By Sam Ancer
In November last year Microsoft announced its Africa Transformation Office (ATO), the goal being to accelerate the development of the tech industry in Africa by targeting key areas in which development would be vital. The initial goals of ATO were to develop digital infrastructure in Africa, accelerate startups, support small, micro and medium enterprises (SMME’s) and skills development within the industry.
The FAST accelerator program in association with Flapmax is an attempt to fulfil three of these goals within a single project. ATO and Flapmax provide skills training and incubation for 12 startups across the continent. These businesses come from 6 different countries in Africa, ranging from Nigeria to Uganda.
Microsoft recently announced their new ATO Managing Director Wael Elkabbany, who has over 30 years of industry experience, specialising in the Middle East and Africa, and so was selected for both his immense industry knowledge but also his in depth understanding of Africa’s tech needs and potential.
The startups range from agriculture solutions to medical services, and provide unique, disrupting existing industries and finding innovative solutions to Africa specific issues. From Nigerian LegitCar to Kenyan K12 EdTech, Microsoft’s ATO is looking at every industry in every country and providing these businesses with the skills and strategies they need.
LegitCar provides a unique solution to issues of car theft in Nigeria by using data collection from various sources such as insurance companies, vehicle tracking companies and law enforcement. A large concern for second-hand car owners in Nigeria is that they may, without knowing, buy a stolen vehicle. Around 70% of all stolen cars that are purchased in Nigeria are bought by people believing the sale to be legitimate. This means that the majority of people who are caught with stolen vehicles in Nigeria are completely innocent. This obviously represents a significant problem for the automotive industry and law enforcement which is why a company like LegitCar is so crucial.
K12 EdTech is a Kenyan based company that looks to solve the massive issue of global education disparity through innovative tech solutions. The goal is to curate an offline digital course system that provides both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. Synchronous learning is your standard education procedure where lessons are held at specific times and people are made to be accountable for learning outcomes through testing. Asynchronous learning is less conventional and is more focused around learning outside of a specific place or time. K12 EdTech is essentially aiming to provide a type of education system that meets the needs of every individual, whether they are looking for a more structured education system, or if they need their education to be more flexible and accessible.
Wala Digital Health
Ghanian based Wala Digital Health is using social media to solve the blood donor crisis. The company uses Artificial Intelligence to connect suppliers of blood with those that need it in order to effectively streamline the donation, collection and distribution of blood. This way blood is collected and curated so that shortages can be accurately predicted and needs can be met effectively. Donors are also given benefits through tokens that give them access to certain medical treatments as and when they need, incentivising the donation process beyond general altruism. Wala Digital Health aims to increase Ghana’s blood supply by a massive 15%.
Egyptian startup Visual and Artificial Intelligence Solutions (VAIS) is researching and developing ways that Artificial Intelligence can solve issues around agriculture. The startup was founded in 2020 and has already made strides in developing AI computing around agricultural technology and remote sensing. Their goal is to assist farmers with analytical data models that can give them precise information on everything from soil quality to weather patterns. Their remote sensing also helps provide accurate data for traders and insurers to understand what is happening in areas relevant to their work. This is effectively streamlining processes into mere hours that may take days or weeks.
Flapmax FAST Accelerator Program
These startups, as well as 8 others, will be the first cohort into the Microsoft and Flapmax FAST accelerator program which starts on the 21st of March. Flapmax is an Artificial Intelligence platform, offering real time analytics, their organisational vision is to promote global development through artificial intelligence and the FAST Accelerator program is one of the ways they seem themselves fulfilling this goal. The program will last for 12 weeks and will include fundraising, training, upskilling, cloud and AI integration, as well as community building events. The goal of the program is to help these organisations scale sustainably and securely. The organisations will also get hands-on engagements with Microsoft engineers. The startups will also have access to $250 000 (R3 744 000) worth of Microsoft Azure Credits each.
The FAST Accelerator program promises to provide African startups with the leg up they will need to compete on the global stage. The goal of these organisations should be not to simply exist in an African context but to challenge and disrupt the rest of the world. It is clear from the amazing work these organisations are doing that there is a place for African tech to take the world by storm, and programs like the FAST accelerator can be the key to progress that is sorely needed.