In 2019, Airbus selected 10 African Aerospace startups to be a part of the next edition of the Airbus Bizlab #Africa4Future Accelerator Programme. The programme aims at supporting aerospace ventures which makes use of technology to solve social issues, and displays a spirit of entrepreneurship geared towards technology. More than 300 startups took part in this challenge, with ten selections made in Nairobi. The startups are across Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, and South Africa.
It is crucial to check how these startups are faring, and how much impact they have made, especially in these coronavirus times. It seems only logical to assume that startups such as Cote d’Ivoire drone would use its drones to quicken the process of sample collection for COVID-19 testing.
Here is a breakdown of how the startups are faring in 2020:
1. Astral Aerial, Kenya: Astral Aerial focuses on the use of drones to aid humanitarian efforts by assisting cargo transport, surveillance functions and emergency response. After the win in January 2019, the startup secured a deal with a significant drone manufacturer in Japan, Yamaha Motor Company to provide an air-cargo delivery option for customers in Kenya. The agreement aims at enhancing agricultural solutions through the use of crop spraying solutions.
2. Côte d’Ivoire Drone, Ivory Coast: This startup focuses on using drones manufactured locally to serve diverse purposes. Recently, Africa News reported that drones are in use for agriculture and mining in Ivory Coast. At the forefront of this technological revolution is Côte d’Ivoire Drone.
3. Elemental Numerics, South Africa: Elemental Numerics deals with the design of machines and components through the application of computational fluid techniques. They are involved in building parts for aircraft and heart valves. Unfortunately, not much about the startup has been in the news since 2019. We reached out for an interview, but couldn’t get a response.
4. WiPo Wireless Power, South Africa: WiPo’s core ideals focus on the convenience of power; that is offering wireless power chargers for businesses who provide the charging of mobile phones, laptops, drones, and can be in use at airports, conference centres, and restaurants.
Furthermore, WiPo has signed agreements with several drone management software companies, manufacturers, medical and technological institutes, and so on. Also, in the past year, the startup began the production of their second-generation Wi-Charge and WiPort. WiPort is a drone nest solution while the Wi-Charge is a standalone wireless charger, which is enabled by IoT remote monitoring; this means the startup can notice errors and problems before they occur and fix them before they become a problem to the clients.
The startup told Space in Africa that the Airbus selection exposed them to an international stage, while also giving them access to experts, business networks, and potential clients. Also, the startup has diverted its full attention towards the medical industry and associated industries. Currently, the WiPo is actively partnering with medical device manufacturers to integrate Wi-Charge and WiPort in their solutions.
In addition to this, the startup is delivering drones and drone nests to necessary departments.
Just this month, a report, Autonomous Drone Wireless Charging and Infrastructure Market was released which contains an in-depth analysis of the drone market, wireless charging, its cost, potential revenue, demands, and the extent of the Autonomous Drone Charging. In a section that highlights the top companies in the global wireless drone charging, WiPo Wireless Power is one of the core companies championing the growth of wireless drone charging in Africa. The startup has announced plans to change its brand, including a change in website.
5. Lentera Limited, Kenya: This startup focuses on monitoring and transmitting environmental data in a bid to enhance the processes of farming. It aims at making farming a smarter endeavour, rather than a physically-exhausting one. In late 2019, the agro-tech startup began a fundraising campaign of $560,000, a seed solution aimed at easing the process of farming. Also, Lentera has a contract to develop a solution in the Lake Naivasha basin; this incentive is to support farmers as well as engage them towards sustainable agriculture. It is also a part of WWF Panda Labs agri-innovation hackathon. Impressively, in late 2019, the startup won the Innov8 agriculture challenge in Dubai. Furthermore, Lentera was awarded the Afric’up Summit 2019 startup of the year in Tunisia after winning the finals of the pitch competition.
In an interview with the startup, Lentera Africa admitted to having access to satellite data after being one of the selected startups by Airbus. This has also allowed the employees an opportunity to new mentorship from Airbus engineers.
Summarily, the startup:
A. Has launched a mobile app – Crop HQ, which uses satellite-based crop health modelling and offers mobile extension services,
B. Has launched an app, named the Lentera Africa, which creates a marketplace to access the products and services of the startup,
C. Has released several digital training materials on YouTube. These materials focus on sustainable agriculture, pest and disease management with organic alternatives, conservation agriculture and also a lesson on how to use agricultural chemicals safely,
D. Lentera Africa has used sensor-based technologies to create customized solutions which will increase the productivity of crop farmers in Africa,
E. Has reached a wider audience through the use of social media, and also created a more robust team which now consists of sensing engineers and agronomists with a track record of success.
6. Maisha ICT Tech PLC, Ethiopia: Maisha’s tech solution lies in the use of drones to deliver medicine, test kits, blood samples to and from remote areas. To aid the fight against COVID-19, Maisha has created 3D printed face shields and donated to Black Lion Hospital, which is at the forefront of fighting the pandemic in Ethiopia.
7. MamaBird, Malawi: MamaBird is also in the business of using tech to provide life-saving items to remote and rural areas through partnerships with the government or NGOs. In an interview in June 2019, Eugene Maseya admitted that the startup is still in the testing phase, hence the reason why they have not been in the news of late.
8. Map Action, Mali: Map Action’s primary tech solution lies in offering people with real-time online urban mapping tools which helps people identify the problems with water supplies, hygiene and sanitation. After being selected by Airbus in 2019, Map Action went on to secure a partnership with CartONG, an NGO in France which focuses on humanitarian information management. The startup was also involved in supporting refugees in Syria through its mapping structure. In conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), the company mapped data for environmental and health services to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in Libya and Chad.
Map Action uses deep-technology and artificial intelligence to identify land use and how it affects the local environment; the startup is using this opportunity to leverage Airbus’s satellite data which is present in the OneAtlas Living Library platform.
9. MobiTech Water Solutions, Kenya: MobiTech creates a water-monitoring solution which allows homes and businesses to measure and manage their available water through an app-based platform and an instant messaging function. The startup has also introduced MobiFlow, which is a smart meter and internet-capable device, which can measure water consumption in a building – for business – or a home. MobiFlow operates remotely.
10. Track Your Build, Nigeria/Sierra Leone: This startup explores a unique opportunity in the field of infrastructure; the company offers a management tool for construction and operations. The company launched a new business division, TYB Designs earlier this year. Also, a brand under the startup, First Aerial launched drone services to support the government in the fight against COVID-19; this helps to monitors the level of compliance of communities in Sierra Leone.
However, we expect that these startups will do more in offering tech solutions in post-COVID Africa.