Consumer Insights & Trends Report 2021

Report SummaryIntroductionTopicsTrend AnalysisStatisticsKey TopicsKey TakeawaysConclusion

Report Summary

Due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies globally had to restrategize on how to meet the growing demands they had, especially those offering consumable goods. On another hand, brands offering services that weren’t in high demand had to innovate and create new product offerings in order to stay afloat and remain in business.

As always, from the global perspective we focus a special lens into Africa. Despite the pandemic and general economic unpredictability, there was still substantial funding and investment across Africa. For instance, we gathered that from just the high growth startup sector and early stage companies alone, over $380 million was invested in Pre-seed - Series A funding rounds. This not only highlights the massive opportunities in the sectors that have now seen a vital prioritization (especially sectors such as Healthcare and Education) but also the capacity for increased economic activities in the continent.

In the sixth entry of our Versus report series, we delve into a targeted outlook of what the year ahead would possibly hold for these industries following their recent activities since the pandemic. We also take a very brief look at what worked in 2020, and how brands can learn from what may have been wins, successes, losses or failures and even marketing campaign strategies to adopt in a new era with the pandemic still in view. Also, we will highlight the key industries within Africa that were significantly patronized whether through investments or consumer spending in 2020 and some outlook scenarios, leveraging surveys done in a major African consumer market like Nigeria.

Disclaimer: Please note as you proceed to read this report. This report leverages our proprietary “Listen and Ask Methodology” (click links to read more on our methodology and how we apply it in reporting) to track the African consumer markets.
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2020 was an interesting year for everyone. When the pandemic hit, people were struggling to keep their businesses afloat, while trying to stay safe from a disease medical professionals knew nothing about. Leveraging our product Versus, we introduced the COVID-19 report series primarily to help brands have an idea of trends highlighted in dynamic and digestible reports we offer.

We were able to dig deep and cover different core industries that were affected ranging from E-commerce and Finance/investment to healthcare/pharmaceuticals and Telecommunications. We even covered the different social issues involving marginalized groups of people in the race or gender category globally and within Africa, from Black Lives Matter to #EndSars and how it even had an impact on these same industries around the world and in Africa. (click here to get a look at all Versus COVID-19 reports written so far).

Let’s trace our steps from 2020 to see how 2021 will fare.


Impact News/Posts & Surveys – online news, news forums, and blogs, pertinent news articles or posts and surveys on the following topics:

  • Industries that thrived in 2020
  • Industries that suffered setbacks in 2020
  • Strategies that worked
  • The Standout Campaign in 2020 
  • Early Stage Investment trends
  • Looking Ahead in 2021 - Key Industries
  • ~~Healthcare/Pharmaceuticals
  • ~~E-learning/Education
  • ~~Telecommunication
  • ~~Banking & Alternative Investment Channels
  • ~~FinTech
  • Key Takeaways
  • Conclusion

Sources used by Versus:

Various online sources via Versus Listen & Versus Ask Surveys

2020 Trends


Snapshot Overview

Versus survey breakdown from our pool of Versus scouts


Responses across four different sectors

890 Education survey responses

500 Telecommunications/Internet survey responses

909 Healthcare/Pharma survey responses

897 Investment survey responses

Key Topics

Industries that thrived in 2020


The E-commerce industry has always maintained its relevance even before COVID because of the ease it offers customers purchasing goods and services online and having it delivered right to their doorstep. However, in 2020, E-commerce brands like Amazon and Jumia -- even Instagram vendors -- thrived more than ever because of how mandatory it now became to use E-commerce channels with social distancing rules exercised worldwide through WHO guidelines. In the last quarter of 2020, Amazon had $125.56 billion in revenue, which is its highest in any single quarter before the pandemic. Even Amazon’s African counterpart, Jumia, has seen their share price increase by 43% from last quarter to $57.55, its  highest share price ever on the NYSE even after their recent successes were threatened by allegations of fraud.

Technology and Telecommunications

Technology prospered during the pandemic, with a high demand for cloud and internet connectivity services, as a lot of companies adopted the remote or “work from home” structure, and schools everywhere and their students were encouraged to adopt virtual learning for continuing their education. In Nigeria, the number of active Internet subscribers increased by 23%, even as lockdown eased up in the second half of 2020. In South Africa, Internet subscribers increased by 4.3% to 33.42 million in 2020, while in Kenya had 46.87 million Internet subscribers, which is 87.2% of the population.

