Africa is becoming an active breeding ground for startups, according to CrunchBase. The database of technology companies found 2013 was the most active year for technology investment on the continent. (CrunchBase is an open-source site, so the increase may in part reflect an increase in the number of people adding new startups to the database rather than an objective measure.)

Several noteworthy American companies have funneled money into the continent, including Intel, which has been training developers for the past six months through its software services group, and Microsoft, which launched the 4Afrika program in 2013 to help Africans turn their ideas into community-building businesses. This year, Microsoft went one step further, unveiling an innovation grant program to fast-track African startups.

Here's a look at a few new companies that have gained traction so far: 

Ktyabu: This Kenyan service digitizes textbooks from publishers to offer them at a steep discount. All textbooks are integrated into a cheap tablet, which retails from $40 to $60, and the textbooks can be accessed on a daily, monthly, annual, or semester basis.  

Waabeh: Kenya's answer to iTunes seeks to empower artists with easy upload and distribution tools that offer higher sales royalties. Tim Rimbui, co-founder and chief executive officer of the music startup, tells ITWeb Africa he launched Waabeh to help combat piracy. So far, Waabeh has surpassed 10,000 downloads and delivers over 330,000 streams of its content. 

Rancard Solutions Limited: Rancard, a mobile software company based in Ghana, received funding from Intel Capital in December. The startup, which launched in 2001, has already broadened its scope to cover more than 40 mobile networks in over 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East. 

MallforAfrica: Backed by a multimillion-dollar investment from Helios Investment Partners, the e-commerce startup is focused on bringing international online shopping to every African. Customers can make purchases on the platform from retailers from all over the U.S., Europe, and Africa, and have items shipped to their home or to one of many pickup locations. 

Gamsole: With the mission of making "games that are fun to play, pure and simple," this Nigerian startup has made a name for itself creating games for Windows phones. The company is known for such hits as Kazoo, Road Blazer, and Traffic Jam