Nigerian tech startups are building the most exciting brands in Africa as they dominate top 20 Challenger brands


It is no longer enough for tech founders to build solutions to problems and scale them into viable businesses. Beyond these products, there’s a need to create an exciting experience, not only for users but also for the entire public where their target demography is.

Continuous interactivity is the main ingredient for creating that exciting experience that turns the business into a brand that customers and the general market can relate to. And according to the Africa Challenger Brand report, Nigerian startups have thoroughly excelled at this.

Of the 20 tech startups selected across Africa as its top Challenger Brands, 14 are from Nigeria, with the top 10 comprising almost exclusively Nigerian startups.

The Top 20 brands were selected from a pool of 100 startups drawn from the top tech ecosystems across Africa. They were appraised based on three criteria;

  • Ingenious storytelling: How well the brands tell their stories and “stay human” in a digitally-driven society while being consistent with their brand narrative
  • Brand tribe: How well the brands tap into social realities to inspire and fuel community spirit and convert customers to fans
  • Brand experience: The quality of their visual and verbal expressions across online and offline touchpoints, from their website to mobile apps and social media?

Challenger brands know better and have leveraged new media to be as personal as possible, ensuring that people can relate to them more as friends than companies

Top 10 Challenger Brands

The Top 10 of the Top 20 brands comprise mostly Nigerian startups, with just one coming from Uganda. They include:


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Cowrywise Cofounders

Cowrywise is a Nigerian fintech founded in 2017 by Razaq Ahmed (CEO) and Edward Popoola (CTO). Since bursting into the scene, the startup has tried to personalise all its communications through its now-famous ‘Ope from Cowrywise’ persona.

Cowrywise has worked hard to position itself as people-centric. This strategy starts from within by exposing its culture and making “public figures” out of its employees while championing the stories of its users. The level of investment in the brand is visible through its tailored use of different digital platforms as well as a consistent personality and carefully curated visual identity that comes to life across social media, the web, and its mobile product

Cowrywise scored 29.5 for ingenious storytelling, 34 for brand tribe and 30.5 for brand experience to pool a total score of 94 to rank first on the list.


flutterwave and BAL
Flutterwave is an official sponsor of the Basketball Africa League

Founded in 2016 by Olugbenga Agboola and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Flutterwave’s mission is simple yet lofty; to transform payments in Africa and the rest of the world. The Nigerian fintech has stayed true to this mission and is one of the most successful fintechs on the continent. Flutterwave is the only unicorn on the list.

Asides its business, Flutterwave, one of Forbes 100 Most Influential companies, has also invested a lot in making a solid brand of itself. According to the report, the fintech has earned a reputation for not only the quality of its engineering in delivering on its promise of dependable payment solutions for businesses but also for its involvement in social development.

With a score of 30 for ingenious storytelling, 34 for brand tribe and 28.5 for brand experience, Flutterwave pooled a total of 93 votes to rank second on the list.

Helium Health

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Helium Health founders

Helium Health is the first of two health technology startups in the top 10 list dominated by fintechs. With a total score of 92.5 after gathering 29 points for ingenious storytelling, 34 for brand tribe and 29.5 for brand experience, the health company was ranked third overall.

Helium Health is earning trust from people as it gradually becomes the symbol of innovation towards the future of the sector by leveraging data and unique insights on the status of healthcare in Africa, while its founders lead conversations in the same direction.

Founded in 2016 by Adegoke Olubusi, Tito Ovia, and Dimeji Sofowora all of whom were named Forbes 30 under 30 in 2019, the startup’s solutions have been adopted by over 5,000 health professionals to manage over 165,000 patients monthly.

Eden Life

The team at Eden

Eden Life is a hospitality and general room service startup which takes away the stress of chores and catering so individuals can focus on work and the more important things. The startup was founded in 2019 by Nadayar Enegesi (CEO), Prosper Otemuyiwa and Silm Momoh.

The Eden brand continually pays homage to the stress-free lifestyle—a new normal that is not as expensive as one would have assumed. The brand maximises the testimonies of its eagerly satisfied users as social proof to its advantage across all brand touchpoints.

Eden Life pooled a total of 89.5 points after scoring 29.5 for ingenious storytelling, 34 for brand tribe and 26 for brand experience to emerge Number 4 on the ranking.


Safeboda team

Safeboda is the only non-Nigerian startup as well as the only mobility/logistics startup in the Top 10. The Ugandan bike-hailing company was founded in 2015 by Alastair Sussock (CEO), Maxime Dieudonne and Ricky Rapa Thomson.

Safeboda, renowned for its focus on the safety of its users, has since expanded into Kenya and Nigeria in West Africa.