Staying at home meant more television time and more internet usage for work and for leisure. Cinemas closed and media companies had to come up with new ways to promote upcoming movies and TV shows. This paved the way for communications and streaming companies like Zoom and Netflix, who although present before the pandemic, became more popular in 2020. Zoom was mostly the first choice used for work meetings, conferences, virtual learning, baby showers, even weddings. This was evident from Zoom’s stock performance, which increased by 399% in the past 12 months.

Netflix and other online streaming services also thrived. According to Forbes, Netflix added almost 26 million new subscribers worldwide in the first half of 2020. Subscribers slowed to 2.2 million after their price increase in the second half of 2020, but their share price increased by 53% in the last twelve months.

Industries that suffered setbacks in 2020

Travel and Hospitality

Going on vacation was not a preferred option in 2020 due to major lockdowns that were declared across most countries. Stock prices of most airlines and the boat cruise industry plummeted in 2020. American Airlines Group, one of the largest airlines in the world in terms of fleet and passengers carried, had its stock go down over 107% from as much as $30 to as low as $9 in the wake of the pandemic in April 2020 when most parts of the world were on lockdown.

Even as lockdowns eased around the world, and people were allowed to fly, it had been predicted that travel would not see a real recovery. Hospitality research experts in an article posted around that time period even stated that “unfortunately, few people are traveling for business these days, and the outlook for business travel is not bright either. Until people are traveling again for business, there is no real recovery for the travel and hospitality industry.”


Pre-scheduled global events ranging from sports, entertainment, and even religious gatherings were canceled or postponed in order to enforce the social distancing rule which became a means of reducing the spread of the virus. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics was postponed for the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history to Summer 2021. This in turn has affected other facets of the events industry like hospitality, airline transportation and food. Various event organizers have gradually devised means of pushing the industry forward; from having sports events without the usual spectators (the NBA had a bubble, and UEFA had their fans watch the games via livestream) to live streaming entertainment shows and award ceremonies.

In Nigeria, where weddings happen every weekend with crowds in the thousands, the pandemic brought these flamboyant gatherings to a halt. Eventually, the WHO created regulations, and the Nigerian government implemented their own regulations: the number of guests attending had to be cut down to fifty; and if events were more than 50 guests, they had to be held outdoors (along with social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols). Ghana also placed a limit of up to 100 people on private events such as funerals, while still keeping upto one meter of social distance in all public places. In Uganda, there is a 9:00PM to 6:00PM curfew, and places of worship are only allowed a maximum of 200 people which is subject to health guidelines, sports activities are to be done without spectators. For Kenya, they have a maximum capacity of not more than 150 persons for private events, while a nationwide curfew is in effect from 10:00PM to 4:00AM. Violators in these countries if found, are arrested and face large fines or custodial sentences.

Strategies That Worked

The foundation for a successful marketing strategy, particularly in 2020 revolved around digital marketing initiatives and strategies, where retail businesses switched to e-commerce and on-demand services. Restaurants joined Jumia Food for more visibility and also to use their platform to have their food delivered to customers. More brands also created accounts on Whatsapp for Business to show their business profile and portfolio.

There was also an increase in marketing spend on direct-to-consumer channels. Brands placed advertisements on radio and cable TV. Another successful marketing strategy was disruptive marketing that drove conversations, opinions, and engagement (like the trending hashtag #nightmarketwithdammy on Twitter). Service providers of services that were not in high demand created customized products for some clientele in line with the COVID-19 protocols, which sustained the business.

The Standout Campaign in 2020

The best African-based campaign of the year would be the #EndSars campaign which went from a full on digitally-led campaign to a peacefully organized protest physically at the Lekki Toll Gate muster point in Lagos, Nigeria. It was the by far the biggest movement in Africa -- mirroring the Black Lives Matter campaign in the U.S. -- which unfortunately ended sadly with shootings at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th, 2020. More importantly, the #EndSars campaign served as the umbrella movement that also shed light on other similar social issues campaigns across Africa including Congo with #congoisbleeding, Namibia #shutitalldown, South Africa #aminext and Cameroon #anglophonecrisis. Although observing the key attributes of what made these campaigns successful is helpful for marketing practitioners to remember and follow suit especially in these times. The attributes are as follows:

