Google has restated its commitment to the startup ecosystem in Africa, announcing the opening of applications for the 6th Class of the Google for Startups Accelerator programme, and the launch ofnew developer scholarships in partnership with Pluralsight and Andela
The announcements were made during a virtual event at which Google hosted key industry players, policy leads, startup executives and investors driving the growth of Africa’s tech ecosystem. They reviewed opportunities unfolding throughout the internet economy, paying special attention to the support of developers and startups in the region.
Applications for the 6th Cohort of Google for Startups Accelerator programme, a three-month programme that is slated to start on June 21, 2021, will be open until May 14. The online programme, which includes 3 intensive virtual training bootcamps, mentorship and Google product support, is open to applications from 17 countries across Africa, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal. South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The aim is to support the growth of the startups through their crucial growth phases.
For Google’s new developer scholarships, Android, Web and Google Cloud scholarships are being offered to beginner and intermediate developers resident in Africa. A total of 40,000 scholarships will be offered to developers, spread across Mobile and Cloud development tracks. The top 1,000 students at the end of the training will earn a full scholarship to certify on Android or Cloud development.
“Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first virtual class of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa was launched. It was the first all-online iteration of Google’s accelerator program for Africa, and saw 20 startups from seven countries undergo a 12-week virtual journey to redefine their offering, while receiving mentoring and attending workshops. This year, with the 6th cohort, we want to continue to play our part by supporting developers and startups within the Africa tech ecosystem, ensuring they get all the access and support necessary to see them continue to grow,” says Onajite Emerhor, Head of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa.
The African startup ecosystem is a key driver of economic growth on the continent, with Africa’s tech space experiencing a significant upswing in startup success stories. According to the Africa Internet Economy 2020 report, sponsored by Google and IFC, Africa’s Internet economy is poised to boost the continent’s economy by 5.25% in the next five years. The report states that the headwinds caused by COVID-19 will not deter the growth of Africa’s internet economy, which is projected to contribute nearly $189 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2025, increasing to $712 billion by 2050.
“The growth of entrepreneurship is crucial, especially in the African context. African developers and startups play a critical role in the transformation of the African economy, creating new opportunities and paving the way for the economic and social development on the continent that we want to see. We recognise Africa’s exceptional digital potential, and that is why Google is committed to providing this critical support for African startups,” says Nitin Gajria, Managing Director of Google Sub-Saharan Africa.
Google for Startups Accelerator Africa gives early-growth stage startups access to the best of Google – its people, networks, and advanced technologies. The accelerator trains participating startups on technology (AI/ML, Cloud, Android, Firebase), product, data, business, design, people, growth and fundraising, through interactive workshops and labs facilitated by Google experts and mentors.
Google continues to support developer communities across Sub-Saharan Africa, through Google Developer Groups, Developer Student Clubs and Women Techmakers, providing training and support for developers that is aligned with real-life job competency requirements. Community groups engage in activities like Study Jams: study groups facilitated by developers, for developers. Today there are over 120 active developer communities across 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Facebook Opens Applications across Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya for 2021 Community Accelerator Program
Today, Facebook is inviting community leaders from Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya to apply for the 2021 Facebook Community Accelerator Program—a program that offers participants training, mentorship and up to $50,000 USD in funds to invest in an initiative that extends their community’s positive impact.
The aim of the Community Accelerator is to help leaders of Facebook communities to harness the power of their community to turn ideas into action. The selected leaders will spend five months learning from experts, coaches and a customised curriculum so they can strengthen their community.
Lessons include community identity foundations, leading action-oriented programmes and sustainability. Participants will also receive early access to new Facebook products aimed at helping communities better manage and activate their members.
Plan an initiative
Participants will identify an important initiative that will create a positive impact on the broader world and develop a plan to mobilise their community around their goal. Initiatives will be shared with potential partners, mentors and a panel of judges for the chance to be awarded funding and receive public recognition.
Participants will then spend three months executing their initiatives. They will collaborate with advocates and leaders in the community space and work with the Facebook team to bring their ideas to life.
