Hardware is hard, but here are 6 startups doing it in Nigeria

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May 21, 2024
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5 min read
Siltech showroom

It is no news that despite the growth in Nigeria's tech ecosystem, it is dominated by software startups. One of the reasons for this is the amount of funding required to build hardware companies.

Olusola Ayoola, an artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics expert and Founder of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria (RAIN), believes funding is as important as time and expertise.

That is why Kemisola Bolarinwa, who invented a smart bra for detecting breast cancer, is a strong advocate for getting more women interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Despite the difficulty in building a hardware startup, some Nigerians have not shied away from taking on the challenge.

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Nigerian hardware startups and what they do

The dominance of software startups is not unique to Nigeria and Africa. According to an online report by DW.com, most deep tech companies are found in the US, followed by Greater China — China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan — Germany, the UK, and Japan.

However, hardware is important and should be taken seriously. For example, most software platforms would not have been created if smartphones and computers were not invented.

Hardware is hard, but six Nigerian companies are doing it anyway.

Koolboks

An image of Koolboks solar-powered freezer
A Koolboks solar-powered freezer

Access to constant power supply is a myth in most parts of Nigeria, and refrigerating food and beverages is a struggle.

The most common solution is a generator to power refrigerators, but Koolboks, a Nigerian startup, has created a solar-powered refrigerator to solve this problem.

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To make its solar-powered refrigerators affordable, Koolbok uses what it calls a cooling-as-a-service model, where users pay a monthly fee for using the refrigerators. According to its website, the costs are as low as ₦25,000.

Founded by Ayoola Dominic and Deborah Gael in 2018, the company raised $2.5 million in 2022 to expand across Nigeria.

Kifta Technologies

A smart glasses by Kifta Technologies
Smart glasses by Kifta Technologies

From smart glasses to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Nigeria's Kifta Technologies produces tech gadgets likened to those in spy movies.

When Monsuru Anifowose faced security challenges in his textile business, he founded Kifta Technologies with McDonald Ukah.  

One of Kifta's UAVs can travel for nine hours, monitoring goods in transit and alerting drivers of impending danger.

Kifta is in the defence tech business, an area most Nigerian startups seldom delve into. Consequently, its Nigerian operations are minimal and it sells its hardware and software to foreign countries.

Possible EVs

Possible EV taxi
Possible EV taxi Source: LinkedIn

Possible EVs is a Nigerian electric mobility company that is setting up plants in Abuja to begin the production of 10,000 electric vehicles (EV) a year.

Founded in 2021 by Mosope Olaosebikan, the company was built to deal with misconceptions about EVs in Nigeria and Africa.

The electric mobility company is testing EV taxis that can travel 400 km on a single charge. This means it can go from Abuja to Kaduna, for instance, before the battery needs to be topped up.

It also has charging stations and an electric vehicle experience centre (EVEC), where people can learn about EVs and dispel generally held misconceptions.

Possible EVs has raised $5 million to launch its services but plans to raise more this year.

Its primary business model is selling the vehicles it has manufactured. However, the company also charges ₦1,200 to charge EVs fully in one hour.

Arnergy

In 2013, Femi Adeyemo and Kunle Odebunmi established Arnergy, a clean tech startup offering distributed renewable energy solutions for residential and commercial use.

Their main market is Nigeria, and they plan to maintain their presence across all 36 states by partnering with mini-grid developers.

It raised $3 million in February 2024, which follows a $9 million Series A in 2019.

Siltech

A picture of Tolu Williams, Founder of Siltech standing next to Siltech EV called the Falcon
Siltech's made-in-Nigeria Falcon

Siltech is an EV startup specialising in manufacturing bikes and tricycles designed to work effectively in Nigeria.

Tolulope Williams got the idea for Siltech when he saw several clean energy-based innovations and captivating technologies during his many trips across Asia.

Interestingly, Williams always wanted to be a biker, but says, "I don't think I had the time to ride or maintain a petrol engine. So, using an electric bike, I realised maintenance is way easier, and it’s user-friendly.”

Today, Siltech has built 65% of its flagship EV — The Falcon — in Nigeria. The Falcon is a tricycle with a range of 300 km, and for context, Osun State is 199 km from Ikeja, Lagos.

Charging The Falcon is as easy as charging a mobile phone and Williams estimates the charging time to be two hours. This is possible because The Falcon uses a significantly smaller battery that doesn't need high-tech chargers. It also uses first-of-its-kind battery swap technology that gives users a fully charged battery in about a minute.

JET Motor Company

Jet EV at charging station
JET EV at a charging station

In 2021, JET Motor Company launched the JET EV, Nigeria's first electric cargo van, in partnership with GIG Logistics (GIGL).

Rupani Sanjay, the company's Director of Sales and Marketing, said, “Our ultimate goal is to build the Tesla of Africa.”

The Jet EV was launched after three years of research, testing, and iterative development.

Ebuka Uchendu, Technical Lead at JET EV, explained that the vehicle can cover 260–280 km on a full charge, with a potential maximum range of 300 km.

He highlights that the number of engine parts in the EV is reduced by nearly 70%, significantly lowering maintenance costs. Additionally, operational costs, such as those associated with refuelling, are considerably reduced.

"If you compare the cost of fuelling a vehicle for 250 km, you'll find that maintaining an EV is more economical. For instance, based on current electricity rates, fully charging an EV costs around ₦6,000, whereas fuelling a conventional vehicle for the same distance in Nigeria now ranges between ₦10,000 and ₦15,000."

These amounts have most likely changed significantly since he made these comments in 2020.

Koolboks, Kifta Technologies, Possible EVs, Arnergy, Siltech, and JET Motor Company, are some of the few hardware startups in Nigeria. While their futures aren't certain, they can be considered pioneer tech startups in Nigeria.


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He's a geek, a sucker for Blockchain and an all-round tech lover. Find me on Twitter @BoluAbiodun1.
He's a geek, a sucker for Blockchain and an all-round tech lover. Find me on Twitter @BoluAbiodun1.
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He's a geek, a sucker for Blockchain and an all-round tech lover. Find me on Twitter @BoluAbiodun1.

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