  1. Content Clarity and Consistency: The messaging was clear and consistent. In building successful campaigns, it is important for brands to apply consistent messaging to ensure that when information is passed down from one person to the next, there is no loss in translation. Circulars and informational e-flyers were circulated with the official campaign logo always positioned in the same place, same format so people know the authenticity. Making the “ask” clear as well is key. There was never a point when people who were asked about the protests didn’t know the exact reasons they supported/patronized it.
  1. Feedback: There was an excellent feedback loop. All the campaign organizers kept the communication very active, while ensuring people who were interested in being part of the protests were well-informed of details and had their questions answered in a timely fashion, across all relevant social media channels.
  1. Topic Relevance: The messaging was relevant. It is safe to say that the #EndSars campaign was inspired by the more global #Blacklivesmatter movement. In a time when the world was watching and listening more attentively, #EndSars tapped into an engaged audience who they knew would listen and even participate (whether in Africa or outside of Africa) in a campaign that came from regional interests. Similarly, brands can effectively learn and take notes to adapt campaigns that are trending to capture a much wider audience by tapping into these smart tactics, similar to the #EndSars campaign. If there are also certain values companies may want to communicate about their brand that happens to resonate with a globally trending issue around said values, it is important to ride the wave.
  2. Leveraging Strong Partnerships: To organize a successful event that captures the right target audience, companies should leverage the partnerships that share similar goals or values with their brand so they can also act as fellow evangelists of their message.
  1. Emotional Branding: It is important to clearly know the values companies are communicating as a brand to their followers. The assumption should always be that companies are aligned with what they believe internally. The more they realize that values are not only restricted to skin tone, religion or culture, or even what their customers eventually consume, it opens up a bigger reach and potential for impact.

Early Stage Investment Trends

These investment trends will only showcase the best budding opportunities to source for in Africa as well as indicate where consumer spend will most likely happen.

Africa received one of its largest foreign investments in various sectors in the year 2020 despite the pandemic -- with the top five being Logistics, Healthcare, FinTech, E-learning/Education, and Cryptocurrency. By the end of 2020, there was over $380 million announced in Pre-seed, Seed and Series A equity funding of privately owned early stage companies across Africa alone. This is not including other later stage funding or funding via non-equity raises such as debt financing in the continent. The African countries with the top investments in 2020 included the familiar names in Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana.

Click graph to view more for our full graph representation and hover real figures

In both 2019 and 2020, as far as the early stage private company funding we sampled, the Logistics industry was the most funded in Africa, followed by Healthcare and FinTech. This speaks to the relevance of these industries despite the COVID-19 restrictions, as their products and services remained in high demand and will continue to be so.

Click on map to view more detail and for our full graph representation and to hover real figures

Click graph to view more for our full graph representation and hover real figures

In both 2019 and 2020, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda got the most equity based funding in the early stage Pre-Seed to Series A funding round across Africa, and despite the pandemic, Nigeria -- the most funded country -- still got well over $120 million in this particular category. Of course, in this sample, we are not including non-equity financing and later stage funding or acquisition figures such as the announcement of Sub Saharan Africa’s largest acquisition amount in recent time with the $200M Paystack deal by Stripe. With this trend and with things getting more stable across the world, 2021 is likely to see more funding than in 2020.

Looking Ahead in 2021 - Key Industries


With over 65.6 million shots of COVID-19 vaccine administered globally, Africa is said to have received only 55 doses, which were administered in Guinea by 30th December 2020. The rich nations of the world, which currently make up just about 14% of the world’s population have already pre-ordered over 53% of the most promising vaccines. However, following the activities of various initiatives, close to 900 million doses have been secured for Africa, enough to inoculate about 30% of the continent’s population in 2021. This is a very key topic that is driving a lot of key economic decisions across the world and Africa is not exempt. The vaccine strategy to get as many people COVID immunized determines a certain level of predictability towards general economic restoration. 

Using the Versus Ask feature, we surveyed 909 respondents (our Versus Scouts) in Nigeria (key representation as Africa’s largest consumer market) on the topic of Healthcare/Pharma. Respondents aged 16-65 answered questions about their experience with the COVID-19 virus, what they will do with the vaccine, and the effect of the vaccine on the economy.

Healthcare/Pharma Survey

Any hospitalization due to severe case of COVID-19?

18.45% of respondents have been hospitalized due to a severe case of of COVID-19

Willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine

53.05% of the respondents are willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine if it was made available in the country.

