8 exciting African startup programmes and accelerators to watch in 2015

fast accelerate car

While still arguably lacking, there a growing number of entrepreneursial programmes in Africa these days, each with its own agenda and “recipe for success”.

For those startups looking for mentorship, capital or recognition, we thought it would be fitting to round-up some of these programmes so you can make a choice based on your specific needs. If you’re not looking to participate, just keep an eye out for the ones listed below for 2015’s news to come.


If you want to be inspired by one of Africa’s most innovative cities, then Think is probably the one for you.

Backed by the international telecom giant, Millicom, and located in Kigali, Rwanda, the Think accelerator takes in companies from across the globe. It’s looking for companies that can scale across Africa or Latin America.

Last year it announced its first crop of selected startups. Out of the 150 applications Egypt’s Beliaa, Cribpark from Nigeria, PollAfrique from Ghana and Rwanda’s TorQue were chosen.

As one would expect, the Think accelerator provides funding, resources which includes office space as well as access to crucial networks and support in accessing outside investors and customers.


As we can see with 2014’s tech startup investments in South Africa, 88mph fellows show face a bunch of times. In partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs, the accelerator is backing the likes of South Africa’s Ekaya, Apexpeak and GraphFlow — all of which have secured well over a million Rands in investment from a group of mixed investors.

Read more: 11 of SA’s biggest (and most exciting) tech startup investments of 2014

88mph is currently calling for applications for its new sprint initiative dubbed DealWeek — a week-long programme open to mobile-focused startups from Africa where they will get access to potential investors, mentors and stand a chance to get an investment between US$25 000 and US$250 000 (up to almost R3-million).

88mph is also active in Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria.


In a partnership between Nigeria’s L5Lab and 88mph, 440 was born with a mission to invest a minimum of US$1.5-million (over R17-million) in mobile and internet startups in Nigeria over the next two years. It concluded its 2014 programme a few months ago when it invested in nine Nigerian startups including Gingerbox, Pass.ng, Tajá and Fuelvoucher.

Last month Microsoft Ventures announced a partnership with the programme via its 4Afrika initiative to improve access to relevant tools, resources, expertise.

Read more: 88mph, L5Lab launch joint venture fund ’440′ for Nigerian tech startups

The 2015 programme will be calling for applications in May. In the meantime sign up for its newsletter here or stay tuned to Ventureburn.

Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme

The US$100-million (R1-billion) programme recently launched under the guidance of Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu. While not currently wielding a direct track record, the ambitious vision of creating over 10 000 entrepreneurs within the next decade and amount of capital on show should surely count for something.

The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme includes three-month training, mentorship, access to crucial networks and resources as well as possible funding.

The pan-African programme is currently seeking entrepreneurs for its first intake.

Startup 90

startup 90
Keen to try something new and experimental?

While quite new in South Africa’s startup ecosystem, the fact that Startup 90 only launched in 2014 could prove to work in its advantage. As we showed you last year, Startup 90 is looking for South Africa’s unique tech startup recipe. It’s a young programme that fits in well with the young entrepreneurial ecoystem.

Selected startups go through a three-month programme where they receive tools, workspace as well as access to renowned mentors. Some prominent industry names include Justin Hartman from Deloitte Digital Africa, Silver Tree Capital’s Manuel Koser and Nic Robertson from Naspers.

The Startup 90 programme is calling for new applicants come mid-February.


Grindstone Accelerator
Unlike Startup 90, the Grindstone accelerator has a grand track record under its belt. The programme is backed by growth equity fund manager Knife Capital and a few months ago reported an average 61% increase in revenue for all its participating companies. What’s more is that its participating startups’ customer base increased by 120% while their valuations doubled.

Read more: Grindstone reports 61% increase in revenue for all its companies

Unfortunately Grindstone has already called its final application entries for this year’s programme back in November, though this one’s still worth a watch.


Stellenbosch is all to often referred to as a Silicon Valley lookalike. While this is highly debatable, one this that’s not is its knack for innovative startups. Backed by the prestigious Stellenboch University’s Innovus programme, the Launchlab has recently opened up new offices after is rounded-off an exhilarating 2014.

Read more: Scale your ideas with Stellenbosch’s LaunchLab acceleration programme

Apart from being geared for Stellenbosch University students, the programme has partnered with the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town to widen its scope for its pitching competition.

In addition to the accelerator programme, the hub also offers various workshops that range from marketing and other skills essential for any young budding entrepreneur. For more information on its offering click here.

Savannah Fund

Savanah Fund
Savannah Fund is a seed capital fund specializing in US$25 000 to US$500 000 (over half-a-million Rand) investments in early stage high growth tech startups in Africa.

Founder and managing partner at Savannah Fund writes that the fund represents about 10-20% of the total VC funding in the anglophone speaking countries. Furthermore, six of the startups in its portfolio raised follow-up funding in 2014. He also expects to reach a target 30 companies from the first fund by 2016.

The fund’s accelerator programme invests US$25 000 (about R300 000) in each company in exchange for about 15% equity stake for and the three-month accelerator programme. The in-take is usually in the middle of the year, though for more information you can sign-up for the newsletter here.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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