Though the leading companies in Africa are finding solutions to local problems, their applications are relevant well beyond their borders. Twiga Foods, Copia Global, and Kobo360 are employing digital solutions to streamline logistics, from helping Kenyan vendors secure fresh produce to sell at the market each morning to enabling Nigerian truck drivers to find work—and get paid—more seamlessly. MPost turns mobile phones into virtual mail boxes, while mPedigree uses SMS to spot out counterfeit medications, a global problem. Tizeti harnesses the sun to deliver high-speed internet to Nigeria, and startup 54gene harnesses genetic information to help expand scientific research beyond predominantly caucasian genomes—and create a pan-African genomic database.
1. Twiga Foods
This online Kenyan marketplace, which helps urban shopkeepers source produce from small-scale Kenyan farmers, has been expanding its platform to encompass nonperishable goods, developing its delivery capabilities, and building out a fintech product that offers vendors credit to build out their businesses.
Read more about why Twiga Foods is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020.
For using text messages to root out fake goods
mPedigree has developed an elegant solution to the problem of counterfeit goods: it embeds a unique code into a product label, which shoppers can text to the manufacturer to verify the item’s authenticity. The startup, which now works in a dozen countries, works with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to spot out counterfeit medicines. It also bring traceability to seeds and other agricultural products within Africa.
3. Copia Global
For allowing Kenya’s unbanked and unconnected to participate in e-commerce
To bring online shopping to rural Kenyans who have difficulty accessing shopping sites, e-commerce platform Copia uses a network of 5,000 community-based agents who earn commissions by placing orders on behalf of customers and serving as delivery point people for them. The company has honed its logistics network so that most customers receive their delivery (which is free, when using an agent) within two days.
For helping West African millennials invest and save for the future
This four-year-old Nigerian savings platform helps users save by automatically deducting fixed amounts from their accounts at set periods (according to user’s instructions) and moving the money into savings or investment accounts. The company has been rolling out new features, including offering users a dedicated bank account number to enable transactions and an option to invest in the U.S. dollar.
For turning mobile numbers into Kenyan PO boxes
Rather than pay for a fixed PO Box, MPost allows users to quickly convert their phone numbers into a virtual mailbox at their closest post office. Launched at the end of 2019, the service alerts users when mail arrives, which they can either pick up or have delivered.
For harnessing the power of the sun for an affordable 4G network
This Nigerian startup, which is known for providing public Wi-Fi hotspots in urban areas, has been rolling out a high-speed network across the country using solar-powered towers. It’s now moving into Ghana and has plans to bring its services to additional West African countries.
For empowering local artisans via a Senegalese fashion house
Founded in 2016 by Sarah Diouf, this ready-to-wear fashion label has been worn by Beyoncé and featured in Vogue. Diouf uses the label to showcases local fabrics and patterns, as well as the work of African makers and tailors, whom she trains to meet international standards of production.
For bringing fire protection and insurance services to South African townships
This social enterprise has creating an early warning system for fire in South Africa’s townships and settlements. Its devices, which are designed to detect temperature changes rather than smoke, are now in more than 40,000 homes. The company also offers users low-cost insurance services with fast payouts.
For connecting African truck drivers with companies in need
The Kobo360 digital platform facilitates freight logistics services by connecting truck drivers and fleet operators with companies that need their goods moved. The Nigerian-based company, which has expanded into Kenya, Uganda, Togo, and Ghana, pays drivers directly to their bank accounts, eliminating the need for cash transactions and putting all the paperwork online.
For building an Africa-wide genetic biobank
This genetics company has taken the first step toward creating an Africa-wide genetic biobank by partnering with more than a dozen hospitals in Nigeria in an effort to collect, sequence, and analyze the genomes of their patients. The startup has already collected tens of thousands of samples, and expects to have more than 200,000 by the end of this year.
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