Fast Company named Twiga, mPedigree, Copia, Piggyvest, MPost, Tizeti, Tongoro, Lumkani, Kobo360 and 54gene as the top 10 most innovative African companies.

Out of the 10 African companies recognized by the American business magazine, four of them are Nigerian companies, namely: Piggyvest, Tizeti, Kobo360 and 54gene.

Compared to the last six editions, this is first time four Nigerian companies would be on Fast Company's annual Most Innovative Companies (MIC) list.

Among the 2018 and 2019 top 10 most innovative African companies, Flutterwave was the only Nigerian company listed. It was recognized for "easing transactions from country to country" in 2018 and for "easing e-commerce payments in more than 150 currencies" in 2019.

Fast Company launched the MIC award in 2008 to "identify enterprises at the forefront of their industries" across the world.

According to Fast Company, all the 434 companies honoured this year—7.9% more than the 2019 honourees—"lead their fields and are transforming the world". More specifically, the 10 African honourees are "local companies developing big ideas to address the continent's specific needs".

How Nigerian companies have fared on the list of World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Africa

In 2014, Fast Company featured Konga and PrepClass among the top 10 MIC in Africa. The former was listed for making "online shopping experience more secure" and the latter for "preparing the next generation" through its online portal.

Again in 2015, Konga was featured among the World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Africa. This time, it was recognized for "facilitating e-commerce in Africa". IROKOtv and Jobberman were also listed among the top 10 MIC in Africa for "changing the economics of Nollywood" and for "increasing access to job opportunities", respectively.

Except Jumia, which was labelled as Nigeria-based, no Nigerian company made the cut in 2016. The ecommerce company was named among the most innovative African companies for "positioning itself as the Amazon of Africa".

The following year, Andela and IROKOtv were named among the top 10 MIC in Africa. Andela was recognized for "nurturing first-class coders"; and iROKOTV, for "streaming Nigeria's Nollywood".

Why Piggyvest, Tizeti, Kobo360 and 7 others are listed as the most innovative African companies of 2020

For the 2020 MIC award, Fast Company said its editors and writers sought out groundbreaking businesses across 44 sectors, including every region of the world.

We also judged nominations received through our application process. We assess each company on a combination of innovation and impact, with a focus on what it accomplished in the past year.

—Fast Company

1. Twiga Foods

Ranked as the most innovative African company for "professionalizing East Africa's market economy", Twiga Foods is a B2B marketplace that connects farmers and vendors by providing a complete supply chain for quality produce. The seven-year-old Kenyan startup is also ranked 35th among the World's 50 Most Innovative Companies.

2. mPedigree

Launched in 2007 by Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons, mPedigree is innovative for "using text messages to root out fake goods." It uses mobile and web technologies to secure products against counterfeiting and diversion. Before now, mPedigree had been recognized as an innovative African company in 2016 for "protecting African consumers against fraudulent products ".

3. Copia Global

Copia was co-founded by Tracey Turner and Jonathan Lewis in 2013. Its innovation allows "Kenya's unbanked and unconnected to participate in ecommerce". The vision of Copia, which means abundance in Latin, is to bring the power mobile ecommerce to middle and low-income Africans.

4. Piggyvest

"For helping West African millennials invest and save for the future", Piggyvest is ranked as the 4th most innovative African company.

5. MPost

MPost—Mobile Post Office—which was launched in 2016 is recognized as an innovative African company for "turning mobile numbers into Kenyan Post Office box". By enabling any mobile phone user to have their phone act as a virtual mailbox, they are able to access to postal services.

6. Tizeti

Founded in 2015, Tizeti Networks Limited is ranked among the top 10 MIC in Africa for "harnessing the power of the sun for affordable 4G network". Last year, Tizeti, in partnership with MainOne, launched and would be operating solar-powered WiFi towers across Ghana and Nigeria.

7. Tongoro

Tongoro is a ready-to-wear made in Africa fashion label launched in 2016 by Sarah Diouf. It is recognized as an innovative African company for "empowering local artisans via Senegalese fashion house".

8. Lumkani

Lumkani is a social enterprise launched by South African students. It distributes insurance products to financially excluded households and businesses in rural settlements. Lumkani is named an innovative African company for "bringing fire protection and insurance services to South African townships".

9. Kobo360

"For connecting African truck drivers with companies" and individuals that need their goods to be moved, Kobo360 is named among the top 10 most innovative African companies.

10. 54gene

54gene is ranked among the most innovative African companies for "building an Africa-wide genetic biobank". Founded in 2019 by Dr Abasi Ene-Obong, 54gene aims to close the gap in the global genomics market, especially for Africans.

How to be named most innovative company by Fast Company

There are broadly two ways to be featured on Fast Company MIC list: by applying or being spotted by Fast Company's team.

For African companies, however, there is only one option as Fast Company doesn't require them to apply to be featured on the list.

Meanwhile, the application fee ranges from $495 (₦180,922) to $1,000 (₦365,500) for late application deadline. Here is a sample of the application form.

It is laudable that African companies are not asked to pay for the award, as there have been many instances of awards and prestigious list turning out to be a scam, and formerly credible awards being brought to disrepute. An apposite case is Forbes Africa 30 under 30 and Obinwanne Okeke (AKA Invicticus Obi).

Paying for an award is not a new practice and it's not bad in itself. But such awards should be given a kid-glove treatment and not passed off as a vote of confidence on the awardees.

Just as talking about how big your funding round isn't that great, so is talking about how you made a list or received an award that was paid for.