Key questions this article answers:

  1. In February, African startups raised $696 million—30% higher than January and the highest February raise since 2019. Did the ecosystem ride this high funding wave into March?

  2. What does Africa’s 2nd largest acquisition (Tunisian InstaDeep by Germany’s BioNTech) say about the balance of powers among Africa’s elite investors?

One big event on Stears’ radar in March 2023 was the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failure. SVB was the 16th largest U.S. bank (by deposits). Known as the startups' bank, it held deposits of almost half of all US venture-backed startups. Though headquartered in the US, we feared that African startups that had stashed investor funds with SVB, far away from tight capital controls in their home markets, would be caught with their tails between their legs.

The ensuing market panic brought flashbacks from FTX’s (a now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange run by Sam Bankman-Fried) collapse a few months earlier when several African crypto startups watched their assets get tied up in FTX’s vaults.

The subsequent sale of SVB to First Citizens Bank helped assuage depositors' fears of losing access to their funds, restoring a sense of calm. 

But the initial panic in early-mid March could have made investors tighten their purse strings, limiting capital raises for Africa’s startups who rely heavily on foreign capital.

With March funding data now available from the Big Deal database, we can investigate three of the most striking trends