The hits and misses of Southern Africa tech in 2023

Last 2023 year, the region saw some hits as numerous funds were launched to support innovators, startups built products which addressed some of the region’s most pertinent socio-economic challenges, and regulators introduced frameworks which drove innovations.

However, there were also several misses as cybercrime and online scams ran wild, layoffs and closures rocked the region, and C-Suite executives made some questionable business decisions.

Read on to get a broader view of our coverage of the southern Africa region and how we stayed on top of all these stories and much more!

Launch of funds

Throughout 2023, several funds were launched to drive tech innovation in the region. These included the Convergence Partners Digital Infrastructure Fund, the Sasol greentech startups fund, the SA SME Fund, and Knife Capital’s $50 million Series A fund.

Several startups in the region also raised a significant amount of funds amid a global fundraising crunch. These included Planet42’s mega $100 million Series A round, Naked Insurance’s $17 million Series B, TymeBank’s $77 million pre-Series C, and Stitch’s $25 million Series A.

Startups solving pressing issues

This year, TechCabal also covered startups and tech companies in the region which are solving pertinent problems in their respective markets. These included healthcare startups in South Africa, Whatsapp chatbot startups in the region, how startups are tackling South Africa’s cybercrime epidemic, as well as agritech, edtech, and mobility startups building solutions to address the region’s power supply issues.

Ecosystem explorations

Staying true to its mission to provide complete coverage of the pan-African tech ecosystem, TechCabal also explored other ecosystems in the southern African region outside South Africa. From Zambia’s emergence as a force in the list of pre-emerging ecosystems to Madagascar’s bid to make its name known in the African tech ecosystem, to Namibia’s mission to address the issues plaguing its ecosystem, our coverage provided readers with insights into what is happening in tech on the continent beyond the “Big Four.”

Beyond ecosystem explorations, our coverage also delved deep into ecosystem activities that are positioning technology as the driver of socio-economic progress. This coverage included how South Africa continues to lead the continent in the race for data centre dominance, how short-term loans by telcos are driving financial inclusion in Botswana, how Zambia’s national debt restructuring will help grow its tech ecosystem, how WomHub is building an accelerator for women founders, and how the University of Cape Town produces the most startup CEOs on the continent.

We also spoke to several investors who are betting on the region’s innovators. These included Keet van Zyl of Knife Capital, Andile Ngcaba of Convergence Partners, Brenton Naicker of CV-VC, Francois Malan of Savant, Amina Patterson of Solve4X as well as Palesa Tabai of I’M IN Accelerator.

Other hits

TechCabal also covered numerous other areas of tech in southern Africa including the launch of PayShap in South Africa, Amazon’s launch in South Africa, how the region’s startups continue to lead exits on the continent, how private equity firms are coming to the rescue during the VC crunch, Innovation Collective’s mission to foster inclusion for Cape Town’s underprivileged founders, how Union54 made a comeback from an almost crippling chargeback fraud debacle, and how associations are trying to spearhead fintech growth in Botswana and South Africa.

Layoffs and closures

As with the rest of the world, southern Africa’s region was hit with macroeconomic challenges which forced several startups, tech companies, and other ecosystem players to scale down or completely cease operations. Crypto exchange Luno cut 35% of its staff, WhereIsMyTransport shut down while Naspers had to let go of 30% of its headcount. Still on Naspers, the company also shut down its Naspers Foundry fund which had invested in 12 startups.

Cybersecurity and online scams had a field day

‘Twas the year that hackers and online scammers claimed victims almost with impunity in the region. In South Africa, hackers hit some of the country’s most well-known brands including Showmax, Shoprite, DisChem, Liberty Insurance, TransUnion, and even government departments. In Botswana, online scams had a field day, costing victims tens of millions of pulas while in Lesotho, the country’s central bank was hit with a security breach. Zimbabwe’s promising AI startup also saw a security breach which threatened its existence.

Shoddy corporate governance

Beyond startup challenges, TechCabal’s coverage of the region also touched on bigger tech companies whose lacklustre governance continues to erode shareholder value. We covered MultiChoice’s seemingly never-ending struggles including plummeting share price, written-off losses on Kingmakers, inglorious exit from Malawi as well as Canal+’s seemingly looming takeover of the broadcaster.

We also covered the drama of the love triangle between MTN, Telkom and Rain, MTN passing load shedding costs to clients, the dramatic exit of Naspers’ CEO Bob van Djik, the greylisting of South Africa by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Botswana’s microfinancier Letshego’s declining profits, as well as Starlink’s struggles with regulators in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Other misses

Other no-so-good ecosystem happenings that we covered included how a so-called Facebook rapist escaped from prison in South Africa, the trend of failing incubators and accelerators in the region, startups exiting too early as they fail to raise follow-on capital, the region’s shortage of technical talent, internet disruptions in Zimbabwe during elections, complaints against InDrive operators in Botswana, why CEOs in the region struggle to raise capital, as well as South Africa’s mission to introduce stringent tax requirements for remote workers.

What to expect in 2024 in southern Africa tech

With 2023 in the rearview mirror, we brought you coverage which kept you abreast of everything tech in the Southern Africa region and, in 2024, we will do even more. Stay tuned as we keep an eye on whether Zambia’s plunging currency will wipe off the growth of its tech ecosystem, whether Batswana will continue to fall victim to online scams, if South Africa will reclaim its spot as the VC destination of the continent, whether Namibia will successfully address its ecosystem challenges, how Zimbabwe will accelerate the growth of its startup scene and much more!


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