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TechCabal travelled to Algeria to cover this year’s African Startup Conference. The conference has been running from December 5 to December 7.

About 10,000 people are attending and the venue, CIC Algiers, is the biggest international conference centre in Africa.

We are sending you this newsletter to give you all you need to know about Algeria’s tech ecosystem and the crucial conversations happening at the conference.



Dispatch from Algeria

African Startup Conference in Algeria

Seventeen hours after we hopped on a flight from Lagos, we were finally at an immigration desk in Algiers. Despite the big names in town for the second edition of the African Startup Conference, the immigration officials seemed to be hearing about the conference for the first time.

“You should visit Algeria again, but for tourism,” the official tells us as she waves us on.

It’s one of the few times I hear anyone speak English at the airport. Arabic and Berber are Algeria’s official languages. Before now, if anyone had asked me about Algeria, I’d definitely have drawn a blank. 

Algeria is what that friend on Twitter who never shuts up about being an introvert thinks he is. This country has largely “kept to itself and deliberately avoided outside attention,” one investor born and raised in Algeria told me. 

a photo of Nkiru Amadi-Emina and Ijeoma Jacquelyn Akwiwu
Some of the people at the conference

But it’s 2023, and not much can be achieved if a country insists on being an “omo get inside”. So Algeria is attempting to build a new persona as it attempts to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment. One way to meet that second goal is by growing its tech ecosystem, ranked 114th globally by Startup Blink. 

This year’s edition of the African Startup conference—the first edition was held in 2022—is a way to kickstart that growth. From December 5 to December 7, TechCabal will cover the conference and speak to African ministers of technology and innovation, investors, and some of the early builders in Algeria.

Two conference officials told us there are about 10,000 people attending this event and the venue, CIC Algiers, is the biggest international conference centre in Africa. 

A key part of our Algeria visit is to give you all the actionable information about Algeria’s tech ecosystem, the stage it is in, where it plans to go, who its key figures are, and the crucial conversations happening this week. 

A stage at the African Startup Conference in Algeria

The state of play in Algeria: The country’s high literacy rate (80%), population (44.9 million), per capita income of around $4,000, and proximity to Europe means there’s a lot of promise here. 

Also, the Algeria Startup Fund, which is managing $411 million in state funding and $17 million of its own, invests in pre-seed stage to Series A startups. It’s finding joy in the logistics sector and expects that new regulations will open up fintech and allow neobanks to give legacy banks a run for their money. 

Logistics is big business here, Mohammed Moussaiou, the business development manager of the Algeria startup fund tells me. Think last mile, exports, and moving goods across six African countries. 

Yassir, one of Algeria’s most recognisable startups that we covered last year is a ride-hailing and food delivery service that claims to have eight million users across seven countries. There is also Heetch, which one student described as the Algerian version of Uber.

Cash is king: A new law that finally permits fintechs to handle payments was only passed in July, so cash is the main way to pay. Supermarkets and malls sometimes reject cards to avoid bank charges. 

Being so cash-reliant has its downsides, especially for a country with a youthful population (30% of total). That youthful population does a lot of freelancing, but receiving payments for their work can be difficult. Newer regulation is expected to also solve this problem. 

Freelancing is huge in Algeria among young people—who make up around 30% of the total population—mostly graphic designers, UI/UX designers, and technical support staff. And the government sure supports this: there are no taxes on freelancing. I would take up freelancing if I had my way.

Tomiwa Aladekomo, the CEO of Big Cabal Media and Yacine El-Mahdi Oualid, the country’s minister of knowledge economy, startups and micro-enterprises

Who to watch out for: Yacine El-Mahdi Oualid, the country’s minister of knowledge economy, startups and micro-enterprises, believes bringing African tech stakeholders together will play a critical role in opening up the country. A panel that featured ministers of technology and their representatives from South Africa, Tunisia, Botswana and Nigeria discussed how they’re thinking about driving innovation on the continent. 

There’s also a memorandum of understanding that’s going to be signed today by these ministers. We’ll bring you all the details at the signing! 

Oswald Guobadia, managing partner at DigitA, who spoke to us on the sidelines, believes the African Startup conference is critical to bridging the gap between regulation and innovation. 

Bonus: Why does it feel like African countries are making a push for tech investors every week I open the TechCabal website? I hear someone in the back ask. Fresh from our coverage of Uganda and Rwanda, my working theory is that more African countries are looking at the investments pouring into Africa’s “Big Four” and thinking to themselves, “We can achieve that too.” 

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Written and Edited by: Olumuyiwa Olowogboyega & Kelechi Njoku

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