ECONOMY - 06 DEC 2018

Startups and the African Technology Renaissance

Startups and the African Technology Renaissance
Collaboration is key to ensuring the effectiveness of diaspora start-ups

This article was done in partnership with Foundervine. Stears Business attended the Startup 54 event hosted in London from the 9th to 11th of November 2018, and we documented our thoughts on how entrepreneurial ecosystems can help Africa develop.

 

It is popularly believed that the developing world is on the verge of a Fourth Industrial Revolution and in no place is this truer than on the African continent.  Innovations in payment platforms, software development, and peer to peer lending are accelerating economic development and promoting wider use of data technology across the continent. However, Africa still suffers from basic issues—limited access to credit for SMEs, a high cost of doing business, and low GDP per capita. These socioeconomic issues have persisted in recent decades and require creative solutions.

Now more than ever, Africa is in dire need of impactful companies and movements that empower entrepreneurs on the continent to create jobs while pursuing groundbreaking ideas that would address these perennial issues. One organisation trying to do this is Foundervine, a start-up community which harnesses the talent of the Africa diaspora by providing a collaborative platform to help entrepreneurs build their ideas and upskill. The groups’ latest initiative, #Startup54, was a three-day workshop, boot camp and hackathon held in London that connected entrepreneurs to business leaders like Charles Sekwalor CEO of Movemeback.com, and Rodney Appiah, Director at Foresight Group, a leading UK private equity and venture capital firm.

Many entrepreneurs in the diaspora have business solutions that can drive social and economic change in Africa but need access to on-the-ground know-how, business relationships and venture capital. One of these is Hello Maisha, a tool that allows pregnant women to receive health advice confidentially, and Best Team Prize-winners at the #Startup54 pitch session.

Many African start-ups fail as a result of faulty business models, inadequate funding, or weak corporate governance, and Foundervine attempts to address this for the African diaspora entrepreneur. For example, the entrepreneur is connected to accelerators and entrepreneurs on the continent through Skype sessions with young business icons like Sydney Scott Sam, Founder of The Workspace in Accra, Ghana to give practical examples of how to scale these real-life hurdles. There’s also a strong focus on upskilling entrepreneurs, with experts in various fields—business modelling and market validation experts from leading professional services firms, data analytics gurus, etc.—drawn in to give entrepreneurs the hard and soft skills required to thrive. This positions them to truly capture the vast amount of opportunities ahead of them and contribute to using innovation as a means to eradicate enduring challenges.

By leveraging social media to expand engagement across the world, the democratisation of ideas has enabled young business owners to think bigger and re-evaluate the size of the impact they could potentially have on the continent. Enterprises like Polywave, which incentivises people to recycle plastic and convert to renewable energy and Tabchain, focused on developing a drug manufacturing hub in Africa, have been able to expand across countries in a short period.

Ultimately, Africa faces the immediate challenge of having to innovate out of several legacy challenges including low electricity supply, inadequate transport infrastructure, weak regulatory forces, and low consumer spending power. As the commercial needs of the continent continue to grow, these needs must be met and met at scale.

As we have seen through the likes of Uber in the developed world and mPesa on the continent, small tech-based businesses can provide these solutions. For example, The Cranes is an enterprise that aims to create investment portfolios for farmers using an app, helping them smooth out their volatile income cycles. Likewise, YouCan provides a cloud platform to support young people looking at transformative ways to push the waste, agriculture, pharmaceutical and data cloud storage industries forward in Africa. Both businesses are focused on areas with significant potential for transformative impact. Thus, catalysts like Foundervine must continue to assist these businesses with locating the resources they require to thrive in a volatile market and transform business ideas into reality.

Pekun Bakare

Pekun Bakare

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