Pundits argue that Africa is the next big thing, with a myriad of challenges that reek of opportunity just waiting to be exploited. The buzz has been on everything from commodities to technology with millions of dollars invested, mostly in the former; understandably so because it is an obvious path underpinned by Africa’s growing population.
What about technology? Over the past five years, from a mix of experiences spanning global technology meccas and emerging hubs across Africa, first as a participant from a win at Pivot25 – a local technology showcase to an enabler as DemoAfrica’s event director, I can say that there is still a huge knowledge gap that exists in the African opportunity.
A recent visit to the valley by the chair of my advisory board cemented this fact. Visits and conversations with the more visible technology firms that have in my own opinion huge patronage from African consumers, still inclined on “you are not big enough” and here is our data – with stunning visuals giving a real-time global heartbeat of their services to back it up.
Investors sitting outside the continent are green on the numbers that would feed their opportunity matrix and none feel sufficiently compelled to make inroads as themselves save for afew, from Europe. Most are adopting a let’s wait and see approach. Three interactions with private equity firms talking to our curated set of startups from Africa got me thinking that we must rationalize our deals, since we seem to feed the small deal size notion at least for those who opt to take the hunt for capital outside Africa.
Drinking our own afropositive coolaid, I dare say that we are the ones we have been waiting for. The lack of visibility and poor deal pipelines gives owners or trustees of capital domiciled in Africa, the unique opportunity to seek out and invest in technology enabled businesses before the gold rush picks up. Pan African angel investor networks can give much needed runway with local private equity firms latching on for the next stages of growth, completing the innovation ecosystem.
We don’t need to light up on anyone’s dashboards but our own and we have the numbers to make this happen.