African startups join global funding boom as fintech shines


The Exchange is on a trip around the world, poking our heads into various startup markets to better understand how different geographies are faring during a historic boom in venture capital activity. Globally, the venture capital world is afire, pushing record sums into upstart technology companies. But the capital is not flowing evenly.

For example, the explosion in capital raised by U.S. startups this year is contrasted by a modestly cooling Chinese venture capital scene. But apart from China, most key startup countries and regions are seeing strong investor interest. The continent of Africa is no exception.


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Early data indicates that Africa is set to trounce historical records in terms of venture capital raised in the year and that the first half of 2021 saw roughly twice the funds raised by African startups as was recorded in the first half of 2020. Startups across Africa have never had more access to capital than they do right now.

But big numbers can be distorting. A few outsized rounds can make an overall investment picture appear rosier than it may actually be for startups on the ground. And to fully understand a startup market’s capital access, we’ll want to better understand the stages where capital is flowing quickly and the points of startup life where it’s more of a trickle.

To that end, The Exchange collated a number of data sources concerning Africa’s Q2 2021 and H1 2021 venture capital performance and collected notes on the results from Dario Giuliani of Briter Bridges, a business data provider focused on Africa, and Julio Dibwe Mupemba of Toumaï Capital to expand our understanding of the continent.

Let’s figure out which startup stages have the easiest and hardest capital access, whether Africa remains underfunded, understand changing diversity in founder funding, and just what’s up with impressive fintech venture totals in recent quarters.

A 2021 comeback

After a somewhat difficult 2020, venture capital flowing into African startups is back on the rise, with reports indicating that investments raised in the first half of 2021 totaled more than $1 billion, albeit with small variations – data discrepancies are a recurring issue when it comes to VC data. There are structural reasons for slightly divergent numbers that have not completely disappeared, but our different sources still concur on the general trend and ballpark results.

For instance, the Africa-focused Substack newsletter The Big Deal reported a $1.14 billion H1 2021 total for deals above $1 million, and $1.19 billion when including deals in the $100,000 to $1 million range. Those numbers coincide with Briter Bridges’ own count of $1.2 billion in disclosed funding between January and June 2021, and with a $1.03 billion estimate from the Global Private Capital Association (GPCA). These figures are also in line with 2021 predictions from tech accelerator AfricArena, which in a report earlier this year estimated that “investment into [African] tech startups will be between $2.25 and $2.8 billion, making it the best year in the history of tech investment on the continent.”