Welcome to TC Daily! In today’s digest: What country is Africa’s crypto capital and why
; first African SBAS open service launches technical trial and Egyptian esports company, Anubis Gaming, closes seed round. Register here to attend our webinar on the state of digital identity in Nigeria.
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Africa’s first satellite-based augumentation system (SBAS) is set to be transmitted through Nigeria’s NIGCOMSAT-1R in technical trials by the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA). The SBAS open service will improve upon global satellite navigation systems to improve accuracy for aviation safety and efficiency. On-ground navigation needs like GPS services in cars or mobile phones may also benefit from the accuracy provided by SABS. The program which is part of the SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean programme is being financed by the European Union.The SBAS could provide an accurate alternative in the absence of an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach. Recall that in February, international flights were unable to land in Lagos due to the lack of adequate ILS equipment.
NIGCOMSAT-1R is a geo satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd. which, 14 years after its launch, is yet to prove its viability. Since 2009, more than US$11 million has been allocated to the communications company with 90% of it going towards capital expenses and salaries. This is excluding capital investments and loans taken to launch the satellite twice, first in 2008 and again in 2011 after a power failure had caused the first launch to fail.
Industry stakeholders point to the pricing of NigComSat as discouraging and foreign service providers are still the go-to for satellite communication needs. The government’s running of the organisation as well as infrastructure deficits have also been blamed for the troubles at NigComSat.
While the satellite through which the SBAS signal will be transmitted will expire in 2026, there has been talks about financing and constructing two new backup satellites with China.
South Africa’s DataProphet is expanding to Europe and the US after raising a US$6 million Series A round. Founded in 2014, DataProphet’s AI-as-a-service product DataProphet PRESCRIBE optimises manufacturing processes by automating operations. The round was co-led by Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) and Norican Group as well as Knife Capital who invested in the company in 2018. The company is looking to set up offices in these regions as a way to foster a more intimate relationship with its clients. According to co-founder, Frans Cronje , “Coming out of South Africa is something that is difficult for those markets to relate to, and subsequently this is why it is quite important to build these commercial relationships.”
Egyptian esports startup, Anubis Gaming, has closed a US$300,000 seed funding after raising US$100,000 last month bringing the total funding raised by the startup to US$450,000.The last time I wrote about e-sports was in 2019. The focus was on Egypt’s e-sports industry because it is one of the fastest growing on the continent at the moment. As a subject matter, that there was a rapidly growing potential to turn long gaming hours into something profitable piqued my interest. Back in 2017, Youssef Mohsen, founder of Anubis Gaming while speaking with Vice, said the lack of game-specific servers was disqualifying African gamers from joining international tournaments or growing the industry.
Through Anubis Gaming, Mohsen has been building the industry from the ground up in Egypt, training gamers, setting up teams and local leagues. After winning a string of national tournaments, Anubis Gaming has been invited to its first international tournament, the Crossfire World League where they could partake in an over US$750,000 prize pool if they make it to the finals. In addition to a fully equipped gaming house and training facility, Mohsen’s Anubis Gaming will use the funds to develop its apparel line, recruit more players, build new teams and hire more coaching staff.
The billion dollar esports industry is thriving globally. But there are dark sides to the highly competitive field: Gamer’s Thumb from hours or days of playing on end, depression, long periods of isolation and the intense pressure to make something out of an incredibly short professional gaming career.
Cameroonian healthtech startup Healthlane has secured a US$2.4 million funding from Digital Horizon with participation from a consortium of investors including investors in Ping An Good Doctor, a Chinese healthtech company with a similar business model. This may be the highest funding a startup from the country has raised.Healthlane combines online and offline medical services to patients and
healthcare practitioners alike. Patients can book appointments beforehand at avoid queues at any of its 30+ partner hospitals who use the platform to digitally store and update medical records. The startup says the funds will go towards expansion plans. Currently, its services are available in Cameroon and Nigeria.
Lead funders, Digital Horizon, are placing a bet on the startup’s mix of virtual and offline services as well as its service towards both patients and practitioners in the sector.
“In the future, this all-in-one approach will enable the company to expand the list of services by adding, for example, insurance products,” says Alan Vaksman, founder and managing partner of Digital Horizon.
“Hey Lanre, how far? Are you doing this crypto thing?” my friend asked me last week.
“Ah no. I am really interested but I don’t fully understand it yet,” I replied.“Ehn ehn. Why now? My cousin just started investing in it and he says he is making cool money from it,” he responded with slight disappointment in his voice.
Crypto adoption is rising rapidly across Sub-Saharan Africa. Word of mouth, just like my friend trying to convince me, is one of the ways the technology is spreading across the continent. But there’s more.
Last month, peer-to-peer bitcoin trading volume hit $$18.3 million in Sub-Saharan, its highest ever recorded in a week. Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa were the top locations with $9.8 million, $3.2 million and $2.8 million respectively.
Investors are voting with their money. There have been at least 3 major crypto deals in the past few weeks. At least two of those deal were linked to companies whose primary market is Nigeria or have significant operations here.
So what is driving Nigeria’s crypto growth and making it the region’s crypto capital?
Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment rates in Africa. But what is even more instructive is that when you calculate the actual number of unemployed people, the picture looks grimmer. Nigeria’s high population means that its unemployed population at 27.1% is 27 million, way higher than South Africa’s 7.1 million people even though the latter’s unemployment rate is 30.1%.
This means there are far more people in Nigeria who urgently need a means to make money and to make ends meet. Many see crypto as one way to invest and earn.
Another major use case of crypto is to navigate the complicated international payment system, especially between Africa and other regions. Businesses are using it to pay contractors abroad.
Nigeria has the second-highest import volume in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using 2019 figures, it imported about $47.3 billion worth of goods compared to South Africa’s $88.2 billion. A slice of the import volume in both countries is now going through crypto exchanges.
However, despite the growth in crypto, its potential is still limited across the continent. Over 60% of regulators are yet to clarify their stance on it and there’s a lack of crypto infrastructure in Africa. Only 20 of the 10,267 bitcoin nodes worldwide are in Africa. Another limitation is the growing reduction in disposable income, especially in the midst of the pandemic.
Despite growth, Africa has not scratched the surface in its crypto potential.