Says Kiran Yoliswa, Partner Management Lead, Middle East and Africa Community Partnerships at Facebook: “Facebook communities and their leaders are helping to resolve social challenges, sharing knowledge and information, while connecting with others that share their interests or passion for a cause. We’ve seen so many incredible communities from across South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria using our platform to drive change and provide support and encouragement for thousands of people, we’re excited to offer their Facebook Community leaders this program to help amplify their impact even more.”
How to apply
This program is open to communities that have a presence in Facebook Groups with leaders who are 18 years or older. Communities must have existed for over one year and must have a minimum size of 1,000 members. Applications open today, May 4 – 31, 2021.
The Community Accelerator is part of our Facebook Community Leadership Program, a global initiative that invests in people building communities. Learn more and apply here .
USSD: Banks Owe MTN Nigeria N40.3bn As Digital Revenue Up 101% in Q1
- Revenue up 17.2 per cent to N385.2 billion
- Fintech revenue rose by 28.5%
- Subscribers down by 5 million to 71.5m
MTN Nigeria said banks are owing it N40.3 billion as at the end of first quarter 2021 even as it reported its digital revenue grew by 101.0% and fintech revenue by 28.5% as customers continued to adopt more digital products and services, a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
According to its financial reports for the first quarter ended March 31, 2021, sent to SiliconNigeria, it had 449,100 registered mobile money (MoMo) agents and 4.6 million fintech customers.
MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola said, “As at the end of Q1, N40.3 billion was due to MTN Nigeria. In the meantime, we continue to account for USSD revenue on a cash basis.
“We continue to engage with the NCC, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and deposit money banks (DMBs) to conclude the operational modalities for the new pricing framework that has been agreed upon for USSD services. The mechanism for and timing of the recovery of the industry-wide outstanding debts that exist for USSD services provided to the DMBs form part of this process,” he said.
Toriola said the enterprise business continued its recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown as economic activity improved. However, service revenue for enterprise was largely flat YoY, mainly due to the non-recognition of USSD revenue in Q1. Normalised growth (excluding USSD revenue) was 2.6%.
“Our digital business continued to gain traction with the uptake of our products and services and the structural turnaround in the business. As a result, digital revenue rose by 101.0%, supported by our rich media and value-added services, while our active user base was largely flat at 2.8 million,” he said.
“Fintech revenue rose by 28.5%, driven by increased adoption of Xtratime and our core fintech services. We continue to expand our MoMo agent network and broaden our service offerings to include assisted withdrawal irrespective of the bank where the account is domiciled. Our registered MoMo agents increased by 54,000 to 449,146. The volume of transactions processed was over 24 million in the quarter, up more than four times YoY, from an active base of 4.6 million subscribers.
MTN reported that its service revenue increased by 17.2 per cent to N385.2 billion while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) grew by 19.1 per cent to N204.5 billion. However, mobile subscribers declined by five million to 71.5 million in the first quarter of this year due to customer churn and the regulatory restrictions on new SIM sales and activations.
MTN’s ability to drive service revenue growth while managing the growth in expenses resulted in an acceleration in EBITDA growth to 19.1% and EBITDA margin expansion of 0.9pp to 53.1% YoY. This enabled profit before tax (PBT) and profit after tax (PAT) growth of 33.9% and 42.5% respectively.
MTN’s voice revenue grew by 8.0%, supported by an 8.7% increase in traffic and our customer value management initiatives. The impact on voice revenue of the industry-wide suspension of new SIM registration in mid-December was partly offset by increased usage by active SIMs in our base and migration to a higher quality of experience.
Data revenue maintained the positive momentum from Q4 2020, rising by 42.6% YoY. This was led by increased usage and traffic, supported by 4G penetration and increased network capacity following the acquisition and activation of an additional 800MHz spectrum in March 2021. In line with its 4G acceleration, the 4G network now covers 61.8% of the population, up from 60.1% in December 2020.
MTN Nigeria added approximately 1.2 million new smartphones to the network, bringing smartphone penetration to 47.5% of its base, up from 45.9% in 2020.
On SIM card registration,more than 35 million subscribers have submitted their NINs as at 30 April 2021, representing approximately 50 per cent of our subscriber base and 63 per cent of service revenue, MTN said. It is also actively supporting the Government’s NIN enrolment programme, with 182 points of enrolment active across the country.
