revenue models.

Intel Capital: Intel invests across a broad spectrum of technology innovations to encourage the creation of the technologies of tomorrow. What’s really cool is Intel seems to have an Africa remit and has shown this interest with investments in across the continent. Interestingly enough one of its biggest Africa investment was in West Africa, with Rancard.

Tiger Global: Though based in New York, Tiger Global has been investing heavily in Africa in recent years. The Firm deploys capital in two businesses: private equity partnerships and public equity funds. The company favours technology or internet related business. It is one of the largest investors in Nigeria’s iROKO Partners, the company touted as Africa’s Netflix.

EchoVC: EchoVC Partners is a seed and early stage venture capital firm focused on financing and cross-pollinating leading technologies, teams, business models and knowledge across North America, Africa and South East Asia. Average investment size ranges from US$25 000 to several million dollars depending on the stage of opportunity and capital needs of the business.


ActiveSpaces: ActivSpaces is Cameroon’s open collaboration space, innovation hub and startup incubator. According to the hub, its aim is to support entrepreneurs working on promising web and mobile ventures with knowledge, mentorship and access to seed finance.

CcHUB: CcHUB claims to be Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multi-functional, multi-purpose space that encourages tech innovation. The hub describes itself as a place for techies, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies, investors and hackers in and around Lagos to co-create new solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria.

iLabLiberia: According to the Liberia-based lab, it is a non-profit computer laboratory that provides access to cutting-edge technology, expert IT assistance and a community leveraging technology for the good of Liberia. The lab says it offers free training “in contextually relevant ICTs that are open to the public”. It also hosts tech events and serves as a meet-up space for a range of tech enthusiasts and professionals.

Wennovation Hub: This Nigerian-based Hub describes itself as a true hub for start-up business development with a focus on synthesizing high impact startup growth, facilitation and development in West Africa. The hub runs specific training programmes from startups in West Africa within funding periods.


Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) — Ghana
The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring for aspiring African software entrepreneurs with the goal of creating wealth and jobs locally in Africa. The school has produced some very exciting entrepreneurs which have been selected for Dave McClure’s 500 startups incubator.


Technically there seems to be little to no banks involved the startup space in West Africa, but a number of banks in the region have come together to create a VC fund:

Unique Venture Capital Management Company Limited: Unique Venture Capital Management Company Limited, is an SME-focused private venture capital investment firm established in 2004 by five major Nigerian banks.

The firm capitalizes on economic development by harnessing the power of venture capital / private equity financing in the development of African entrepreneurs.

Conferences and Networking

WOWe: The Women of West Africa entrepreneurship conference considers itself the largest gathering where women leaders meet to discuss the latest issues driving success. Though the conference focuses on issues facing women, it’s not just about women. Everyone is welcome.

Mobile Web West Africa: This event series is designed to enable the future growth of the mobile sector in West Africa.

AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa: AITEC Banking & Mobile Banking West Africa is an annual that addresses the key issues faced by the region’s increasingly dynamic financial services sector.

TopApps: This event works as an apps exhibition and awards event aimed at giving the opportunity to developers to showcase their mobile, web and SMS-based apps and games to businesses and companies as well as winning awards for their innovative apps or games.


Ghana Venture Capital Trust Fund: The Government of Ghana’s Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF) aims “to provide financial resources for the development and promotion of venture capital financing for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)”. 1 Since its creation in 2004 by the Venture Capital Trust Fund Act (Act 680), the VCTF has deployed US$17-million, financing 48 SMEs through five intermediary funds, in addition to providing technical assistance for investors and entrepreneurs.


Techloy is a tech news site, providing analysis of web, mobile and social media trends within emerging West African markets.

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

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.

PC Tech Nigeria: A technology magazine in East and West Africa. Published monthly, the magazine features personal and enterprise technology, reviews, interviews and research on ICTs in Africa.

Ventures Africa: Touted as a Pan-African business magazine and news service, which champions African capitalism by celebrating African success, free enterprise, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the rewards of hard work.

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