Is Johannesburg The City of “AI” Gold?

Is Johannesburg The City of “AI” Gold?

Launched in early 2018 the AI Media Group set out to create a new hybrid analysis, trade & advisory operation to build one of the largest communities of technology practitioners discussing the application of AI / 4IR technologies in a business context on the African continent.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, Founder and CEO of AI Media stated, “One of our key goals was to assess and showcase the growing emerging market opportunity in the Africa region for this particular technology category.   When we started this journey there was literally zero, or at best, fragmented data on the companies and people driving this sector in Africa.  Over the last two years we have been building a much more detailed picture analyzing organizations that are active (or seeking to be active) in the African AI / 4IR tech ecosystem both locally, regionally and globally.  Our analysis encompassed commercial and non-commercial entities and we also looked at No. Employees, Industry, HQ City, Country, Sector, Year Founded and Specialization.”

Some clear trends are now emerging with some top-level insights summarized below.

·       1500+ companies were analyzed to establish a baseline data set

·       1389 companies had consistent data, of which 826 (60%) are based / head quartered in Africa

·       74% of these are based in South Africa, 6% Tunisia 6% Nigeria 3% Kenya 2% Egypt 2% Ghana

·       18 other countries make up the remaining 7%

·       Focusing on those based in South Africa, 67% are based in the city regions of Johannesburg and Pretoria while Cape Town accounts for 29%

·       62% of all African companies active in the region are privately held

·       The vast majority (50%) having less than 20 employees.

·       Based on year founded, the last 5 years have seen a significant rise in the number of companies active in this sector, most likely due to the combined effects of; available funding, lower start-up costs, cloud / compute and open-source resource availability and increased commercial demand in multiple market verticals.



Figure – Artificial intelligence business distribution in Africa by the AI Media Group


Initial Conclusions

·       The top 5 most “active” countries are South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt – this broadly maps to the top tech investment hubs in the region as indicated by analysts such as Maxime Bayen & Max Cuvellier.

·       We have a growing and dynamic AI / 4IR tech ecosystem in Africa with South Africa accounting for the most frequent country of origin for companies in this sector.

·       Johannesburg and the wider Gauteng region encompassing Pretoria appears to be the No.1 contender for the “AI Tech Capital of Africa” based on the organizations we have assessed so far which may (in part) be explained by greater B2B economic demand for such products and services, a mature tech entrepreneur / supplier ecosystem and commensurate skills and job opportunities with both buyer and supplier side entities.

Bradshaw concluded, “A large vendor and partner ecosystem built around the likes of Microsoft, Google, AWS, IBM, Intel, Oracle & SAP who have historically had a significant operational footprint in South Africa may also account for the landscape we currently see.  This is by no means an exhaustive survey and the data is continually changing and evolving.

South Africa Today

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