African tech startups raised over $4 billion in 2021 — about twice the sum they raised the year prior, according to the Big Deal. The continent also recorded a 25% increase in the number of deals announced last year when compared to 2020.
As the tech ecosystem continues to grow in Africa, it is important to pay attention to the efforts of local tech media outlets covering developments in this sector.
“Prior to the internet, a few incumbent media companies had monopolized conversations and shaped the opinions and perceptions of millions, towards or away from a particular thing,” said Benjamin Dada, the publisher of the Benjamin Dada Blog, during an interview. “This unbridled power affected Africa, and Nigeria by extension.”
According to Dada, “many of these media institutions [that] do not know the difference between Nigeria and Africa were publishing a one-sided story about us, our country, and the continent. For a long time, that’s all the average Joe, who could be a potential Nigerian investor, employer or tourist, knew about Africa."
Telling the stories of African tech startups
With over 40 tech-focused media outlets on the continent today, African journalists are now able to effectively produce their own coverage of the sector. “I started reporting and writing stories in 2017 on technology specifically in Ghana before writing stories about tech in other African countries,” said Joseph-Albert Kuuire, the editor of Tech Nova.
The majority of these media outlets distribute their content digitally through blogs, podcasts, social media and newsletters. This has had a significant impact on the growth of Africa's tech ecosystem, and it has attracted the rest of the world to the continent. Top tech executives from Silicon Valley including Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey have visited Africa for this reason.
Koromone Koroye, editor-in-chief of TechCabal, another Nigeria-based media outlet, launched with the goal of helping the world understand the tech ecosystem in Africa. “In most cases, some of our features on first-time founders have caught the attention of foreign investors and venture funds,” said Koroye.
According to the newsletter, Communiqué, of 13 Nigerian tech startups, 12 were featured in local media before they attracted the attention of international outlets. Foreign tech media outlets like TechCrunch, Rest of World and Quartz have also hired local reporters in the past.
Underscoring the role of these tech media companies, Oluwatomi Solanke, the founder and CEO of Trove, a Pan-African fintech startup, said that “tech media is giving exposure to what tech innovators are building on the continent, thereby making it possible for foreign investors to invest in tech on the continent. Their reports also provide data that enable decision making.”
Last October, for instance, Google announced a $50 million fund to support African startups. That same month, New York-based Tiger Global invested $15 million in Nigeria’s Mono, and $3 million in Zambia’s Union54. Recently, the fintech startup, Flutterwave, raised $250 million in a Series D round led by foreign investors Tiger Global and Avenir. This investment tripled Flutterwave’s valuation to over $3 billion, making it the most valuable African tech startup today.
Challenges to reporting on tech in Africa
Reporting on tech in Africa has brought with it a host of challenges, as well. “A lot of first-time founders don’t trust media companies and journalists. We exist to amplify African innovators, not tear them down,” said Koroye.
“Trying to find financial information and market shares about tech startups in Ghana can be difficult,” said Kuuire. “I’ve been working on a couple of data projects which will be open-sourced for contributions as well as letting the public have access to them. I’m hoping to roll out these projects this year and also use that data for written articles. I also have a good network so I tend to reach out to those contacts for specific content-related topics.”
Most of the media outlets are funded through little in advertisements and subscriptions. Meanwhile, others have benefited from venture capital. “Funding media operations can help with hiring more qualified writers and getting resources to create more content in the African space,” said Kuuire, who is currently Tech Nova’s only full-time writer.
The future of tech media in Africa
Fondly referred to as “the big four,” Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt dominate coverage of tech on the continent. Other regions, however, are also making memorable impacts that deserve to be reported. These African tech media outlets will also have to pay attention to building up their revenue so that they can fund reporters across the continent.
The majority of digital news outlets in Africa provide their content for free; only a few have been able to monetize their reporting. “Let people understand that information is something worth paying for. There is a challenge of helping people understand that where there is value, revenue can also be generated,” said Fadekemi Abiru, the editor-in-chief at Stears Business, a subscription-based tech and business news outlet.
In addition, although much of the tech reporting is solutions-oriented, the coverage in Africa’s tech landscape will also take an investigative stand to probe activities on the continent, as their colleagues have done in Silicon Valley.