When Wealthy Africans Deny Funding Tech Startups, Rebecca Enonchong Acts Otherwise

Tech startups

He has always wanted to be rich. He began a tech startup and it was great. But later on he went out of funding and could not get investors. Then his company, Quweza shuts down.  Funding is hard to get in today’s world because Africa’s business gurus don’t feel it’s worth investing in tech startups. However, Rebecca Enonchong sees things differently. Can she do it alone?

In the recent years, multi-million tech startups have emerged as the world continues to embrace technology and globalization. Some inventive minds in the African continent have identified and exploited the opportunities with the increase in the usage of technology. Just why you should love Africans; they are very smart and swift.

tech startups
The rise of tech startups

How many of these start ups actually last?

We all know there is more to building a startup (and having it survive) than simply starting up. Most people fall out of business mainly because they run out of money. It is typical for a startup to look for external funds. But how many persons and / or businesses are interested in investing?

So what is the fate of African tech startups?

Why are wealthy Africans not investing in tech startups in the continent? Is it because technology is new to Africa (of course not), or are they just comfortable in their old ways and find it very risky? There are just so many burning questions that need answers.

Nonetheless, there are still some people out there who believe in the rise of technology in Africa – those trying so hard to find answers to these questions and bring out possible solutions.

Rebecca Enonchong, who unlike other rich people in Africa, has done her possible best to grant funds and direct the path of so many tech startups in Africa. She is a fast rising techpreneur who currently serves as a mentor/adviser to several Africa-based tech startups. This makes her not any kind of woman but a powerful one. She’s a woman whose voice exudes courage and strength.

Rebecca is the founder and CEO of AppsTech and I/O Spaces

tech startups
Rebecca Enonchong, AppsTech Founder and CEO

She is board chair of ActivSpaces (African Center for Technology Innovation and Ventures), a startup incubator in Cameroon. Rebecca has dedicated her life to building up the tech community across Africa. This appears to be a very rare vision almost no one shares.

In that light, Rebecca and others created Activspaces with aims to support the Cameroonian startups. This is to help them grow and transform their ideas into real business. Each year, the tech hub launches the PITCH DAY 237contest. This gives an opportunity to shortlisted candidates to pitch their projects to investors and potential partners.

Winners of the contest receive a follow-up and startup acceleration program called “ACTIVATION BOOTCAMP”. The program is estimated at FCFA 4.6 million, including 1 million FCFA given in cash.

The Activation boot camp includes mentorship, legal advice, help registering as a company, financing, marketing & sales advice, and participation in ActivSpaces Demo day. At the end of the Activation Boot Camp, it is the intent that the startups will achieve success and independence.

Africans (especially the influential ones) have gotten so comfortable with co-depending on the westerners.

They consume everything from technology to health, education, etc. The reality is, western countries are not interested in bettering the lives of poor countries but only interested in profits.

African leaders and influential persons keep selling Africa out to western Trojan investments. This only helps to develop western economies but further under develop Africa in the long run.

Rebecca has spent much of her career promoting technology in Africa

Succeeding as a black woman has not been an undemanding journey for her. Being white (and male) affords you a certain amount of privilege when it comes to funding and other opportunities in Africa.

Tech startup
Rebecca’s keynote address on how tech entrepreneurs are not just shaping the Africa of tomorrow, but also today.

Born to Cameroonian parents, Rebecca in her teens, moved to the US with her family. While studying, she picked up a job selling door-to-door newspaper subscriptions from the age of 15.

Today, she is the founder of so many companies including; Africa Technology Forum, a non-profit dedicated to helping technology startups in Africa, the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), etc.

Africa has been a prey of external domination, exploitation and manipulation for a very long time. Westerners have created a system that will continuously generate disparity in the continent in favor of a few persons.

Neo-colonialism which has already destroyed Africa’s political landscape is now slowly gnawing into the technology sector.

There’s everything to belief that most tech startups that attract investors in Africa are either the ones co-founded by whites or have whites on their boards. The other startups struggle until most of them finally die a natural death. Some founders end up taking new jobs, give up on their dreams because of no money and nothing to show forth.

Take a look at some tech start ups that are blazing the trail in Africa. They have whites on their team and have registered astounding achievements. They are nothing like other startups compared to how successful they have become. Let’s consider some examples to better clarify this observation.

Andela, a social venture training Africans to be world class developers raised $24 Million from the Chan Zuckerberg Fund in 2016. Recently, it secured $40 million in a Series C funding led by the pan-African firm, CRE Venture Capital.

Tech startup
Andela engineers at work

They are also one of the notable solutions to bridging the tech talent gap in the country. Surprisingly, they have developers who work chiefly for foreign clients because they get more pay from them.

