In celebration of Africa Month, the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance gathered Harambeans who have played a significant role in the landmark achievements within the African entrepreneurial ecosystem – as both entrepreneurs and investors to celebrate the successes in shaping the ecosystem as well as delve into their perspectives on the evolution of the African ecosystem.
This reflection by the African continent’s most innovative pioneers and leaders unpacks the significance of the milestones in the broader ecosystem, and how the current momentum can be leveraged to make the ecosystem more robust and to ensure more opportunities for capital and acquisitions.
The vision of young Africans to propel the continent
Maya Horgan Famodu founded Ingressive Capital, a $10 Million venture fund focused on early-stage African tech. Ingressive Capital worked with over 50 venture firms and tech companies seeking to enter and operate in Sub-Saharan Africa. Famodu was one of the first investors of Paystack which was recently acquired by Stripe for $200 Million.
She noted that acquisitions such as Stripe is a validator for the ecosystem and this business acumen can inspire the next generation of talent and be the much-needed signal for investors to get on-board to grow and support African entrepreneurship.
She reflects on how the vision and ideas of young African people who had the belief of what the future of the African continent could look like, propelled the entrepreneurship ecosystem to what it is today. “The growth of the tech ecosystem is attributed to the influential international investors who saw the potential and took a chance on Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and South Africa by allowing entrepreneurs from these countries to be storytellers and ambassadors of the continent,” notes Famodu. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are key drivers of economic activity on the continent. When a market opportunity presents itself and when an industry emerges, Africa needs its youth population to pioneer innovation on the continent.
To ensure the growth of the venture capital dollar entering the ecosystem, the continued promotion and engagement of international technology companies and firms is crucial, to be able to share the stories that will engage strategic international technology companies that are acquiring African assets. These stories start with a conversation, a tweet, an outreach email or a drink at a conference to enable growth.
The velocity of the African ecosystem can be sustained
Iyin Aboyeji Founder of Future Africa and Co-founder of Andela and Flutterwave which recently raised $170 Million and is valued at $1 Billion. He has spent the last few years as the Managing Director of Flutterwave, a business building payments technology and infrastructure to connect Africa to the global economy. He is passionate about recycling the knowledge he gathered starting Andela and Flutterwave that, if shared, will enable other companies to fully participate in the ecosystem and start building solid foundations. He explains how the ecosystem is thriving and that the biggest cost when it comes to building a business on the continent, particularly in the innovation space is talent and that in the next few years, it will be difficult to retain African talent. “Before the pandemic, energy and space was the most expensive cost for entrepreneurs, this has now shifted to talent, there is an ecosystem need to centralise the infrastructure to lower the cost of talent,” says Aboyeji.
Pardon Makumbe is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of CRE Venture Capital. One of the major investors in Andela and Flutterwave. Makumbe notes that five years ago, Flutterwave did not exist and today the company is a unicorn. “For a long time, Africa was cut out of capital flows such as this and therefore I hope this is not a one-time thing.” Makumbe further highlighted how an ecosystem can be sustained through elements such as talent that includes founders and entrepreneurs who can execute various parts of the venture such as building technology, operations, general management, securing capital and developing infrastructure.
Unleashing the talent of the people is critical as a continent
Idris Bello is the Founding Partner at Loftyinc Capital Management, an innovative platform based in Nigeria that successfully accelerated the launch of several technology start-ups in social impact sectors. According to Bello, Africa is ripe with opportunities for entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. He focused on the velocity of growth and collaboration in business in Africa. “People decide to come back to the continent as investors or as an entrepreneur. While it’s more evident today, 10 years ago it wasn’t always this evident,” says Bello. He commends the speed of growth of African companies such as Flutterwave, achieving unicorn status.
Okendo Lewis Gayle, Chairman and Founder of Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance explains, “Entrepreneurs across Africa have created engaging ecosystems that are building Africa’s future. These market-creating innovators are creating global relevance for the continent by serving the underserved. We are reminded that something new is afloat, and that a small group of individuals can make strides in a thriving African ecosystem.”
The most prolific entrepreneurs on the African continent are catalysts for change who will preserve the African narrative by developing high impact ventures that will leave a lasting social and economic impact.