Dash shut down and the Founder was accused of impropriety, Starlink launched in Zambia and 11 African startups for the first Google AI program.

Dash shut down and the Founder was accused of impropriety, Starlink launched in Zambia and 11 African startups for the first Google AI program.
Photo by Mitchell Luo / Unsplash

Here are the key tech developments from across Africa for this week.

  • Dash shut down and Founder was accused of impropriety
  • Starlink launched in Zambia
  • 11 African startups for the first Google AI program

Dash shut down and the Founder accused of impropriety

In 2019, Prince Boakye Boampong founded Dash, a Ghanaian fintech company with a bold vision to bridge cross-border payments for Africans by connecting mobile money wallets and bank accounts. Dash embarked on a remarkable journey, successfully securing a total of $86.1 million in funding over five years, including an impressive $32.8 million seed round in 2021, making it the second-largest seed round for an African startup.

However, Dash's promising trajectory began to unravel as doubts emerged about the accuracy of its reported metrics, including claims of processing $1 billion in transactions and acquiring one million users across Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya in a short period. These concerns led to the suspension and eventual dismissal of Prince Boampong as CEO, replaced by Kenneth Kinshua.

A subsequent audit unveiled a concerning financial gap, with at least $25 million unaccounted for, compounded by Dash's high operational costs across five countries. This financial predicament became increasingly challenging to address, given Dash's monthly burn rate of $500,000 and a lack of revenue.

In parallel, allegations surfaced against Prince Boampong, who allegedly diverted a substantial portion of funds, approximately $8 million, for personal use, including luxury property and cars. Boampong remained silent in response to these allegations.

Regrettably, Dash's mission to enhance financial connectivity across Africa has come to an abrupt end after a period marked by substantial fundraising efforts and ambitious goals.

In a recent development, SpaceX has successfully introduced its Starlink satellite internet service in Zambia, marking the sixth African country to gain access to this high-speed connectivity.

The Starlink service, utilizing a vast network of satellites in low Earth orbit, is now operational in Zambia. It caters to regions that lack traditional internet infrastructure, offering users a reliable and high-speed internet experience.

Zambian residents can subscribe to Starlink via the company's website, with costs totaling ZMW10,744 ($505) for hardware and a monthly fee of ZMW507 ($24).

Beyond individual benefits, the launch of Starlink in Zambia carries the potential to narrow the digital divide and stimulate economic growth by attracting businesses and investments to the country.

This expansion aligns with SpaceX's broader strategy to extend Starlink's coverage across Africa, following its successful launches in Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Malawi.

It's worth noting that the launch in Zambia comes after a year of regulatory and technical preparations and engagement with the Zambian government, demonstrating a commitment to complying with local requirements.

However, it's important to mention that in South Africa, Starlink has encountered regulatory challenges, including the need to allocate ownership to historically disadvantaged groups, a requirement that the company is actively addressing.

11 African startups for the first Google AI program

In an exciting development, Google recently unveiled its commitment to fostering innovation and technological advancement in Africa by launching the "Google for Startups Accelerator: AI First" program. This program is specifically designed to support African startups that harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle a wide array of challenges. The inaugural cohort of this initiative comprises 11 promising startups, carefully selected from a pool of innovative talents across the continent.

These chosen startups have embarked on a 10-week accelerator journey, receiving not only the invaluable expertise of Google in AI but also a substantial financial boost through a $350,000 allocation in Google Cloud Credits. Additionally, they will benefit from mentorship sessions, technical guidance, and unparalleled networking opportunities, all aimed at enhancing their reach and impact.

The transformative power of AI in Africa cannot be understated, as emphasized by a McKinsey report indicating that AI has the potential to contribute a staggering $1.3 trillion to Africa's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030. This underscores the undeniable potential of AI to fuel solutions and drive economic prosperity in the region. Google's steadfast commitment to these startups reflects its belief in their vision and its determination to provide the necessary support and guidance for them to reach their full potential.

The selected startups hail from various African nations, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, Uganda, and more. Their diverse range of projects demonstrates how AI is being harnessed to address a multitude of challenges, from streamlining healthcare access and digitalizing logistics to empowering small businesses and revolutionizing website building.

In essence, Google's support for these startups is not just a testament to its dedication to innovation but also a crucial step in helping Africa leverage the immense potential of AI to address both local and global challenges, ultimately contributing to a brighter future for the continent and the world.