Faster deals, less diligence: The African startup market mirrors its larger rivals

As investment accelerates on the continent, what’s missing?

The global venture capital market is increasingly active, but few locales are seeing the sort of investment acceleration that African startups are enjoying this year.

New data indicates that African startups have already outraised all known prior years, meaning 2021 is sure to be a record. But, more importantly, the pace at which African startups are raising money in 2021 is accelerating, with September data indicating that it was perhaps the best month ever.

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Given that venture capitalists are putting more money to work in Africa this year as the quarters tick along, it’s reasonable to anticipate that 2022 could bring even greater total venture investment to the continent.

Investors told The Exchange that their investment pace is picking up tempo and prices are rising. But it’s not all good news on the African front. There may be a dearth of late-stage checks despite a surfeit of early-stage deals, and the African startup economy remains weighted toward a single country (Nigeria) and category (fintech).

Any heating market won’t warm evenly, and the African startup scene is no exception to the rule. Still, the type of funding that the continent’s startups may need is in rich global supply, so perhaps this is a supply chain issue that can be resolved?

Read on for more data and notes from Novastar Ventures’ West Africa director Brian Odhiambo and Acuity Venture Partners managing partner Lexi Novitske.

Strong totals, promising early-stage

While we don’t have full confirmation yet, we are pretty sure that Africa crossed the $3 billion milestone in VC funding this year so far.

African startup observer Maxime Bayen was first to point out that the milestone was impeding: According to data from his Substack newsletter, The Big Deal, the first three quarters already totaled more than $2.9 billion. His prediction? That, if things continue at this pace, startup funding in Africa for 2021 will amount to $4 billion.