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Expert seers and crystal ball gazers are having a field day with guessing what the new year will conjure up. Analysts construct and dissect permutations, bigwigs and regular guys at the newspaper stands lay out the probable course of events and watersheds they think will define the next twelve months. And here, we have our eyes on the startups that are shaping the future far beyond a 365-day timescale. The enterprise boom is gobbling up Nigeria’s old socio-economic order one project at a time. Young, passionate pioneers are steering ventures into many sectors, disrupting the status quo and creating tomorrow’s standards. Most of these transforming agents wield a common, though variegated tool: technology. In 2018, these startups will continue on the course of reshaping our country and will become even more prominent actors in our lives as individuals, and as a nation. These Nigerian startups, drawn from different economic spheres, are likely to come on strong in the coming months: BudgIT In a year of endless political campaigning and fact-wars, BudgIT is certainly going to be in the thick of things, pulling the strings of rational government-citizen engagement. Founded in 2011, this donor-funded civic society organization has worked to make information on government expenditure and projects more accessible and has helped ignite what is now a growing flame of data based social advocacy and activism in Nigeria. BudgIT tracks government spending and public projects and publishes information about these on its website. Its infographic breakdowns of Federal Government and State Government budgets have become popular. Budget implementation is closely monitored, and citizens are educated on the importance of holding their governments accountable. The company’s operations are inspired by the need to make budgets “work for the people.” Late in 2016, BudgIT secured funding to the tune of $3 million from Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The startup is sure to get even more positive recognition in the months and years ahead. TalentBase Chika Uwazie’s TalentBase is carving a niche for itself in the HR management industry- a space which until recently consisted of Excel spreadsheets and scribbled or typed texts on paper. Considering the fact that this startup is currently gliding along barely charted waters, we’re expecting even bigger things from it this year. TalentBase was founded in 2015. It has built software that helps businesses (especially SMEs) manage their payroll, HR, and expenses in one place. This system allows payments to be made directly into employees’ accounts and enables businesses track leave, travel and non-travel expenses. Because it also makes automatic tax deductions possible, it could become a big partner to the government in the latter’s drive to expand its tax collection scope. Thus far, TalentBase has raised $150,000 from SpeedUP Africa, Venture Garden Group, and more recently, through Silicon Valley-based startup incubator and investor 500 Startups. RecyclePoints Waste is a huge challenge for Nigeria’s cities, and it’s going to get even bigger. As the country’s population swells and the consumer culture demands and dumps more packaging, we’ll need an army of forward looking waste management firms to rescue us from a garbage apocalypse. Thankfully, there are startups daring to do exactly this. One of the more prominent ones is RecyclePoints, a waste recycling and social benefit venture founded in 2015. It owes its existence to a couple, Mazi and Chioma Ukonu (Chioma’s the Chief Operating Officer), who thought the streets of Lagos could do with a lot less trash lying around. RecyclePoints runs a points-based reward system, which involves taking recyclable material from consumers and awarding them with points in return. The points can be accumulated as more recyclable waste is handed in, and may be used to purchase household items at certified stores. Last year, RecyclePoints got a significant boost from the Chivas The Venture competition at Los Angeles. Its first runner-up finish was rewarded with a $200,000 prize. The signs of the times point to the spotlight shining brighter on RecyclePoints, as the world reaches for a litter-free and environmentally friendly future. Flutterwave When Iyinoluwa Aboyeji decided to leave Andela (which he co-founded), not a few eyes ago jaws were yanked wide open. ‘Why leave such an obviously successful, big potential startup, to set up another?’ we asked. A few skeptics wondered how Aboyeji could pull off anything close to the success he managed at Andela. Two years later, we’re thinking he’s a business genius. Because it looks like he’s striking the mark with his new venture. Flutterwave, which Aboyeji cofounded after waving goodbye to Andela, is making it easier for banks and businesses to process payments across Africa. Its payments API helps businesses pay and receive money from cards, mobile money wallets, and bank accounts from around the world, from one platform. So far, it has processed over $1 billion in payments and accepts several currencies. Investors have seen the rapid growth of Flutterwave, and have rushed in for a bite of this ever-expanding cake. In 2017, the company raised over $10 million in series A funding from investors led by Greycroft Partners and Green Visor. The wind appears to be in the sails for Flutterwave; this startup is taking hold of an emerging tech-driven financial system, and planting its flag on a vantage point that will only become more visible with the passing of time. What do you think? There you have it: four pioneering startups you should be checking up on this year. We’d like to know what other startups you think Nigerians (and the world) should be watching.

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This article was first published on 8th January 2018


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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