“We continue to collaborate with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to update subscriber records with the National Identity Number (NIN). We are working with NIMC to increase the enrolment centres to provide an access point for as many Nigerian as possible,” added Toriola.
Capital expenditure in the quarter was N89.9 billion, up 19.3% mainly due to site rollouts, while free cash flow increased by 18.9% to N114.7 billion. MTN’s core capex excluding right of use assets was up 27.8% to N31.6 billion. Depreciation and amortisation rose by 16.8% due to the impacts of Naira depreciation and a 2.5pp increase in value added tax in February 2020.
MTN recorded a 10.5pp reduction in our overall cost of funding, despite higher borrowings, leading to a 10.6% decline in net finance costs. This was enabled by a 95% reduction in the reference benchmark rate to 0.6%. Overall, it recorded a PBT growth of 33.9%, while PAT rose by 42.5% due to the release of an overprovision in deferred tax in the prior year.
“We made good progress in the first quarter of 2021 despite the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to prioritise the safeguards put in place to protect the health and well-being of our people, customers and stakeholders and to control the spread of the virus while ensuring network resilience and efficiency. As part of our Y’ello Hope initiatives, we continue to support Government’s efforts in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We supported the most vulnerable in our communities, providing them with free-to-access services (including SMS and data) as well as essential medical supplies (tests and personal protective equipment). We continue to support the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) that has driven multiple initiatives, such as building isolation centres across the country. MTN Nigeria also paid taxes early in support of Government’s ongoing efforts. In addition, our REVV support programme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) helps them navigate the new digital reality,” said the MTN CEO.
MTN’s 2021 priorities remain unchanged, with a clear focus on sustaining double-digit revenue growth, driving 4G network expansion and positioning our fintech business for accelerated growth in order to unlock its full value. “The acquisition of additional 800MHz spectrum positions us to deliver improved service speeds to Nigerians in support of the Government’s broadband initiative.
“We will continue to sustain our expense efficiency programme to strengthen our financial position and support margins. We remain in dialogue with the DMBs on a pricing option for airtime sales commission while diversifying our airtime recharge channels to offer our subscribers more options to purchase airtime and stay connected.
He said MTN will pursue stronger and deeper stakeholder relationship and enhanced shared value across its stakeholder ecosystem while ensuring that the operator’s activities align with the Government’s development agenda. “Environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles remain at the core of everything we do, with a focus on aligning our priorities to drive eco-responsibility, sustainable society, sound governance and economic value for all in Nigeria,” Toriola concluded.
Startups Ecosystem Critical to the Future Of Nigeria, Says Osibanjo
The Vice President of Nigeria, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osibanjo, said that startup ecosystem is one of the vital tools in finding solutions to Africa’s various challenges, according to him, these challenges will determine if the continent’s future as the next frontier for economic opportunities will fully be realised.
The VP, represented by Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, said this at the Startup and Developer event organised by Google.
He stated the topic – The African Start-up Ecosystem Opportunity – is exciting because startup ecosystem is extremely critical to the future of Nigeria and Africa at large.
“Globally, the Startup ecosystem is the most viable platform for innovators and entrepreneurs to take their ideas from inception to impact. It brings relevant stakeholders together to collaborate and bring something new to the world or new to an industry. There will never be a more perfect time to strengthen the African startup ecosystem than now, on the verge of the 4th industrial revolution,” he said.
Osibanjo noted that the 3rd industrial revolution was pivotal to unprecedented global economic growth in the 21st century, as it disrupted traditional service delivery channels and accelerated the automation of factories and manufacturing processes, using electronics and information technologies to expand the reach and create prosperity but Africa hopped along and missed out.
“The countries that captured maximum value from the 3rd industrial revolution have become more prosperous and built solutions that improved service delivery in all aspects of lives, from education, healthcare and food production to efficiency and speed in manufacturing.
“Today, Africa is presented with another opportunity, the 4th industrial revolution, which is shaping and creating economic activities. It is proving to be the catalyst for future economic activities that will bridge the divide between rich and developing countries, and remove physical borders and barriers while maximising the utilisation of digital technologies as a source of inspiration across economic sectors,” he added.
