347 African tech startups raised a total of US$1.43 billion in 358 equity rounds in 2020, according to the 2020 Africa Tech Venture Capital Report published by Partech Partners, a venture capital firm with offices in San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, and Dakar. This was an increase of 250 rounds by 234 startups in the previous year, which represents a year-over-year (YoY) growth rate of 44% in deal count.
"This is quite remarkable," the report says. "In such a challenging year, more startups have closed rounds than in any previous year. Activity has grown by almost half. No other region in the world has seen anything like this. The global interest for the African tech ecosystem remains strong even in the context of the global crisis driven by the pandemic."
However, not all is rosy. The equity funding raised by African tech startups in 2020 totaled US$1.429 billion compared to US$2.02 billion in 2019, a YoY decline of 29%. As the report explains: "Despite a strong growth in activity, the total amount raised by African startups decreased for the first time after nearly a decade of accelerating growth. While it is still higher than 2018 and before, this sharp drop clearly marks the impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns."
What is more, "Activity has drastically reduced for mega rounds (above US$50M), barely grown on large-size deals and accelerated on venture-type rounds."
More encouragingly, however, "As the table above shows, the activity level has increased for almost any deal below the US$50M size. Deals between US$200k and US$1M have actually almost doubled, keeping up with previous trends. The main drive for the lower total amount of equity funding raised seems to be the disappearance of mega-rounds. Indeed, when we exclude rounds above US$50M, this total equity amount raised is flat between 2019 and 2020. Thus, this explains to a great extent the drop in funding amount."
Focusing on a breakdown by country, the report maintains that "As in previous years, VC Funding is still concentrated in few markets, but we see strong signs of diversification as half of African countries are now in play."
- Nigeria remains Africa's top destination with US$307M invested (21% of all equity funding) with Kenya following closely behind with US$305M.
- Egypt completes its rally toward #1 in equity deal count, with 86 deals (+83% YoY), almost a quarter of the continent's VC transactions.
- African VC investment remains centered around 4 top countries attracting 80% of the volume invested. However, we see more diversification as Ghana reaches a solid #5 spot, with a 102% increase in equity funding to reach US$111M and in total an unprecedented 26 countries have attracted capital.
As indicated in the image above, fintech is still the leading vertical with 25% of funding (despite a 57% YoY drop in volume). The 2020 highlight, however, is on the rising investment in the digitization of key economic sectors with agritech (US$179M), logistics and mobility (US$157M), offgrid/energy (US$148M) and health tech (US$141M).
"When we further breakdown funding in each vertical by markets, it's clear that investors in each vertical focus on a few countries":
- "Fintech investment is quite concentrated with Nigeria (38%), Egypt (28%) and Ghana (13%) attracting together nearly 80% of all the funding in this vertical.
- "Agritech is even more concentrated with 79% of the equity funding in this vertical flowing into Kenya. However this is partly driven by a single large deal at US$85M.
- "Nearly half of Enterprise funding goes to South Africa. And the same applies with half of funding in Logistics, Mobility and Edtech flowing into Egypt."
Focusing on gender, the report reveals that female-founded startups raised 13% of the rounds in 2020, a four point decrease from 17% in the previous year. But they accounted for 14% of the total equity funding just above 13% in 2019.
Moreover, female-founded startups raised US$204 million in equity funding in 2020, a 22% drop from the previous year. Interestingly, startups in Kenya accounted for 65% of this amount keeping with a similar trend in 2019 when 78% of funding to female-founded startups occurred in Kenya.
As for giving a breakdown of the investors, "Africa's tech ecosystem is not only attracting more investors (+24% YoY), but they are also more committed to the market, with 108 of them involved in 2 or more deals and 22 very active in 5+ deals." Furthermore, "443 unique equity investors were involved in the 359 equity rounds raised by African startups in 2020. It was around 87 when we started tracking this metric in 2017, a 5x growth in 3 years."
"Looking at the investors' distribution per stage, early stages' attractiveness is strongly confirmed with 421 active investors involved in Seed+ transactions (228 rounds), 229 investors in Series A (through 86 rounds), 80 investors in Series B (29 rounds) and 43 active investors in the 16 Growth rounds."
Partech Partners provides the following explanation to its methodology noting that the firm reports on tech and digital VC equity deals above US$200k, in African startups:
- The numbers are about equity deals. This means Partech excludes everything else: grants, awards, prizes, conventional debt, venture debt, loans, Initial Coin Offering (ICO), non-equity/technical assistance, post-IPO and M&A deals. Examples: Twiga Foods US$29.4M debt from IFC announced in Oct 2020 is not counted. Lumos Global's debt round of US$45M from DFC announced in September 2020 is also not counted.
- The numbers only include equity funding rounds higher than US$200k. This includes deals that Partech categorize as Late Seed (Seed+) to Growth stage equity rounds. Angel deals and smaller Seed deals below US$200k (numerous on the continent) are omitted voluntarily. Example: Credit startup Swipe's round of US$120k funding from YC as part of the W20 batch in March 2020 is not counted.
- Partech focuses solely on VC deals that are in the tech and digital spaces. This means Partech only count companies where the value is built around digital technology. Example: In May 2020, the Series A of US$11.2M of insect-based feed and fertilizers company, NextProtein, was not counted.
- The firm covers African start-ups that they define as companies with their primary market, in terms of operations and/or revenues, in Africa but not based on HQ or incorporation. When this company evolves to go global, Partech will still count it as an African company. Example: Gro Intelligence’s US$85M Series B round is counted as an African deal, as it was founded in Kenya before expanding to the USA.
Having been engaged in the African market as an investor for over two decades, I am encouraged to see the steady rise in the number of tech companies that are raising funds as well as the increasing number of investors who are investing in the continent. As addressed in previous posts on this forum, I remain optimistic on the potential opportunities in high-growth sectors including fintech, agritech, digital health, e-commerce, connected devices (Internet of Things or IoT), and logistics technology and mobility. Challenges remain, however, including the disproportionate number of female-founded startups receiving support from investors. While not mentioned in the report, challenges I have encountered as an investor in Africa include systemic corruption, burdensome government regulations, and an inadequate supply of infrastructure, just to name a few.
What do you think of the report's findings? Which sectors will present the greatest opportunity for investors in Africa?