When Google CEO Sundar Pichai visited Lagos—Africa’s most valuable ecosystem—for the first time last year, he announced an array of plans, including Google’s Launchpad accelerator for African startups.
Google has announced the first set of 12 startups participating in its Launchpad Accelerator Africa class, modeled after the global program in Silicon Valley. Among the startups selected are ThriveAgric, an agribusiness startup which allows middle-class Nigerians invest in agriculture, Pezesha, a Kenyan peer to peer micro-lending marketplace and Okadabooks, a Nigerian e-book app that allows authors publish books to an audience of over 100,000 active users. In total, six of the selected startups are Nigerian, two are Kenyan with one each from Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa.
Maturing tech ecosystems across the continent have become a draw for global technology companies over the past three years as they position themselves to win a sizable share of the next billion users to come online. In 2016, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made high profile visits to Lagos and Nairobi, then last year, in addition to Pichai’s Lagos visit—Alibaba CEO Jack Ma stopped by Nairobi and Kigali. Beyond the visits, these giant digital companies are becoming more invested in working locally with promising startup and developer communities across the continent.
Google’s Launchpad space is its first in Lagos and Facebook plans to launch a hub in Lagos in partnership with Co-Creation Hub this year. Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, the renowned entrepreneur training program originally launched in Ghana, has also expanded to Lagos and Cape Town. Investors remain attracted to the continent’s promise too: in 2017, startup venture funding jumped more than 50% in Africa to a record high.
Over a three-year period, Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa program will offer $3 million in equity free funding to over 60 startups on the continent as well as provide mentor and technology support.