Africa Roundup: Goldman backs startup African Internet Group to become continent’s 1st unicorn

By Jake Bright for Techcrunch

The big tech news is the recent torrent of capital to Africa Internet Group (AIG)—which owns online retailer Jumia and 9 other e-ventures.

Yesterday AIG announced €300 million ($326 million) in funding from backers includingGoldman Sachs and MTN. CEO Sacha Poignonnec confirmed the new financing brings company equity to €1.005bn ($1.08bn). This clears the hurdle for AIG to become Africa’s first startup unicorn.

While the company would not provide a full round breakdown, it includes the €75 million ($83 million) AXA Insurance commitmentTechCrunch recently reported. AIG’s best funded ecommerce startup Jumia received over$200 million from 2012-2014 and is valued at $555 billion.

There are a couple key takeaways here. First, this big name money is a symbolic vote of confidence in the value proposition of e-commerce tapping Africa’s growing consumer power. AIG’s extensive startup network includes online platforms across hotel (Jovago), fashion (Zando), employment (Everjobs), real estate (Lamudi), and transportation (EasyTaxi) services.

Second, the recent growth of startups such as AIG and imminent fintech unicornInterswitch indicate new dynamics in African markets. Even as Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy and oil-producer, takes hits from lower commodities prices and China’s downturn it is still producing billion dollar tech companies.

On tech creating new African opportunities, commercial drone startups on the continent have taken off. South Africa’s Rocketmine provides “aerial data solutions” in mining, agriculture, and civil engineering. It expects to book just over $1 million in revenue in 2016, CEO Chris Clark told TechCrunch in this feature on Africa’s drone markets.

Ghana’s Aeroshutter offers aerial photography, commercial property surveillance, and ads for a client list including Best Western, TEDx, and Vodaphone. Both ventures precede the anticipated debut of commercial drone delivery in Africa, which could be one to two years off.

IBM Research Africa entered its third year in Kenya. The blue chip company opened a $100 million research lab in Nairobi in 2013 and is re-creating aWatson-inspired African tech platform—dubbed Lucy—to “solve the continent’s grand challenges.” IBM’s Research Africa’s work is definitely more pocket-protector tech than the hoodie startup variety. TechCrunch caught up with IBM’s Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya on the Africa lab’s progress to date and plans to open a new research lab in South Africa later this year.

In industry movements, Juliana Rotich announced she would step down as executive director of global software company Ushahidi to join Africa Technology Ventures, where’ll she’ll assist in raising a $50 million VC fund. The Kenyan tech leader (along with cohortsErik Hersman, Ory Okolloh, and Daudi Were) is an architect of many Silicon Savannahhallmarks: e.g., Ushahidi, the iHUB innovation center, and the solar powered mobile Wi-Fi device BRCK.

African developers from the Andela talent accelerator are filtering into positions at Fortune 500 companies around the world. So confirmed CEO Jeremy Johnson while giving me a tour of Andela’s New York offices. The U.S. founded company (backed by investorssuch as Steve Case, FB founder Chris Hughes, and the Omidyar Network)  has fellows programs in Nigeria and Kenya to train the top one percent of African techies to become coders at global startups and blue chip companies. Look for more on Andela in TechCrunch soon.

The article first appeared in techcrunch