Nairobi based e-logistics platform, Lori Systems gained recognition as the “Sub-Saharan Africa’s Most Promising Startup” this year. They also won the productivity and utility category. Among 15 startups, they emerged the winner of the inaugural TechCrunch Battlefield Africa in Nairobi, winning US $25,000 in equity-free funding. Also, they won an all-expense paid trip for two to compete in the Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt SF 2018.

Tech Startups
Lori Systems wins Best of Show at Startup Battlefield Africa

Despite the fact that this competition landed Lori on a great lane, many still doubt her win  and think they did not deserve it and that their play was not fair either.

Another example is the African mobile entertainment and internet TV pioneer, iROKO. In the past years, the company has gained multiple deals amounting $19M, both in content development and in capital funding. French media giant CANAL+, together with existing investor Kinnevik AB, are investing in them. Also Jacques du Puy, President of Canal+ Overseas joined the iROKO board and this can only mean more funding and growth for the company.

TEch startups
irokotv is a web platform that provides paid-for Nigerian films on-demand.

While some individuals selfishly lavish in the success created by their white bosses / investors, others become victims to the circumstance.

Others like Iyin Aboyeji were excluded by foreign media from the list of founders of Andela when they announced the $24 million win. This act fueled his decision to leave the company to start his own. Meanwhile, all facts dating back irrefutably indicate that Andela was Iyin’s baby weaned from an already existing platform – Fora.

tech startup
Iyin Aboyeji

Sadly, Iyin was a casualty of western exploitation. Good thing is, he started his own tech company called flutterwave, and it’s doing so well. He is a young African visionary who is just starting in his journey to conquer the world with technology. Amazing how victims always emerge victorious at the end!

Interestingly, Ben Mmari (co-founder of Quweza) lost his company due to lack of funding. “I knew I was going to be filthy rich. Things started off great with a multi-faceted team. Sooner or later there was a huge market gap but then no money to overcome it. We tried all we could but to no avail. Quweza shuts down, we failed. But we did not go down without a fight”. These are the throbbing words of Ben as he mourned his company. But one thing is for sure, Africans are fighters. He never gave up. He learnt his lessons and moved on.

There are several Investment companies in Africa that have actually funded tech startups

Savannah Fund, a Kenyan seed capital fund specializing in US $25,000 – $500,000 investments in early stage high-growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa.

But the fact remains, unlike the Europeans who invest billions, the Africans only invest with small amount of money. Basically they can do more than their usual $25, 000 investments.

So why not do it?

What Africans don’t know is that Neo-colonialism is very sophisticated and deadly. It includes mind control, trade control, technology control, control of international business terms. This has led to a depleting imbalance in the African continent.

A day in Africa is just classically peaceful – a bright sky, colorful day, silent wind. With such start of the day, inhabitants express joy and happiness as they step out to begin their activities. From the woman selling food at the roadside, to the man in the office, there is so much solidarity. The kind of Beauty that cultural imperialism is trying to rip away from Africa.

tech startups
The African atmosphere ( Peaceful)

Perhaps startups in Africa will do much better if the likes of Rebecca Enonchong (rich people in Africa) start investing more in them.

It will also help them to stop depending on foreign aid.

Truth is, Rebecca’s good works don’t stem from the fact that she has too much money. She is concerned and interested in developing Africa, a mentality that every individual in this continent should have.

When men like Aliko Dangote (one of Africa’s richest men) starts saying things like; it makes no sense investing in tech startups because he’s not sure of their competence and their delivery status, that really hurts.

It is really painful that young people will dedicate their lives to studying technology in order to contribute to their nation’s growth but can’t have any support from their citizens. That’s unfair. There’s literally nothing in the world right now that doesn’t need technology for it to expand.

tech startups
A work session with Andela’s techies

Every day we  repeatedly ask these questions; when will Africa ever stop being co-dependent on the western countries and learn to do things on their own?

There are so many stuff the western people don’t want Africans to know, especially in science and technology. They always want to be at the feeding end. They are ready to give us everything but one thing is sure, they will never tell us how to manufacture them. This is called technological slavery.

If care is not taken the same damages neo-colonialism has caused on the political structure of Africa, will happen in the entrepreneurship and business structure of the continent.

However, it is not that late for the young go-getting African who wants to raise investment, become a president or achieve any career in its highest heights to dream again. Accepting neo-colonialism is not the only way for an individual to succeed in Africa. Although doing it on your own may involve blood, sweat and tears but it is worth it.

Selfishly leaning on western aid and causing pain to fellow Africans is definitely the kind of guilt you don’t want to live with.

tech startups
African Techies busy at work.

There is a great pool of talent on the African continent. Unfortunately, access to funding and mentorship is still lacking. Worse still, the continent’s wealthiest entrepreneurs are not helping matters either. With techies like Rebecca Enonchong, it’s possible for the next Facebook or Google (even something different and bigger) to come from Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply