Rise of Start-ups in South Africa

Created: Oct 17, 2023

Updated: November 29, 2023

South Africa is witnessing a burgeoning growth in startups, reflecting an entrepreneurial surge that is reshaping its business landscape. The Rise of Startups in South Africa signifies a promising future, beckoning aspiring entrepreneurs to explore and seize the manifold opportunities that abound.


The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in South Africa, and 2023 stands as a pivotal year for startups. Entrepreneurs are embarking on innovative ventures, capitalizing on a supportive ecosystem, governmental initiatives, and a growing digital market. Recognizing the pivotal role startups play in economic growth and job creation, the government has designed and implemented various policies aimed at fostering a thriving startup ecosystem. This article encapsulates South Africa's entrepreneurial journey towards economic growth, employment, and technological advancements.
Rise of Startups in South Africa

Infographics by GO-Globe South Africa

Understanding the Startup Ecosystem

South Africa's startup ecosystem is an amalgamation of innovation, investment, and mentorship. It provides a nurturing environment for startups to flourish, offering co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, and access to funding opportunities. This ecosystem cultivates a spirit of collaboration and growth, laying the foundation for a thriving startup culture.

Key Industries and Sectors

The number of industries spans across diverse sectors. Technology, renewable energy, healthcare, and e-commerce are experiencing a surge in entrepreneurial activity. Innovations in Fin-Tech, Agri-Tech, and sustainability solutions are reshaping traditional industries, attracting both local and international investments.

Access to Funding

Furthermore, Securing funding is a critical aspect of startup growth. In 2023, South Africa's startups are benefiting from an increase in funding opportunities. Angel investors, venture capitalists, government grants, and crowdfunding platforms play a significant role in providing financial support to innovative ventures.

Governmental Support and Policies

The South African government has shown a keen interest in bolstering the startup landscape. Various policies and incentives are in place to encourage entrepreneurship, such as tax benefits, grants, and simplified regulatory processes. These initiatives are vital in encouraging risk-taking and fostering a supportive environment for emerging businesses.

Tax Incentives and Grants

One of the notable initiatives is the provision of tax incentives to encourage investment in startups. The government offers tax breaks and deductions to investors supporting startups, stimulating financial flow into these ventures. Additionally, grants are made available to startups, providing the necessary financial cushion to boost their operations and innovative projects.

Simplified Regulatory Processes

To ease the burden of regulatory complexities, the government has taken steps to streamline the processes involved in starting and running a business. Simplified registration procedures and reduced bureaucratic hurdles enable entrepreneurs to focus more on their ventures' growth and less on administrative formalities.

Access to Funding and Resources

The government has established funding programs and initiatives to facilitate easier access to capital for startups. These funding avenues include venture capital funds and angel investor networks, aligning with the government's commitment to supporting innovative business ideas.

Public-Private Partnerships

Collaboration between the government and private sector entities has proven instrumental in promoting startups. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are encouraged, allowing for shared resources, knowledge exchange, and joint initiatives that contribute to the growth and sustainability of startups.

Incubators and Accelerators

The government, in collaboration with various stakeholders, has set up incubators and accelerators across the country. These establishments provide startups with essential resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. The aim is to nurture and accelerate the growth of startups by providing a conducive environment for learning and development.

Promoting Innovation and Research

To drive innovation, the government actively promotes research and development activities. Incentives are provided to startups engaged in innovative projects and technologies. This encourages a culture of creativity and innovation, positioning South Africa as a hub for cutting-edge solutions and advancements.

Empowering Historically Disadvantaged Entrepreneurs

In its pursuit of an inclusive startup ecosystem, the government emphasizes empowering historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs. Special initiatives and grants are designed to support startups led by individuals from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, aiming to level the playing field and create equal opportunities.

Investor Confidence and Market Expansion

Investor confidence is steadily increasing, and both local and international investors are showing interest in South African startups. This influx of capital aids in expanding market reach, fostering product development, and creating employment opportunities across the nation. The stability in the nation's economic environment, coupled with ongoing economic reforms, has bolstered investor confidence. Measures to enhance regulatory frameworks, reduce bureaucracy, and improve the ease of doing business have significantly attracted investors seeking stable and favorable investment climates.

