The best startup cities in Africa

When thinking about the best startup ecosystems, Africa usually isn’t among the most talked about as mega hubs in the USA and Europe are taking the spotlight. And, without a reason! Despite being a relatively young startup ecosystem and its infrastructural challenges, Africa is showing that it is ready to jump into the startup ecosystem train and become a go-to place for entrepreneurs and startup founders. 

In this article, we will go over the 10 highest ranked African cities and celebrate their victories.

To determine which cities should be included in the list, we used the newest Global Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report by StartupBlink that analyzes startup ecosystems in 1,000 cities and 100 countries. 

Based on the Global Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report 2019, results for Africa are mixed. No country has made it to the top 50 this time. However, there are 14 African countries in the top 100 list. Additionally, most of the cities ranked had climbed the rankings ladder up. 

So, let’s find out what are those 10 African cities! We will start off by ascending order of fast growth to leave a piece of intrigue.

10. Casablanca, Morocco

Ranked 284th globally, Casablanca is a leading country’s startup hub. This city is also a port city and commercial hub in western Morocco, fronting the Atlantic Ocean. Casablanca, unlike other locations in Morocco, has several coworking spaces to choose from. Other than that, there are organizations and local startups that work hard to connect ecosystem players and encourage idea-sharing for a culture of collaborative innovation.

9. Kampala, Uganda

From the North, going down to the East-Central, there is a small landlocked country, Uganda. It’s the capital city is the 9th best-ranked startup ecosystem in the continent and stands 279th globally (after a jump by 243 places!). Kampala’s startup ecosystem players actively engage in startup ecosystem building due to events and activities organized by the Innovation Village, Startup Uganda, and various coworking spaces. Both founders and organizations are working hand in had to tackle some of the local challenges and promote entrepreneurship.

8. Johannesburg, South Africa

To start off, South Africa is better positioned than any other African country and boosts with extremely high potential as it has already nurtured several unicorns. Its largest city, Johannesburg, appears 8th on the best-ranked startup ecosystems and is 248th in the world. Since ages, it has been known as an international centre for finance and trade due to the gold rush. Despite its struggled past, it is rising as the fintech space with around 30 percent of startups working only in this sector. Therefore, there are a couple of hundred programmes that support startup activities.

7. Accra, Ghana

Number 7 is Accra, the capital of Ghana. This top city ranks only 4 places higher globally than Johannesburg (at 244th). Accra, and the whole country as such, has seen some major improvements. That includes, receiving direct foreign investment from various organizations like the Ghana Startup capital fund, the Ghana-India Kof Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, and 3 Day Startup. These programs confirm that entrepreneurship is spreading not only in the capital city bus across the country as well. This country is well known for mobile payment apps and it is home to some of the startup successes like Meqasa, Omgdigital, and Expresspay.

6. Kigali, Rwanda

For the top 6, there is a true phoenix rising from the ashes of a civil war to form a robust African startup ecosystem. Its top city, Kigali, ranks at 232nd spot in the global city rankings. With the help of the African Development Bank, the influx of tech companies, investors and tailored government support and private sector engagement, economic innovation received a substantial boost in Rwanda. The whole country is famous for ICT startups and Entrepreneur Visa created to increase local and foreign interest in entrepreneurship. Despite some infrastructural challenges, Kigali has great connectivity and stable electricity that facilitates the path of startup founders.  

5. Tunis, Tunisia

5th on the list in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, that takes us up to North Africa. Tunis is a port city on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf favoring the country’s economy with the sea trade. Tunis stands 223rd in the world. Just like other coastal cities, the regional economy benefits greatly from the tourism sector. Additionally, the Tunisian government is starting to notice the importance of creating startup hubs and has passed a Startup Act that encourages startup growth by easing tax policies, providing government-sanctioned salary to founders, and helping startups get international patents. Having proximity to the Middle East, the rest of Africa, and Europe, Tunisia has the advantage of making international business connections.

4. Cairo, Egypt

Moving to the East of Tunisia, we get to Cairo, the heart of Egypt. This city ranks as the 4th best startup ecosystem and stands at 177 spot globally. Local and foreign financial support in the country has opened several opportunities to take entrepreneurship to the next level and use it as a way to tackle local challenges like unemployment and education. Its low cost of living and a massive population of young people (Africa is the youngest continent!) who want to become entrepreneurs makes it a convenient place for global companies to open up their branches. 

3. Cape Town, South Africa

At No. 3 stands Cape Town, the legislative capital of South Africa. As mentioned before, South Africa fits among the most affluent countries in the continent. Talking about Cape Town, it ranks 157th in the world and is an important hub for financial services, retail, and tourism. The country and the city faces a lot of challenges due to rooted class division and big corporation dominance. But the wave of entrepreneurship that started less than 10 years ago is building connections to boost the ecosystem by finding solutions to tackle local and regional problems. Cape Town, as the whole country, is into the tech sector with a reel of startup success stories from mobile payment app Snapscan and online learning platform Get Smarter.

2. Nairobi, Kenya

2nd on the list is Nairobi in Kenya that ranks 105th globally. The country has a coastline of the Indian Ocean which favors sea trade and very rich wildlife and landscape puts Kenya into millions of bucket lists. Other than the breathtaking nature, Kenya’s startup ecosystem is booming too with revolutionizing mobile payment apps, like m-Pesa and global tech giants, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Intel that are choosing Nairobi as a convenient place to expand into. The majority of the country’s startups are coming from the tech sector. Additionally, organizations like Konzo Techno City supports and promotes entrepreneurship spirit. 

1. Lagos, Nigeria

The title of the best startup ecosystem city in Africa belongs to Lagos in Nigeria which is a top 100 startup ecosystem city in the world. Despite the fact that the country’s ecosystem has started to form later than the one in Kenya or South Africa, Nigeria has accelerated quickly and even nurtured a unicorn called Jumia, an online shop for electronics, phones, and fashion. Just like other African countries, Nigeria has infrastructural challenges, but overcome those, and Nigerian founders will be able to move forward for the benefit of their country and economy.

This is how the list of the 10 best startup ecosystems in Africa looks like. The list was made based on the results of Global Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report 2019 ranking 1,000 cities and 100 countries worldwide. If you did not find your city on this list yet but would love to see its startup ecosystem momentum, feel free to download the Report for free here and start discovering.

Wonder how we filtered regional changes and best startup ecosystems in a particular region? All of that is possible with the help of the PRO account, which allows filtering all the results by region and population and getting only the information that one needs. StartupBlink PRO Members get access to a variety of analysis tools and the raw data of the ranking algorithm that allows them to dig deeper into startup ecosystem analysis. For more information about the PRO account, contact us here.