March 30, 2023 The 4 Biggest African Tech Trends in 2021

By Samuel Ancer

Africa has become an emerging force in the tech world. With online marketplaces taking relevance since the COVID-19 Pandemic, it has meant that digital commerce has been able to fill in gaps in infrastructure. Foreign investors have also taken note of the strides that African companies have made, as such, there have been almost double the amount of Billion-dollar tech startups than there was last year. Adjustments to COVID-19 have also meant that office spaces in Africa are vastly different from what they looked like before the start of the pandemic. African countries and organisations have still responded responsibly to the imminent climate crisis. While they may not be as responsible for the issue as other continents they still understand that everyone must do what they can to better the world for future generations. These are the 4 biggest African tech trends in 2021.

Online Retail

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our daily lives, online retail has been growing rapidly as a consequence. The organisations that invested in online retail development saw dividends. The Shoprite Group is one such organisation that saw the opportunity for market growth and took advantage through launching and investing in their Sixty60 app. On the 12th of December, they announced a partnership with RTT Logistics to beef up their services and provide greater range and precision for their consumers. This move should be recognised as significant since Shoprite is tackling user concerns that could potentially shift clients to other retailers. In essence, the group is attempting to maintain their market dominance, in which they only have competitors in Pick ‘n Pay’s  ASAP, who joined a lot later than Shoprite Group and as such has not been able to gain the same momentum.

However, Shoprite Group is not the only one to have identified the opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jumia and Takealot have seen great success during the pandemic as consumers flocked to their website for everything, from getting a refrigerator to doing their monthly grocery shop. Jumia saw its stock price skyrocket during the Black Friday season as consumers cashed on holiday deals. Takealot saw its sales increase by 52% from last year.

Global Investment

African tech received some exciting new opportunities as foreign investors have now recognised the promise of the African Tech scene. Companies like Flutterwave, Opay, and Wave received Unicorn Status this year, which means they are now valued at over a billion United States Dollars, almost doubling the number of Unicorns in Africa. This is largely because of foreign investment and partnerships as international companies have now begun to pay attention to Africa’s budding tech scene. Alphabets Google announced in October that it will be investing fifty million dollars into African startups. With news like that, it is clear to see that the African tech industry is just beginning to grow and the potential is almost limitless with how they could impact the rest of the world. While Africa does have a lot of catching up with established markets on a global front, there is room for them to address their local industry needs, which is vital for the continent’s continued development. By making sure wealth stays within the continent it can then be reinvested and used to develop communities and benefit the living conditions of all Africans. Beyond that, it becomes an enticing opportunity for investors as they can gain massive returns if their investment pays off.

Formalisation of Remote Work

Remote work has become part of our daily lives as we continue to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, while in 2020 we saw the first adjustments to our “new normal” it was only until this year that remote work really found its stride as companies and organisations streamlined their online processes and platforms. With the emergence of Semigration, the process of moving out of the city while still working for organisations within the city, we have seen costs of living go down while productivity has remained steady. This gives people greater security and quality of life without the stresses of living in the city. The city of Cape Town has been encouraging foreign travellers to work within their city while still earning from overseas as a way to capitalise on the losses of the tourism industry due to travel bans and higher staged lockdowns. While there are certainly drawbacks in remote working, such as feelings of isolation and breakdowns in communication. Companies have sought to address this by utilising hybrid working, wherein employees come into the office one or two days a week, with the rest of the time being spent in remote work. This addresses issues of isolation and depression in workers while still reducing the COVID-19 related risks of having a full-time in office environment.

Green Tech in Africa

With countries like South Africa struggling with a dependable electric grid and the value of remote working being so crucial, investments in sustainable energy sources like Solar and Wind have become more common. Companies like Amazon have begun creating factories and warehouses that are completely independent of the national grid, running entirely on renewable energy. There has also been a shift to using Artificial Intelligence to solve issues around emissions and carbon waste like the Nestle plant in Pretoria that uses a fully automated system to reduce waste and measure emissions. There are also companies emerging that are attempting to tabulate and score companies that obey and disobey climate regulations so that consumers can make an informed choice. There has also been an increase in rideshare applications and companies that address the transportation issues within Africa. Through these companies not only has transportation issues been challenged but these have also reduced carbon emissions and environmental strain. While the African continent barely contributes to the climate crisis as it currently stands, companies and organisations within the continent have made great strides in 2021 to change our global trajectory.