If "no", reason for not being willing

Of the respondents that are not willing to take the vaccine, 56.4% said they need to be sure their health is in the best condition before considering the vaccine, while 14.1% said they simply do not trust the vaccine or the authorities administering it.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine have an effect on the economy?

60.9% believe that the vaccine will significantly improve the economy, while 17% think it will not make any difference.

A majority of our Versus Scout respondents believe that the COVID-19 vaccine will have a significant effect on the economy, but also attribute other factors towards the growth of the economy. To be safe and smart, other factors should be explored as the distribution projection of the vaccine to Africa for 2021 is still being projected at 30%. Other factors should be explored towards driving the economy, as a larger population of the continent might not receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming year. It is also important to note that the healthcare industry remained in the top 3 in terms of number and amount funded in Africa (based on the early stage funding sample we collected) in both 2019 and 2020.


During the initial nationwide lock down announced in countries globally and in Africa last year, it was clear that children or students in school will be majorly affected. In fact, as a result of the lock down and the WHO regulations on social distancing, homeschooling became a necessity. Many schools quickly adopted an online-only strategy deploying all readily available communication and E-learning tools available to them online.

Using our Versus Ask feature, we surveyed 890 respondents (our Versus Scouts) across Nigeria (key representation as Africa’s largest consumer market) on the topic of Education and E-learning, to understand more on their preference and coping mechanism towards the new model of schooling across most schools due to COVID-19 restrictions. Also in an attempt to gauge how this budding sector will sustain its estimated growth of over 2929% growth from 2019 to 2020 in investments.

Here are some snapshots of the responses from our Scouts:

Parental status

44.25% of the respondents are parents with at least a child, while 55.75% do not have children.

Homeschooling adoption due to lock down protocols

On adaptation to homeschooling due to the COVID-19 lock down protocols, 40.6% of respondents said they adapted well with no issues, another 25.7% said that the initial transition was rough, but eventually adjusted. 9.6% said they struggled and weren’t prepared for what came with the online expectations, 2.5% hired a tutor to assist, so they didn’t have to home school and the remaining 21.6% do not have children.

Confidence level towards school and teachers preparedness for the lock down

On their confidence level towards the preparedness level of their child’s school and teachers for the lock down, 18.2% said they were Extremely Confident, 20.5% were Not Confident, while 8.6% were Neither Confident nor Unconfident. 21.8% of the respondents were Confident, and 10.1% chose Extremely Confident, while this did not apply to 20.8% as they are not parents

The need and willingness to hire a full-time tutor for homeschooling

For parents with at least a child, on the need to hire a full-time tutor to help with homeschooling, 57.2% said they need all the help they can get and are willing to hire a tutor, while 19.2% are handling their child/children’s tutoring. This doesn’t apply to the remaining 23.6% as they are not parents

Online education and the supply of e-learning tools nationwide as the solution for the lack of quality education

When asked if online education and the supply of e-learning tools nationwide was the solution for the lack of quality education across the various tiers of education in the country 51.9% agreed yes to this while 48.1% do not agree.

Full-time online schooling for children

On full-time online schooling, 23.3% said they will be fine with it, and 22.6% would rather have it as part-time for their children. 33.7% of the respondents though not opposed to the idea of online, want schooling to go back to physical full-time. 11.6% are indifferent towards the method of schooling be it online or physical and 8.8% simply do not support online schooling and have no confidence in the execution.

With restrictions on physical schooling, there is an opportunity for more teachers out of jobs to get employed as private home tutors, as there is a growing need for professionals to help parents with their children’s homeschooling. This also increases the need for E-learning materials, from the actual hardware of Computer systems and portable devices, to Internet bandwidth and software learning apps, of course creating a massive opportunity for electronic and internet distributors as well as software creators/developers. E-learning was also one of the standout success industries from the early stage equity funding sample we collected, with the largest growth in number of deals across Africa in 2020 (compared to 2019), valued at well over $20 million. 


The telecommunications industry is another sector that enjoyed increased activity and growth in the year 2020 as a result of the pandemic, especially as a result of the increased dependence of the internet.

Using our Versus Ask feature, we surveyed 500 respondents, ages 16-65 (our Versus Scouts) in Nigeria (key representation as Africa’s largest consumer market) on the topic of Telecommunications/Internet. Here are some snapshots of the responses from our Scouts:

Telecommunications/Internet Survey

Most Used Phone App

When asked to check the most used app on their phone in 2020, 55.6% responded with WhatsApp; 13.8% said their primary banking app; 7.3% responded with Facebook; 6.3% said Instagram; 5.3% said their email (Gmail, Yahoo, etc); 4.9% said an Investment app; 4.6% said other types of social media (Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube); 0.6% said music apps; 0.2% said Netflix; 0.2% said some form of the ride-sharing app; 0.2% saidd betting apps, and 0.8% didn’t have apps that were listed.