Demonstrated Growth and Success Stories

The success stories of startups that have flourished in South Africa have served as a testament to the viability of investments in the local startup ecosystem. These success stories have not only showcased the potential for high returns but have also instilled confidence in the startup landscape.

Government and Institutional Support

Governmental and institutional support have played a crucial role in instilling confidence among investors. Various incentive schemes, tax breaks, and financial assistance offered by the government have allured investors, encouraging them to actively participate and invest in the burgeoning startup scene.

Expansion Opportunities and Facilitating an Investment Ecosystem

Investors are also enticed by the potential for market expansion and access to emerging markets within Africa. The development of robust investment ecosystems, including venture capital firms, angel investor networks, and startup incubators, has further boosted investor confidence. These platforms provide investors with a diverse array of investment opportunities, fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, South Africa's strategic location and its growing influence in the region make it an attractive hub for startups aiming to expand their reach and tap into the broader African market.

Fostering a Supportive Network and Gaining Access to a Skilled Workforce

The collaborative nature of the startup ecosystem in South Africa, where startups often collaborate with one another and share resources, has created a supportive network. South Africa's well-educated and skilled workforce is a significant draw for investors. The availability of a talented pool of professionals ensures that startups have the necessary human capital to drive growth and innovation, making investment prospects more appealing. This community-driven approach is appealing to investors, as it indicates a healthy and collaborative environment conducive to growth.

Empowering Women in Entrepreneurship

In the landscape of South African startups in 2023, a noticeable and commendable trend is the active drive to empower women in entrepreneurship. This movement towards inclusivity is primarily about leveraging the untapped potential of a significant demographic that can drive economic growth and social progress. Promoting gender equality in the entrepreneurial landscape, and ensuring equal access to opportunities and resources has been a key to the growth and development of Women Entrepreneurship empowerment. Various initiatives have been launched to create awareness about the importance of gender diversity in entrepreneurship. These initiatives aim to encourage women to step forward, take leadership roles, and start their own ventures. They shed light on success stories of women entrepreneurs, inspiring others to follow suit.

Networking and Mentorship

Networking and mentorship programs specifically designed for women are gaining traction. These platforms provide a supportive environment for aspiring women entrepreneurs to connect with mentors, seek guidance, and build valuable networks within their respective industries.

Financial Support and Grants

To break down financial barriers, there are targeted financial support mechanisms and grants for women-led startups. These funds help in mitigating the initial financial challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, enabling them to kick-start their businesses and thrive in competitive markets.

Education and Skill Development

Empowerment begins with education. There is a strong emphasis on education and skill development among women, equipping them with the knowledge and expertise needed to run successful businesses. Workshops, training programs, and seminars are organized to provide practical insights and knowledge.

Addressing Societal Norms and Challenges

Challenges stemming from societal norms and biases are being openly discussed and addressed. Awareness campaigns are challenging stereotypes and misconceptions about women in leadership and entrepreneurship, fostering an environment where women are judged based on their abilities, not their gender.

Collaboration and Partnership Opportunities

Women-centric startup events, forums, and platforms are fostering collaboration and partnership opportunities. These events bring together women entrepreneurs, investors, and stakeholders, facilitating collaborations that can lead to joint ventures, shared resources, and innovative solutions.

Governmental Initiatives

The government of South Africa has also taken active steps to promote and support women in entrepreneurship. Policies encouraging women's participation in the business landscape, providing grants, and promoting gender inclusivity are being implemented to level the playing field.

