“Johannesburg is a major hub for startup growth on the continent. The ecosystem prides itself on providing access to top talent, access to markets, and access to capital for startups, with many large corporations actively seeking partnership with startups aimed at vertical integration into their business.”
Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, is home to nearly 5 million people, more than 70% of the nation’s companies, and the largest stock exchange in Africa. Johannesburg has been leveraging its position as the country’s financial capital to build a startup ecosystem to rival South Africa’s better-known scene in Cape Town. The city ranked 176th overall and in the 2022 Statista Global Business Cities Rankings, and was the third top business city in Africa.
The Smart City Innovation Challenge, developed by the City of Johannesburg in partnership with Tshimologong Innovation Precinct, aims to find and develop startups that are responding to challenges faced by the city. In June 2022, Johannesburg announced a new ZAR 30 billion ($1.65 billion) rejuvenation project aimed at making the city more attractive to foreign investment. Wits University and Anglo American have partnered to fund the refurbishment and expansion of the Johannesburg Planetarium into a new multidisciplinary research, training, and events hub.
The MultiChoice accelerator provides training in entrepreneurship skills and exposure to a network of global investors for startups working in Healthtech, Agtech, Fintech, Edtech, the circular economy, and the creative industries. The Founder Institute, the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator, will welcome its fifth cohort in Johannesburg in 2023. Smart Cities Summit takes place each year in June, andTECHSPO Johannesburg is taking place in October.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
Johannesburg is home to many of Africa’s leading banks and financial institutions, as well as Africa’s largest stock exchange, creating fertile soil for its Fintech ecosystem. Digital Finance Africa 2023 is scheduled for September and the Blockchain Africa Conference 2023 was hosted in Johannesburg in March. Mobile money interoperability hub MFS Africa has raised $217.2 million over six rounds, including a $100 million Series C in June 2022. Crypto currency exchange VALR has raised $54.9 million over three rounds.
AI, Big Data & Analytics
AI Expo Africa is Africa's largest AI and intelligent automation trade show and conference. This year’s event will take place in Johannesburg in November. Data and analytics summit Velocity, took place in March. IPOXCap AI, which uses AI and natural-language processing to automate financial analysis, has raised $500K over five rounds. VitruvianMD combines biomedical engineering and AI to provide diagnostic tools for medical laboratories, with a particular focus on emerging markets.
The 13th Annual Africa Property Investment Summit took place in Johannesburg in September 2022. The Africa Proptech Forum was also held there the same month. Property marketing platform Flow has raised a total of $6.1 million over two rounds, including a $4.3 million seed round in January 2023.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Johannesburg
In the 2022-23 Best Global Universities Rankings, the University of Johannesburg ranked #7 in Best Global Universities in Africa and #5 in Best Global Universities in South Africa. Three of South Africa’s top five business schools are located in Gauteng, the province that is home to Johannesburg.
Support for Female Founders
WomHub is a pan-African incubator for women in STEM that runs a coworking space and provides training. The Africa Innovation Fellowship is an eight-month leadership and business development opportunity for early-stage startups looking to become investor ready. The Economic Growth Accelerator is a year-long hybrid program offering leadership development and intensive entrepreneurial support, and the Sasol Women in Engineering Incubator Program supports women-owned SMEs in South Africa.
Investment in Data Centers
In December 2022, Equinix announced a $160 million data center will open in 2024 in Johannesburg. Global cybersecurity company Acronis announced the opening of a new data center to give local service providers access to cyber protection solutions. Software giant Oracle officially opened its Johannesburg-based data center in 2022. Johannesburg also hosts a Microsoft Azure data center, and Africa Data Center is expanding its Johannesburg facility from 10MW to 40MW of IT load by the end of 2025.
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