Primary phone operating system

When asked about their primary phone’s operating system, 77.2% selected Android; 11.4% selected iOS; 7.1% selected Blackberry OS; 2.4% selected Windows, and only 2% said their primary phone is a non-smartphone. 

Internet Provider Satisfaction

When asked if they were satisfied with their current internet provider, 69.2% said ‘yes’, and 30.8% said “no”. Out of those who answered “no”, 16.2% said service was weak and inconsistent. 29.9% said the service was too expensive. 9.6% said the customer service was poor. 8.6% said the service was simply unreliable. The remaining 35.8% were satisfied with their Internet provider.

Reason for Dissatisfaction

When asked if they were satisfied with their current internet provider, 69.2% said ‘yes’, and 30.8% said “no”. Out of those who answered “no”, 16.2% said service was weak and inconsistent. 29.9% said the service was too expensive. 9.6% said the customer service was poor. 8.6% said the service was simply unreliable. The remaining 35.8% were satisfied with their Internet provider.

Primary Internet provider

When asked about their primary Internet provider, MTN had the largest with 62%, followed by Glo with 18.2%. 9mobile came third with 10%, followed by Spectranet with 4.7% and Smile Nigeria with 3.5%. Tizeti and Cobranet had 0.6% each, while Vodacom had 0.4%.

Choice of best Internet provider

When asked to pick who the best Internet provider currently is, 58.1% chose MTN, followed by Glo with 12.7%, 9mobile with 10.8%, Spectranet with 9%, Smile Nigeria with 7%, Swift Networks with 1.6%, Tizeti with 0.6% and iPNX with 0.2%

The rise in demand for data and voice-related services spiked at the wake of the lock down in major cities all over the world. Consumers relied heavily on these internet services to work from home (WFH) while using Zoom; access entertainment with Netflix and social media and even generating income using WhatsApp and WhatsApp for Business (WhatsApp was voted as their most used app in 2020 by our Versus Scouts).

Banking & Alternative Investment Channels

2020 showed that a seemingly stable economy can quickly turn on its head. People who were not prepared (which is safe to say was the entire world stricken by the coronavirus pandemic), started to scramble for income and any source of cash to remain stable and fend for their household. The conventional sources such as mutual funds, treasury bills, government, and corporate bonds, and stocks while popular and historically offer stable returns some times in double digits, saw a decline in 2020 and were often shrouded in distressed technicalities, conditions, and hence more risk for less yield. The trends have already been shifting but in recent times, the shift is now more glaring. With the COVID restrictions and the lockdown, people moved their focus away from investing and saving their money in traditional banks, and instead opted for their smaller, nimble Fintech counterparts or completely moved to alternative investment options like Real estate and Cryptocurrency. 

Cryptocurrency, as both an alternative source of investment and a means of financial transaction, has gained a considerable adoption rate in Africa with Nigeria holding the second largest traded volume on a leading peer-to-peer marketplace in the world. Though not explicitly illegal in major parts of Africa like Nigeria and Kenya, it’s adoption rate is constantly on the increase.

Click graph to view more for our full graph representation and hover real figures

Click graph to view more for our full graph representation and hover real figures

It is eminent that a lot of investments and savings will shift from the conventional savings account and products run by banks, to the more intuitive Fintech applications that are available. Currently, interest rates on savings accounts are as low as 1.25% per annum, and treasury bills rate currently stands at a lowly 0.5%. With interest rates ranging from 5%-25% on various investment apps, there’s inevitably going to be a lot more subscriptions on those alternative investment platforms. 

Using the Versus Ask feature, we surveyed 897 respondents (our Versus Scouts) in Nigeria (key representation as Africa’s largest consumer market) on the topic of investment. Respondents aged 16-65 answered questions on their preferred investment and what informs their decision towards investing

Investment Survey

Active saving or investing culture?

78.65% of respondents are active in saving or investing their money, while 21.35% are not actively investing or saving.

