Malaria Tests, Mini Tractors, Solar Air Conditioning: 10 Innovative African Startups

Meet the finalists for the Innovation Prize for Africa.

Godwin Benson first got the idea for Tuteria–a peer-to-peer learning platform in Nigeria–when he tutored a couple of kids near where he lives in Lagos. He taught math for three months and realized there was pent-up demand for one-on-one learning in the city. The parent who hired him never paid his bill. But, before finding Benson, he had looked for a tutor for two months, and other parents were doing the same.


Now 26, Benson has since signed up about 6,000 tutors to his platform, which helps match students with extra help they might be looking for. Math is the most popular subject, but you can also find tutors for languages, exam prep and plenty
of non-academic subjects like cooking and sewing.

“It helps the traditional educational system,” he says. “Many people realize that general classes can help people get an overview of the concepts, but, to really understand and gain mastery, they need that individualized instruction. That way, you can learn at your own pace not at the pace of everyone else.”

Tuteria is one of 10 startups shortlisted for the Innovation Prize for Africa contest. Other finalists include a urine-based malaria test, a three-wheeled mini tractor for small-hold farmers, and a solar-powered tower that dramatically cuts the cost of air conditioning.

When parents come to Tuteria, they give their kids’ grade, what subjects they’re interested in, and what days they are free. The site then matches the request to two to four tutors nearby who can do the work, leaving the parents to choose. About 150 parents have used Tuteria’s services so far–mostly, Benson says, because one-on-one tutoring tends to be cheaper than institutional courses, and more flexible too.

Setting up a business in Nigeria isn’t easy. “People say Nigeria is one of the hardest markets to start a business and I think it’s true,” says Benson. The site isn’t particularly capital or labor intensive but there are everyday hurdles U.S. entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about. For instance, Benson often pays tutors in person at a bank branch because the online system doesn’t work.

Of course, once parents and tutors are matched, there’s a chance the two sides will transact their business without Tuteria’s help. But the site aims to keep them onboard. Tutors get a higher share of fees (up to 85%) if they bring in repeat business and if they keep their reputation rating above four points out of five.


“Our clients also want a third party involved, in case something goes wrong or a tutor is ill or misses a class and they need someone else. There’s a reason to keep us on,” Benson says.

The Innovation Prize for Africa–which features companies from Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, and Benin–announces its winners at an event in June. See more here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.