Rise of Start Ups in South Africa in 2023: Facts, Figures and Latest Statistics

  • Despite South Africa’s disappointing year, 2022 was a record year for tech startups across the whole of Africa, with over 600 tech startups receiving $3.3 billion across the whole continent
  • African tech startups only received $649 million in Q1 2023, which marks a nearly 57.2% decline from the same period in 2022.
  • In 2023, the best city for startups in South Africa was Cape Town, with a total score of 5.19.
  • Cape Town ranked 136th worldwide in that 2023 for the best city worldwide for start-ups. Other leading cities for startup activities in South Africa were Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban.
  • In South Africa, the E-health platform Envisionit Deep AI received over US$1.65 million (R30 million) in 2023.
  • Planet42, a Car subscription company, received over US$100 million (R1.8 billion); Lulalend, a credit company, raised US$35 million (R640 million); Carry1st, a gaming startup, got US$27 million (490 million); and Naked, an insurance and tech company, received US$17 million (R310 million).
  • At least 490 tech startups were in operation across South Africa as of May 2022, employing over 11,000 people between them.
  • South Africa led April’s deals with 49.1% of the total deals in South Africa, about US$63.7 million.
  • Over 25% of South African tech startups have undergone some form of acceleration or incubation, though diversity is an issue as less than 15% have a female co-founder.
  • 357 individual South African tech startups raised a combined US$993,684,600 in funding between January 2015 and May 2022.
  • In April 2023, there were 23 fully disclosed* raises made by African startups, totaling US$129.8 million.
  • In April 2023, two sizeable investment announcements targeted at South Africa were made. First, Amazon announced plans to invest US$1.8 billion in its cloud services in the country by 2029.
  • Cassava Technologies also pledged a total of US$250 million in investment in South Africa through its business units - Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Africa Data Centres, and Distributed Power Africa.
  • As of the end of August 2023, start-ups in Africa had raised US$1.3bn in equity (US$2.2bn if we add debt), 57% less than in the same period last year.
  • Start-ups in Africa raised US$1.4b in equity funding in the first 9 months of 2023, less than half the amount they had raised in the same period in 2022 and 2021.

South African Start-Up Landscape as of October 1, 2023

  • Total Companies - 20.8k
  • Funded Companies - 2.71k
  • Acquisitions - 825
  • Series A+ Companies - 180
  • Unicorns Created - 1
  • Total Funding - US$53.7 billion
  • IPOs - 311
  • Series C+ Companies - 13
  • Top Companies - MTN Group, Standard Bank, Telkom, Zando, and Takealot

Read More: The State Of MENA Startup Funding - Statistics And Trends

Challenges and Future Outlook

The rise of Startups in South Africa, comes with its set of challenges. These include market saturation, regulatory complexities, and access to skilled talent. However, strategic planning, mentorship, and leveraging digital advancements can help startups navigate these challenges effectively. The trajectory of startups in South Africa is poised for exponential growth in the coming years. With a supportive ecosystem, government backing, and an increasingly global outlook, startups are set to contribute significantly to the nation's economic development and global standing.


The Rise of Startups in South Africa paints an optimistic picture for the entrepreneurial landscape. Aspiring entrepreneurs have a vast canvas to innovate, collaborate, and succeed. With supportive government policies, success stories, access to funding, a culture of innovation, and a collaborative ecosystem, the startup landscape in South Africa is poised for substantial growth, attracting both local and international investors, empowering women to be more involved in Online and Offline Startups which would allow them to be keen on being part of this promising journey, ensuring that the future of startups in South Africa is indeed bright.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How has the South African government supported startups in 2023?

A: The South African government has introduced various policies and incentives, including tax benefits and grants, to support startups and encourage entrepreneurship.

Q2: Which industries are experiencing significant startup growth in South Africa in 2023?

A: Key industries such as technology, renewable energy, healthcare, and e-commerce are witnessing a surge in entrepreneurial activity in South Africa in 2023.

Q3: What are the major challenges faced by startups in South Africa in 2023?

A: Startups in South Africa face challenges such as market saturation, regulatory complexities, and access to skilled talent. However, strategic planning and mentorship can help overcome these hurdles.

Q4: How are investors contributing to the growth of startups in South Africa in 2023?

A: Investor confidence is on the rise, and both local and international investors are providing capital to South African startups, aiding in market expansion and product development.

Q5: How is the South African startup ecosystem fostering gender equality in entrepreneurship?

A: The startup ecosystem in South Africa is actively promoting gender equality by encouraging and empowering women entrepreneurs, ensuring equal access to opportunities and resources.

Q6: What can we expect in the future for startups in South Africa?

A: The future looks promising for startups in South Africa, with exponential growth anticipated in the coming years, driven by a supportive ecosystem and a global outlook.

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