Preferred investment options

On their preferred investment options, 12.1% of respondents chose stock market/equities, 9.6% chose fixed income, 19.0% chose real estate, 11.6% chose forex trading, 28.7% chose cryptocurrency, 6.8% chose banking savings, 4.8% chose Apps that help secure interest through saving online, 2.8% chose to invest in promising SMEs/Startups, 1.7% said their preferred investment option isn’t listed, 2.9% said they do not save or invest their money.

Investing in Cryptocurrency

On how likely they would invest in cryptocurrency, 6.5% said they are Extremely Unlikely to invest in cryptocurrency, 11.2% are Unlikely, 9.5% are neither Likely nor Unlikely, while 43.4% are Likely, and 29.4% are Extremely Likely to invest in cryptocurrency.

Reason for investing in Cryptocurrency

On their reason for investing in cryptocurrency, 37.1% said that they read and watched a lot of materials on their own before they started investing, another 28% were advised to invest by a friend or relative, 9.2% of the respondents were matured investors, and knew it was another good alternative investment option, 6.5% tried it out because of the trend that they saw on the media, just 1% have their investment handled by a broker or someone they trust who added it to their portfolio, while 18.2% do not invest in cryptocurrency.

Primary criteria when choosing an investment option

When asked what drives their decision on where to invest, 62.9% said that it depends on the reputation and integrity of the institution that they are investing with, 18.2% are more interested in near to short term yield, while 9.6% has the resources and are patient enough for a long term yield on investments. 9.3% said they are currently not investing.

Most of the respondents are actively investing and make their decision primarily based on the reputation and integrity of the institution their money will reside. There has been a continuous shift towards alternative investment options, which is likely to continue. Options like real estate, cryptocurrency, and stocks/equities have taken over from the traditional banking options. Today’s investors are educating themselves on options such as Cryptocurrency and boldly investing regardless of its early existence and nascency. Long standing financial institutions with sound reputation and integrity should see this as an opportunity to diversify and cater to a broad spectrum of investment options including Cryptocurrency. Similarly, as relevant traction is seen, it will be key to involve the regulators to ensure a good balance of sound governance and encouragement in these new options.

Breaking News/ Update:

As of the day this report was published, February 5th, 2021, Nigerian financial regulatory body, Central Bank of Nigeria banned Nigerians from buying and selling bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency in Nigeria.

We will keep following this news story closely and cover more in our subsequent insight reports for our series.


2020 has been among the most significant years ever for the Fintech industry in Africa. More people started banking online; according to one of our surveys, 13.8% selected their primary banking app as their most used app in 2020. According to our early stage African (Pre-Seed to Series A) equity investment information from Crunchbase, the FinTech industry was the second most funded industry in Africa in 2019 by value and second in terms of number of deals, and the first in terms of number of deals in 2019 and third most funded in 2020. Nigeria received the most funding in 2020, with key deals such as Nigerian startup Mono raising $500k in pre-seed funding and the $200 million acquisition of Paystack by Stripe towards the end of the year, surely was the biggest news for the industry and the African continent as a whole. Kuda Bank, a Nigerian digital bank, raised $10 million, the biggest seed round ever to be raised in Africa. Despite the pandemic ravaging businesses globally, Africa is still creating a space in the Fintech industry for other countries to invest in. Other notable early stage deals in FinTech:

  • Nigeria’s Aella Credit $10 million raise (non-equity raise; via debt financing)
  • Nigeria's Cowrywise raised $3 million pre-series (pre-seed) funding to scale its wealth management platform
  • Egyptian fintech startup Cassbana raised $1 million pre-seed funding round

In 2021, with all the funds coming into the FinTech industry in Africa, these startups will be able to  improve their operations, hire more people, increase their product offerings which will in turn serve their customers and their immediate overall economies better. The pandemic has created a “new normal” all over the world, and consumers will continue to use services that are convenient and accessible to them. From a greater macro economic perspective, this should surely provide some hope to the African markets most of these startups originate in terms of faster ways that money will transfer hands and eventually provide liquidity to the banks. Also, with the increased E-Commerce activities, it presents a massive opportunity for more businesses (wholesale or retail) to leverage these Fintech platforms to execute payments or manage their financial activities which signals economic improvements.

Key Takeaways

Limitations to the access and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to the majority population in African countries would likely linger primarily due to existing issues with poverty, corruption and logistical challenges. 

Judging from other sources and our surveys, there is a popular consumer perception that the mass availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in turn would mean a rebound in economic growth.

