“African entrepreneurs are the ones driving the charge of putting Africa on the global map. They are extremely responsible and extremely proactive. We must prioritise them.” -Somachi Chris-Asoluka, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The economic development of a nation is accelerated when the government steps in with well-thought-out plans, policies and interventions. More often, governments can access the finance needed to provide key infrastructure. This makes economies where the government has provided basic infrastructure like communication and transportation, sewage, water, education, healthcare, clean drinking water, and monetary systems perform better than those lacking it. In such places, innovations are not built around infrastructure but towards solving customers’ immediate needs. Therefore, poor infrastructure remains the dilemma of many emerging economies in Africa.
“Outside of key markets, there is still a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built in financial services across Africa. In the African tech space, we still have a lot of financial infrastructure to be built, not just financial inclusion or mobile money. Infrastructure in payment, in crossborder and managing FX and it’s such a critical layer for all other businesses to emerge,” said Ory Okolloh, Partner at Verod Kepple Africa Venture, during a panel session, on the 3rd day of the VivaTech Conference. “In places like North Africa and Francophone Africa, mobile money penetration is less than 20%, the under-banked population is huge and cash is king.”
In many emerging economies in Africa, entrepreneurs – especially women- including those in the startup ecosystem, are rising to the challenge to create unique solutions amid limited funding. During the panel session at the VivaTech conference titled Start-up Ecosystem: Taking the Pulse in Africa, Ory Okolloh and Somachi Chris-Asoluka, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation noted that African entrepreneurs, especially tech startups, are rising to the challenges of the continent to build sustainable solutions amid limited resources and poor government aid.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities around consumer tech across all income levels and particularly with women. If you look at the spend on beauty, on hair and weddings in Africa, it is significant.” -Ory Okolloh, Partner at Verod Kepple Africa Venture.
Gone are the days when people waited for the government to provide intervention, entrepreneurs are now leading the charge in their communities. “African entrepreneurs are no longer waiting for their governments to create jobs. They are the ones creating jobs and fighting poverty across the continent,” said Chris-Asoluka.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught these changemakers, especially women, to innovate and think outside the box to fend for their families, earn a living and meet the needs of their communities. As much as these economic champions remain resilient amid limited resources, African governments should prioritise the entrepreneurial economy. “At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we advocate very strongly to governments across the continent to prioritise young African entrepreneurs. They are the ones creating jobs and creating wealth,” Chris-Asoluka added.
Since the growth of the African tech economy in post-pandemic times, the continent has recorded the death of some funded startups. One key reason they failed was that their solutions were not what consumers were willing to pay for, even though they were good. But founders now understand that it is the consumers that determine what a solution is.
There is still a lot of untapped potential in the African market, especially in the consumer segments. While some startups provide infrastructure-based solutions, there is a need for more African entrepreneurs to look inwards to provide solutions around various consumer segments. “African startups have not fully tapped into where women spend and have not digitised that. At Verod, we are very excited to be trying to uncover opportunities around the female consumer in particular,” Okolloh continued.