“The African startup ecosystem opportunity is hinged on two key factors, which are anchored on the 4th industrial revolution and driven primarily by digital technologies. The first factor is innovation capacity, and the second one is entrepreneurial capacity. Both capacities depend on four key indicators, Human Capital, Infrastructure, Funding and Demand. Human capital being the first indicator means that African startups must realise that they are only as strong as the value of the human resources they have. Therefore, startups like Andela, Wootlab Innovations and Decagon are vital as they are involved in producing skilled talent.
“With this, Africa can become the next hotbed for professional talent that will provide local solutions and export their skills and solutions to a global market that actively seeks such value. This is why we highly valued Google Developer Space in Lagos. It is the first in Africa and speaks to the position of Nigeria as a leader in the digital skills and startup ecosystem in Africa. The investments attracted by our startups confirm the position. Recently, Flutterwave announced new funding of $170m, and Stripe acquired Paystack for more than $200m. Other Nigerian technology companies like Interswitch have raised funding in hundreds of millions of dollars,” he noted.
The VP stated that according to startup Genome report, Lagos is the most valuable startup ecosystem on the continent, having 400 to 700 active startups valued at over $2B with Fintech being the most prominent in the Lagos technology startups ecosystem. However, other industries are emerging with startups like Flying Doctors, 54gene, Helium Health and Life Bank blazing the trail in the healthcare sector and Thrive Agric, Afex Commodities, and Probity Farms making waves in the agriculture and commodities exchange space.
He said the opportunities for investment and disruption remain very high in the continent; same as the opportunity for hubs and other innovation centres to serve as enablers and anchors for our promising startups.
“As Government, we are working with the relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector to ensure that startups receive every support they require to take their ideas from inception to impact. As part of our Ease of Doing Business Reforms, we instituted the Visa on Arrival Policy which allows any person outside ECOWAS to get a visa on arrival in Nigeria. This policy means all African startups and entrepreneurs seeking to expand their business into Nigeria will have a more straightforward process.
“We are also re-convening the Technology and Creativity Advisory Council, made up of public and private sector stakeholders in the ecosystem to advise Government on policies and programs to support the ecosystem. Through the work of this council, we are currently engaging with the African Development Bank to setup a $500million US Dollar Innovation Fund, which will provide support for the ecosystem across four pillars which include Infrastructure support, Finance, Skills Development and Technical Assistance.
“In 2019, the Federal Government of Nigeria launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for Digital Nigeria as a sustainable roadmap to accelerate the development of the Digital Economy in Nigeria. The policy is designed to catalyse the digital ecosystem development in Nigeria and deepen innovation quality to promote innovation-driven enterprises that target the global market.
“We also have many initiatives to support the ecosystem through various agencies. In this regard, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been at the forefront of supporting Nigeria’s digital innovation ecosystem. Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide, NITDA engaged the ecosystem to devise strategies to aid business continuity for startups and developed schemes to support and sustain the ecosystem.
The engagement led to initiatives such as Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support (TIES) Scheme, National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center etc, as sustainable programmes to continuously up-skill and supports the startup ecosystem.
“Secondly, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council introduced the Export Expansion Grant, which can be accessed by companies with a minimum annual export turnover of N5 million. This is particularly useful to Nigerian startups seeking an expansion into other African countries and those seeking to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Other opportunities, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Creative Sector Loan in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee and the Bank of Industry’s Technology Fund, are designed to create different ways through which startups can access the value they need to keep expanding their businesses.
“I must further re-iterate that there is no exhaustive list of approaches to make sure our Government creates an enabling environment. For example, we are working through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to deepen digital identity through NIN registration and build broadband infrastructure backbone across the country, this is part of our National Broadband Plan, which is designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria of a minimum 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, providing access to at least 90% of the population by 2025 at affordable prices. Broadband infrastructure and digital identity are two critical factors that accelerate the digital economy. These are all avenues aimed at inspiring our startups to disrupt the conventional ways of service delivery,” he concluded.
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