A unicorn is a privately held startup company with a valuation of over $1 billion. The term was first popularized by venture capitalist Aileen Lee in 2013. Unicorns are very rare, and there are only a few hundred of them in the world.
To become a unicorn, a company must have a number of things going for it. First, it needs to have a truly innovative product or service that has the potential to disrupt an existing market. Second, it needs to have a strong management team with a clear vision for the future. Third, it needs to have access to a large pool of capital to fund its growth.
Unicorns are often seen as the future of the startup world. They represent the best and brightest of the new generation of entrepreneurs, and they have the potential to change the world. Some of the most famous unicorns include Airbnb, Uber, and Stripe.
About six years ago, Africa had not a single unicorn, but today, the continent accounts for about 9 startups worth over $1 billion. While this translates into a significant improvement, it also spells a prosperous future for the up and coming startups. In this blog post, we will explore Africa’s top unicorns, their impact, and their journey to success.
Chippers Cash (over $2 billion)
Founded in 2018, Chipper Cash is a mobile payments app that allows users to send and receive money, pay for goods and services, and withdraw cash from ATMs across Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda.
Last year, the company hit a $2 billion valuation after raising its first Series C round of $100 million led by SVB Capital. This was further strengthened after six months by another $150 million in a Series C extension round led by Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange platform, summing the total of Series C capital to $250 million.
The company was founded in 2018 by two African entrepreneurs; Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled in San Francisco to provide a no-fee peer-to-peer cross-border payment service in Africa via their app.
Andela – ($1.5 billion)
Andela has emerged as a key player in Africa’s tech talent ecosystem. By connecting African software developers with global companies, Andela has created remote work opportunities and valuable training programs. This has not only helped bridge the tech skills gap but has also put African talent on the global map, driving economic growth and innovation.
The fintech was founded in 2014 by four professionals working in the online education and recruitment business; Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ian Carnevale, Jeremy Johnson and Christiana Sass, as a training company to match developers in emerging markets now known as technology hubs.
The company has raised a total of $381 million funding in multiple rounds with the latest funding raised in September 2021 from a Series E round bringing the company’s valuation to $1.5 billion. The fintech is funded by Generation Investment Management and Spark Capital as the most recent investors.
OPay (over $2 billion)
OPay has been instrumental in the evolution of mobile payments in Africa. Originating from Nigeria, OPay offers a comprehensive suite of services, including P2P transfers, bill payments, ride-hailing, food delivery, and more. By integrating multiple functionalities into a single app, OPay has simplified financial transactions for millions of users, empowering them with convenient and accessible financial services.
The company raised a total of $570 million in funding over 3 rounds with its latest funding raised in August 2021 from a Series C round and is currently worth over $2 billion.
The company was founded in 2018 by Yahul Zhou, a Chinese billionaire entrepreneur.
Wave ($1.7 billion)
Wave is a US and Senegal-based mobile money provider that promises low fees on accounts, deposits, bills payments and withdrawals for users who want to send money
The African mobile money provider recently raised $200 million in a Series A round valuing the company at $1.7 billion. The funding is the largest Series A round raised for the region, making it the first francophone African unicorn
Wave was launched in 2018 by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk, the founders of remittance and YC-backed company, SendWave, a company that allows users to safely and instantly send money from North America and Europe to numerous countries across Africa and Asia.
Flutterwave – ($1 billion)
Flutterwave is a fintech company based in Africa and provides a payment infrastructure for global merchants. By providing a robust payment infrastructure, Flutterwave enables businesses and individuals to transact seamlessly across various channels. Its user-friendly platforms and partnerships with global payment gateways have played a pivotal role in promoting cross-border transactions and economic growth. The fintech, headquartered in San Francisco, California with operations in 10 African countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, was founded by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Olugbenga Agboola and Adeleke Adekoya in 2016.
According to Disrupt Africa, Flutterwaves has raised a total of $234.7 million in funding in over 11 rounds as of today. Their latest funding was raised in March 2021 from a Series C round which pushed the company’s valuation to over $1 billion.
