The Opportunity in Africa is in Early Stage Venture

I recently gave a talk at Stanford’s Institute of Economic Policy and Research (SIEPR) at a conference titled “Tapping Africa’s Potential – Unlocking the next Frontier of Economic Growth”.

The conference was very well attended – my informal count was over 200 hundred people there for the full day.

The speakers throughout the day discussed various aspects of what is going in Africa-  from the growth story told quite eloquently by Acha Leke of McKinsey, Fred Swaniker on Leadership, to the story on Agriculture by Professor Udry of Yale.

My speech focused primarily on three themes:

1. Mobile technology (not just mobile phones) is bridging the digital divide – the impact of mobile technology to Africa is similar to computing to the West – think of the productivity gains the West got when computers came onto the scene…

2. There are growing technology hubs in Africa – Accra, Lagos, Addis Ababa (surprise surprise), Nairobi, and Cape Town.  It all starts with entrepreneurs…and most distinctive for me is that some of these companies are not just building products for Africa but also for the world, right here on the continent. Next I highlight  three companies I really like and then spend some time talking about what we are doing in Nigeria with Paga. The companies are: Rancard in Ghana, Esoko in Ghana and Nigeria and Apposit in Ethiopia (I left off Ushahidi in my talk  because three other previous speakers had already mentioned it.).  I am, however, a big fan of the Ushahidi team – I think they have single handedly done a lot for building the tech ecosystem in Africa and making clear to the world that world class technology products can come from Africa sans South Africa.

3. There is a lack of early stage venture in Africa – This I posited is the second largest risk to Africa’s growth (the first is the lack of leaders who put the greater good before their personal gain). Many entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas and business plans are not able to source capital for their businesses. It is a shame that majority of high net worth individuals in Africa do not invest in early stage ventures. We need to change that for future generations!

You can view the talk at:

Do you agree with any of the above or better yet, do you disagree? feel free to comment…

One thought on “The Opportunity in Africa is in Early Stage Venture

  1. Nice post there…

    Just found out about Paga from Mfonobong Nsehe’s blog… great initiative you have here. I actually thought about setting up a mobile money transfer in the likes of Kenya’s M-pesa and lo-and -behold, there is an entrepreneur out there that has made it happen.

    Congratulations on launching Paga and setting the trend for the future of tech in Nigeria. Easy and accessible financial payments is the base that many businesses can launch off of. So you are not just doing yourself a service but doing the small-biz eco-system a service too…

    Keep up the good work

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