Internet shutdowns, Uber Movement and funding

The African tech scene rightly receives much praise for its pace of development, but in some months positives can be outweighed by negatives. September was such a month.

A multitude of African governments have been suspicious of the merits of bitcoin and other digital currencies, with Kenya receiving much criticism for declaring them illegal. Namibia followed suit this month.

Another West African country cracked down on internet connections over the course of the month, following the move by the Cameroonian government earlier in the year. Togo blocked WhatsApp – not for the first time – in the face of anti-government protests, and went on to shut down the internet altogether.

The Nigerian military also started monitoring social media posts during September, with the impact of all this negative activity highlighted by a report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), which found internet shutdowns in Sub-Saharan Africa have cost the region up to US$237 million since 2015.

There was more positive news from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the government announced mobile operators will from now on be expected to contribute two per cent of their turnover to a universal access fund designed at increasing rural connectivity in the Central African country.

It’s goodbye from them…

The continent said its goodbyes to two of its most-touted tech startups over the course of the month. Pan-African music streaming company site Afrostream closed its doors, citing the high cost of obtaining access to content, while Nigerian ridesharing startup GoMyWay also announced it was to close after failing to earn enough revenues to encourage its existing backers to re-invest.

There was bad news for other transport companies as the Gauteng provincial authorities in South Africa announced they are set to clamp down on non-compliant Uber drivers. Gauteng did, however, become the first region in Africa to become part of Uber Movement, the company’s free website that provides the public and urban planners with anonymised data about traffic flows.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town, as part of its Integrated Public Transport Network (IPTN) plan, has proposed launching a ride-hailing app for minibus taxis, which will work in a similar manner to Uber and Taxify.

Supporting the scene

Major tech firms are increasingly active across the continent, and a growing part of their impact is in the startup space. Amazon in September partnered Zambian tech hub and incubator BongoHive to offer free hosting and access to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to the hub’s member companies.

Google, meanwhile, expanded its Launchpad Accelerator program to seven more African countries. The program was initially only available to startups from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but with the latest expansion Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda are also now covered.

A number of companies raised investor funding to expand their operations over the course of the month. South Africa-based bitcoin company Luno secured US$9 million, while Kenya-based Facebook-linked mobile lender Branch raised US$2 million to push into new markets.

Also on the fundraising trail were Kenya’s iProcure, Egypt’s Filkhedma, and South Africa’s Pineapple, while South African bitcoin-based property investment platform ProsperiProp has launched one of the continent’s first initial coin offerings (ICOs) in order to raise launch funding.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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