In March last year, it acquired Disha, a creative platform helping creators to make a living by offering them simple tools to create In December 2021. It also invested in Cinetpay in a seed round valued at $2.4 million.
Interswitch ($1 billion)
Nigeria’s Interswitch has emerged as a fintech giant, providing cutting-edge payment solutions and digital infrastructure. As a leading payment processor, Interswitch facilitates secure transactions, card issuance, and transaction switching. Its innovative platforms have transformed the financial landscape, empowering individuals and businesses across Africa to embrace digital payments and financial inclusivity.
The fintech achieved unicorn status in 2019 after a $200 million equity investment by Visa gave it a $1 billion valuation however, its latest funding was raised in November 2019 from a corporate round.
The Nigeria financial services company headquartered in Lagos and founded by Mitchell Elegbe in 2002, pioneered the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly cash-based economy.
Esusu ($1 billion)
Esusu is the most recent unicorn traced to the continent. The credit building startup reached unicorn late January after a $130 million Series B funding led by Softbank and reflecting a more than ten-fold increase in Esusu’s valuation from its previous funding round last July. The startup was named to the Forbes Fintech 50 list last year.
The financial technology platform that reports rental data to build tenants’ credit scores while helping property owners increase revenue, was founded in 2018 by Indian Samir Goel and Nigerian Abbey Wemimo, as the co-founders and co-CEOs of Esusu.
The company helps report rent payments for more than two million rental units across all 50 states in the U.S., up from 1 million units last year by partnering with some top property managers in the country like Mercy Housing, WinnResidential, Goldman Sachs Asset Management amongst others.
Jumia ($1 billion)
Jumia Technologies, often hailed as the “Amazon of Africa,” has reshaped the e-commerce landscape across the continent. With a presence in multiple African countries, Jumia offers a vast range of products and services, including electronics, fashion, and groceries. Leveraging innovative logistics and payment solutions, Jumia has bridged the gap between online retail and consumers, fueling the growth of e-commerce in Africa.
Jumia was launched in Nigeria in 2012 led by ex-Mckinsey consultants, Jérémy Hodara (CEO) and Sacha Poignonnec (CEO) and has since spread to African countries including; Egypt, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Kenya and South Africa and others also expanding and launching platforms like Jumia Food, Jumia Travel, Jumia Deals, Jumia One, Jumia Pay and others.
In 2016, the company rose to become the continent’s first unicorn valued at over $1 billion and in April 2019, it went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), raising $196 million in net proceeds. The share price, initially offered at $14.50, rose more than 200% in the first three trading sessions. But after reaching a peak of nearly $50 on 1 May 2019, the share value has declined to under $5/share by year’s end.
MNT-Halan ($1 Billion)
MNT-Halan is a mobile financial services company that provides a variety of financial services to consumers and small businesses across Egypt. The company was founded in 2021 by Mounir Nakhla, who is also the founder of Fawry, another Egyptian fintech company.
MNT-Halan has grown rapidly since its inception. In 2022, the company reported revenue of EGP 1 billion and processed over 10 million transactions. In February 2023, MNT-Halan raised $400 million in new funding, which valued the company at over $1 billion. This made MNT-Halan Egypt’s ninth unicorn.
MNT-Halan’s success is due to a number of factors, including its strong management team, its innovative product offerings, and its focus on serving the underserved. The company is well-positioned to continue to grow in the years to come, and it is likely to play a major role in the development of Egypt’s financial services sector.
Africa’s unicorn ecosystem is witnessing an unprecedented boom, fueled by innovative startups that are making a significant impact across various sectors. From e-commerce and fintech to logistics and talent development, these unicorns are shaping Africa’s digital future. With their transformative solutions, they are driving economic growth, fostering financial inclusion, and putting Africa on the global tech map. As we look ahead, it’s exciting to envision the continued rise of these unicorns