Parts of the Matchmore team participated in the Seedstars Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania earlier this month. It was a great event where we met a lot of inspiring local start-ups, experts, investors and other ecosystem actors. We gained a lot of experience and knowledge which is highly valuable to define our development roadmap. We have outlined five insights from our trip to Eastern Africa which we would like to share with you!
Agriculture is the backbone of Africa
A lot of start-ups are active in the domain of agriculture. This is not only the case in Tanzania and the eastern parts of Africa, the main activity for millions of Africans is centered around agriculture. The agricultural industry employs millions of people within supply, logistics, marketing and other areas supporting the farmers in their daily businesses.
Compared to other parts of the world, the industry of agriculture in Africa could be seen as inefficient in many cases. In other words, there are a lot of areas to improve, which also means a lot of business opportunities for motivated start-ups.
An example of a start-up within this domain is Agro Supply, which provides a platform that allows farmers to save money for their supply using a mobile application. The start-up also provides seeds and fertilizers at the beginning of the planting season to smallholder farmers, as well as trainings in modern farming methods. We met Joseph Ogwal from Agro Supply during the event and got fascinated by his motivation and strong drive.
Financial services rely heavily on mobile technologies
There are similarities between Africa and China in terms of the usage of mobile technologies for financial services. WeChat Pay has over 900 millions active users per month who pay their bills, order services and products, transfer money to other users and pay in stores, if the option is available.
M-PESA, a mobile payment solution introduced in 2007, is widely used in Tanzania and other parts of Africa as well. A lot of inhabitants don't have access to banking facilities, and that's where M-PESA fills an important gap. All over the country, there are thousands of agents with small money booths. Users bring cash to the agents, and the agents will transfer money virtually to the users' phones.
In terms of opportunities for a proximity-based service, an app like "Find my nearest agent" would be highly valuable. As for now in Dar es Salaam, there is no structured system to find these agents. The local inhabitants know where they can find a booth in their local area, but can easily get lost when visiting a new place. Using Matchmore's technology, existing solutions could easily integrate this kind of function in their apps to increase the value for users.
Infrastructure to support technologies are in place in main cities
Proper infrastructure for mobile technologies is crucial to support quick development of innovative solutions. Fortunately, in the main cities there is 4G connectivity more or less everywhere. Even if the service is not as strong in the more rural parts yet, the future looks very bright in terms of proper 4G in the countryside. Other networks such as LoRa are also emerging through local initiatives.
Droople, a Swiss start-up providing wireless water metering solutions, is a good example of this trend. The company is initiating a proof of concept project in a small neighborhood and will deploy a local LoRa network to support connectivity between sensors and the data center. If the project is conclusive, the government will extend the scope of the project and deploy a larger network covering the entire city of Dar es Salaam.
Young local people are extremely motivated to develop innovative solutions
Thanks to higher education, knowledge accessible through internet and a growing start-up ecosystem, a new class of entrepreneurs is emerging. During the trip to Dar es Salaam with Seedstars, we met a lot of motivated and creative young people who aim to improve the lives of Africans in different ways.
A lot of the talents who participated in the Seedstars African Summit grew up with agriculture being a large part of their daily lives. They saw how their parents and their grand parents worked really hard to make the best out of the farming. Today, they are able to use their knowledge, new technologies and existing infrastructure to improve processes, quality and distribution around the food industry.
A great place for young talents is Silicon Dar. It's an large area representing the new technology district of Dar es Salaam. The district is home of several innovation hubs, telecom companies, financial services, college of ICT of University of Dar es Salaam, Data Centre, Commission for Science and Technology, tech start-ups and business incubators.
Proximity services are quickly expanding
Thanks to education, new technologies and proper infrastructure - a lot of proximity services are booming in the area. There are services such as peer-to-peer ride sharing, taxi services, food deliveries, smart parking and bicycle sharing.
Overall, there are a tons of opportunities for mobile-based solutions and there are a lot of gaps to fill in Tanzania, and the rest of Africa. The fact that local population can now purchase smart phones for approximately 50 $ constitutes the last brick that makes this entire ecosystem relevant and efficient.
To sum up
Tanzania in special and Eastern Africa in general have the right infrastructure, the right people and the opportunities for creating mobile solutions relying on proximity services. We are more than happy and grateful that we got the opportunity to learn more about the African market for a week together with Seedstars. We wish a lot of success to all of the start-ups we met and hope to have the opportunity to meet again next year!
Other start-ups that participated in the summit were: