African tech leaders Fope Adelowo, Ken Njoroge, Tayo Oviosu to speak at Disrupt SF
African tech leaders Fope Adelowo, Ken Njoroge, Tayo Oviosu to speak at Disrupt SF 150 150 Jordan Crook

Africa’s startup scene is growing by leaps and bounds, and three tech leaders are set to share insights on this vibrant space at Disrupt San Francisco.   

Paga CEO Tayo Oviosu, Helios Investment Partners Vice President Fope Adelowo and Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge will take the stage September 7 to discuss topics such as fintech, Africa’s founder experience, data privacy, VC investment and the continent’s future unicorn and IPO prospects.

Nearly two decades of improved stability, economic growth and reform have created some bright spots on the continent, rapid modernization and a growing technology scene among them.

Africa minted its first unicorn — e-commerce venture Jumia— in 2016, and over the last five years, just about every big-name U.S. tech company, including Facebook, Google and Netflix, has expanded there.

The continent now has 442 active tech hubs, accelerators and innovation spaces across IT hotspots in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Rwanda. Thousands of African startups are moving into every imaginable sector: from blockchain, logistics and education to healthcare and agriculture.

And hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital is flowing to these startups, with the expectation that some of their solutions for Africa’s 1.2 billion people will produce significant ROI.

Two of those ventures are Oviosu’s Paga and Njoroge’s Cellulant. Paga has become one of Nigeria’s leading digital payments providers in a market where many people are just signing on to financial services. Since 2012 the company has processed 57 million transactions worth $3.6 billion, reached 9 million users and achieved profitability, according to Oviosu.

Cellulant — a Nairobi-headquartered pan-African payment startup — has also posted some impressive fintech stats. The company offers B2B and P2B services to clients that include some of the continent’s largest banks. In 2017 Cellulant’s payment platforms processed $2.7 billion across 33 countries, according to Njoroge. And in 2018 Cellulant raised one of the continent’s largest VC rounds — $47.5 million — led by TPG Growth’s Rise Fund.  

Paga and Cellulant have the potential to become early public African tech companies, and both Oviosu and Njoroge mentor younger startups as angel investors in their respective markets.

On IPO prospects, Helios Investment Partners’ Fope Adelowo has been on the forefront of VC into Africa’s breakout startups. She serves as board observer to two of the firm’s high-profile Africa investments, e-commerce site MallforAfrica and payments company Interswitch. MallforAfrica recently launched a global e-commerce site with DHL, and Interswitch said it plans to become one of the continent’s first tech IPOs on a major exchange by 2019.