Safeboda has certainly achieved success with its unique positioning hinged on a focus on the well-being and safety of its riders and users, with over 35 million rides completed and a claim to own more than 80% of the market share in Uganda and Nigeria

The bike-hailing company got 29 for ingenious storytelling, 36.5 for brand tribe and 23 for brand experience to pool an overall score of 88.5 and emerge Number 5.


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Team Patricia

Patricia is a Nigerian fintech that made a major impact and impression upon the Nigerian youths through its sponsorship of the reality TV show, Big Brother Naija. However, due to the CBN crypto ban, the startup has relocated to Estonia.

The technology-driven alternative payment platform was founded in 2017 by Hanu Fejiro Agbodje who serves as its CEO. The fintech which aims to redefine old financial systems and building new ways to transact has processed over $1.6 million in transactions.

Patricia scored 28 for ingenious storytelling, 33.5 for brand tribe and 26 for brand experience to emerge Number 6 on the rankings.


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Piggyvest co-founder, Odun Eweniyi receiving an award

Arguably one of the most digital and social tech companies in Nigeria today, many might wonder why Piggyvest didn’t rank further up the list. Founded in 2016 by Ayo Akinola, Joshua Chibueze, Odunayo Eweniyi, Nonso Eagle, and Somto Ifezue, the startups gives users a better way to save and invest online.

With an incredibly engaging social media presence, Piggyvest has built a brand that is firmly on the side of the people it serves. Every month, it highlights the saving culture of a different Piggyvest saver as it expands its league of product evangelists who continue to spread the word about how Piggyvest has helped them achieve their goals.

The fintech scored 24.5 for ingenious storytelling, 33 for brand tribe and 30 for brand experience to amass a total of 87.5 points to emerge Number 7.


The Paystack team at a holiday bootcamp

Undoubtedly one of the biggest fintechs from Africa, Paystack is providing modern online and offline payments services for users across the continent. It was founded in 2015 by Shola Akinlade (CEO) and Ezra Olubi (CTO) and was acquired by Stripe in 2020 for over $200 million in what is one of the biggest exits in the African tech space.

Paystack has remarkably built a brand renowned for its emphasis on talent and culture, easily becoming one of the best and most sought-after startups to work for across the continent. The brand benefits greatly from word-of-mouth feedback from satisfied customers, which should come as no surprise given its outstanding customer service and active support for important causes such as EndSARS.

Paystack which currently services more than 60,000 businesses and millions of individuals scored 27.5 for ingenious storytelling, 28.5 for brand tribe and 31 for brand experience thus ranking it at Number 8 with a total of 87 points.


Farmcrowdy founders

Farmcrowdy is the only agric technology company in the Top 10. Founded in 2016 by Onyeka Akumah, Akindele Phillips, Tope Omotolani, Christopher Abiodun and Ifeanyi Anazodo, the startup simply wants to empower farmers through technology.

Despite the risks and levels of instability that comes with agriculture as an investment field, FarmCrowdy has earned customers’ trust by telling stories of how they aid the success of farmers and encourage food production. Farmcrowdy launched ‘Shop with Uduak’, a free virtual shopper service to ease online shopping for their customers and keep the flow of business during the general lockdown in Lagos

Farmcrowdy ranks 9th on the log with a total of 87 points after obtaining a score of 29 for ingenious storytelling, 33 for brand tribe and 25 for brand experience.

Life Bank

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LifeBank is one of EchoVC’s many Nigeria-based portfolio companies

Life Bank is the second health tech startup on the list. Founded in 2015 by Temie Giwa-Tubosun, the startup is in the business of saving lives through quick access to blood supply. The startup says it has saved more than 10,000 lives in over 700 hospitals in Nigeria and Kenya.

Within five years, the brand has amassed an extensive cabinet of local and international awards and recognitions. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, also endorsed the brand saying, “This is a thing that needs to exist. If she can actually pull it off, she’ll show a model that will impact not just Lagos, not just Nigeria, but countries all around the world.”

LifeBank’s interactivity with its users meant it recorded 29.5 for ingenious storytelling, 30.5 for brand tribe and 26.5 for user experience to place it in the Number 10 spot with a total score of 86.5.

Other Nigerian tech startups on the Top 20 list include Gokada, Fundall, Utiva, Bamboo and Kuda Bank. The 5 other startups from across Africa include South Africa’s Sweepsouth, Tanzania’s Nala Money, Swvl from Egypt, Ghana’s Bitsaka and Chipper Cash from Uganda.

70% of the 20 tech startups are from Nigeria, Uganda has 10%, while South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Egypt have 5% appease. Fintech has the highest representation with 55%. Transport, health and hospitality have 10% each while education, logistics and agric have 5% appease.

The oldest startup on the list is South Africa’s Sweepsouth, a hospitality startup founded in 2013.

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