Why Lagos is becoming the center of Africa's booming tech scene
Lagos is fast becoming one of Africa's de facto tech hubs. Find a large, revenue generating startup operating anywhere in Sub Saharan Africa and there's a decent chance it is headquartered in Lagos — and with good reason.
Nigeria has a huge population that is rapidly urbanizing. There are 186 million Nigerians, and well over 80 million of them live in cities, making it the world's 9th largest urban population. That's particularly important for tech startups, because people who live in cities are more likely to have access to the internet than their rural relatives.
And, Nigeria has a ton of internet users. There are more internet users in Nigeria than there are in the United Kingdom, France, Germany or South Korea. In total, Nigeria has a little over 90 million internet users, making it the 7th largest cohort of internet users in the world. With just 46 percent of the population currently logging on, there are around 100 million more people waiting to connect. That's unique in Africa — there are no other countries on the continent with as many internet users, or as many non users to look forward to.
So, while Lagos is plagued by the same sorts of problems many emerging tech hubs face — lack of skills and shaky infrastructure — it has nonetheless become home to some remarkable tech companies that, after conquering the Nigerian market are quickly spreading across Sub Saharan Africa.
Here are 9 Nigerian tech startups that are taking over Africa:
Konga is Nigeria’s largest online shopping mall — think of it pretty much like Amazon.com. They sell everything from clothes to electronics to makeup and household appliances. The company was founded in 2012 and has received hundreds of millions in venture capital. Today, it is the most visited website in Nigeria.
Wakanow is an online air travel booking agent aimed at the African market. From a consumer’s standpoint, the service is identical to booking on a website like Expedia, except that the routes and airlines featured are for the African market. If you’re looking for a flight from Lagos to Lome on Asky Airlines or a flight from Lagos to Banjul on Fly Mid Africa, they’ve got you covered.
Nollywood films — that is, Nigerian films — are hugely popular in Africa, and Iroko allows aficionados to stream them online. Before Iroko, Nollywood films were produced almost entirely for the home video market, making them difficult for Nigeria's huge diaspora to access their favorite films. Now, you can stream Nollywood favorites online anywhere in the world. Interestingly, the company was co-founded by Jason Njoku, a British entrepreneur.
Paga is using mobile phone technology to solve an age-old problem for Africa’s development — the patchy availability of financial services. Founded in 2009, the company allows users to send or receive money from anyone, even people who don’t have access to a bank, using the most basic SMS enabled mobile phone. The company was founded in 2009, and since has branched out to new services. Today, users can buy cell phone credits, pay bills or even pay retail merchants with an SMS, online, or a mobile application.
DealDey is an e-commerce startup that functions more or less like Groupon. The company aggregates online discounts for various types of products and services — think everything from hamburgers to messages to sewing machines. The company is Sub Saharan Africa’s largest online discount platform with over a million users. DealDay was acquired by the Swiss company Ringier in early 2016.
Jobberman is an online employment site connecting job seekers to firms looking to hire. The site allows job seekers to search for positions based on the usual things — location, position, specialization, etc., but also allows users to search by salary range. The company also offers job seekers services like CV writing and vocational training courses.
Cheki is the online marketplace for Nigeria's used vehicles — and we mean all sorts. Through the platform, you can find anything from a used Porsche to a used 8.5-ton capacity gas truck. The company recently partnered with car dealerships and insurance companies to offer new cars and car insurance. Cheki operates in seven African countries.
Private Property is an online real estate marketplace connecting home buyers and sellers, as well as renters and landlords. If you’ve got a little over $2.4 million you'll find a 7 bedroom mansion with a pool. Or, for around $600 a year, you can find a room on the other side of town. Through the site you can also find farms, housing plots, commercial properties and even short term rentals.
NairaBET is an online sports betting site. Through the site, you can place bets on an astonishing array of sports — from Aussie Rules Football to Darts to Water Polo. The site also has an online casino, where you can try your luck on online slots or things like video poker and roulette. NairaBet was Nigeria’s first online betting site, launched in 2007.
Nairaland is a wildly popular online forum aimed at Nigerians — think a homegrown Reddit. The topics discussed are seemingly endless, though this spirited debate on how to approach a woman is worth a read. The forum was launched way back in 2005, but the community is continuing to grow and today there are over 1.8 million registered users on the site discussing over 3.6 million topics.
Images via companies featured.