Globally, on one of the leading peer-to-peer crypto marketplace, Nigeria is the second largest trading country in the world with over $500 million by volume, which highlights the substantial money available in the Nigerian market from just one investment and trading option, and the potential consumer spending power of this key representative of the overall African consumer market. This also shows the willingness for Africans, and Nigerians in particular, to grow their earnings through various performing investment options.

Across Africa, the number and value of diversified investment portfolios outside traditional banking and financial assets will increase with increased acceptance of Cryptocurrency as a legal tender by service providers.

Ages 18-44 are the most active demographic globally on Cryptocurrency investment, which in turn makes it true for Africa also (with Nigeria leading the way) being the youngest population in the world. They should also always be the targeted age demographic for marketing campaign drives towards alternative investment offerings. Unfortunately, as at the publishing of this report on February 5th, 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria banned Nigerians from trading cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin.

The E-commerce sector has been largely transformed due to global COVID-19 restrictions, as people have normalized carrying out their retail activities online. With a lot of these restrictions still in place, these online retail activities are bound to continue in 2021 especially with consumable goods.

There will be further increase and shift in marketing strategies and spend from the more traditional offline channels to digital marketing channels; social media platforms reported a spike in the number of ads (impressions, reach and engagements) run by brands in 2020. 

E-learning will continue to increase - judging from the results of our survey - as there also seems to be an openness by parents to making it a standard way of leapfrogging education challenges in Africa even though they still would prefer the physical schooling experience. However, E-learning will serve as a standard for professionals to improve their knowledge on digital -- based on the shift -- by taking online courses and attaining digital marketing degrees and other software related degrees.

Fintech, E-commerce, Healthcare, and E-learning (respectively) saw the most number of investments per industry in 2020. Software development and logistics also had standout numbers in 2020. These industries will only expand and lead the way in providing jobs and opportunities for all members in their value chain.

Working from home has become and will remain the “new normal”, especially for startups and younger companies. The Internet will be as essential as oxygen for all, and communication tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams and other remote digital tool software applications will be more utilized. More innovations for nuanced regional tools will also be developed for businesses.

The mobile economy further shows its dominance as Africa’s main driver. While we learned through our surveys that the average African still owns a non-smartphone (even though for most, it isn't their primary phone option), it only presents more of an opportunity for electronic companies and providers of phones to make more affordable, simpler smartphones available which will inevitably increase mobile users (and hence internet users) across Africa significantly.

We can safely conclude that WhatsApp was the most used app on the average African’s smartphone in 2020.


From our research, we can forecast that the majority of 2020 trends (particularly those from Q2, 2020) will continue to be relevant and further grow in popularity and general acceptance, and will be adopted more in day-to-day life. All these top industries we have highlighted, will naturally lead the way in being major catalysts in the course of Africa’s economic performance and also dictate most major consumer trends in Africa this year.

The planning and strategizing of the COVID-19 vaccine is going to play a huge role in instilling confidence in the everyday African consumer’s mindset on what to expect however, everyday individual investments will still be made with the idea to make decent short-term yields. Hence why Cryptocurrency will continue to be popularly explored and used by young Africans. Regulators need to continue to fast track upskilling on fully understanding the benefits of the blockchain technology (and supporting cryptocurrencies traded on them) in order to be an enabler to this budding sector while placing proper governance structure to track and punish cybercrimes.

Companies that employed remote work strategy in 2020 will continue due to the cost-saving benefits and low impact on productivity and output, therefore increasing organizational dependency. The use of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Team, Skype, etc will also increase. Online professional upskilling courses and consulting needs will increase in demand to help update employees to adjust to more remote digital tools and overall remote work adaptability.

Buying and selling on social media platforms like Instagram will become more popular in 2021 compared to 2020. As presented from survey results, the most popularly used app was WhatsApp. The WhatsApp integrations via API for businesses only signals an increase in more SMEs using Whatsapp for Business. Likewise, there will be continued growth in E-commerce platforms and marketplaces like Jumia and Konga, like we highlighted in our E-Commerce COVID-19 Pulse Report. Advanced social media and digital marketing related jobs (to manage these tools and supporting analytics) will be popularly sought after.

Following the events of the #EndSars campaign, conversations on social media and sensitization against police brutality social injustice still happens and will likely continue and take on new campaign forms (cue to Uganda’s presidential election this January 2021). The level of consciousness alongside the ease of access to information is going to propel more potential social movements/campaigns in the year.

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