We are often asked, “How big is the Artificial Intelligence Tech Sector in Africa?” So we set out to research that very question and the results of two years of analysis are now starting to emerge.

Towards the end 2017 we set out to fill a gap in the Africa artificial intelligence / 4IR tech business sector in Africa by creating The AI Media Group.  Launching in early 2018 we set out to create a new hybrid analysis, trade, consulting and media agency that would have at its heart, a thriving community discussing the application of 4IR technologies. We also wanted to help unite decision makers, investors, buyers, suppliers, innovators, SMBs and global brands in the Africa region.  

Over the intervening three years, we created the AI Expo Africa community, with 17K+ practitioners and the largest B2B Artificial Intelligence, RPA & Smart Tech community trade event in Africa.  Coupled to our curated business audience we also launched Synapse trade magazine, a unique quarterly trade journal giving a voice to small and large companies alike and a platform to showcase Africa 4IR products and services to a much wider global community.

As the now de facto regional trade body focusing solely on B2B 4IR trade in this technology category, we are now a trusted soft-landing entry point into the Africa market for trade missions, corporates and start-ups seeking to launch in this region. 

Dr Nick Bradshaw, CEO and founder of AI Media Group states, “It wasn’t like that in the beginning, starting as a small bootstrapped company ourselves, we quickly realised the analysis landscape for this sector was literally zero and what available reports we could find lacked depth and country coverage.  Established analysis firms had fairly “blank” maps or fragmented data sets on the region which was surprising to us as this was not the reality we saw on the ground. So a key goal for us was to shine a light on the growing and vibrant AI tech ecosystem on the African continent.”

Bradshaw adds, “Over the last two years we have been building a much more detailed picture analysing organisations that are active in the African AI tech ecosystem both local, regional and global, as well as commercial and non-commercial entities.  We also looked at No. employees, Industry, HQ City, Country, Sector, Year founded and Specialities.”

The trends are now emerging with some top level insights being…..

  • We have so far looked at 1500+ companies to establish a baseline data set
  • Of the 1389 companies we could find consistent data on, 826 (60%) are based in the Africa region
  • Of those 74% are based in South Africa, 6% Tunisia 6% Nigeria 3% Kenya 2% Egypt 2% Ghana (with 18 other countries make up the remaining 7%)
  • Of those in South Africa, 405 (67%) are based in the city regions of Johannesburg and Pretoria while Cape Town accounts for 174 (29%)
Artificial intelligence business distribution in Africa

Distribution in Africa by country

  • The most common commercial categories these companies operate in include;  Information Technology & Services, Computer Software / Hardware, Financial Services, Internet, Telecommunications, Management Consulting, Marketing & Advertising, Electrical & Electronic Manufacturing, Information Services and Industrial Automation.
  • 62% of all African companies active in the region are privately held with the vast majority (50%) having less than 20 employees.
  • Based on year founded, the last 5 years have seen a significant rise in the number of companies active in this sector, most likely due to the combined effects of available funding, lower start-up costs for tooling, cloud, compute and open source resources allied to the growing demand in the B2B space.

Initial Conclusions 

  • The top 5 most “active” countries are South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt – this broadly maps to the top tech investment hubs in the region as indicated by the likes of Maxime Bayen & Max Cuvellier
  • It’s clear we have we have growing and dynamic AI / 4IR tech ecosystem in Africa with South Africa accounting for the most frequent country of origin for companies in this sector.
  • Johannesburg looks like the No.1 contender for the “AI Tech Capital of Africa” based on the organisations we have assessed so far.
  • Its not clear the exact reasons why South Africa is so dominant but a larger and more established education & skills base, coupled to higher economic demand and an active tech entrepreneur / supplier ecosystem may (in part) account for this.
  • A larger parter / vendor ecosystem built around the likes of Microsoft, Google, AWS, IBM, Oracle & SAP who have historically had their Africa HQ operations in South Africa may also account for the landscape we currently see.
  • This is by no means an exhaustive survey and the data is continually changing and evolving.

If you want to learn more about our analysis, we will be presenting our in-depth findings at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE that will run as a three-day LIVE event 7-9 September followed by a 30-day ON-DEMAND archive. We hope you can join us. 

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