Successes in startups have always been the stuff of fantasies. Seemingly simple ideas that are meant to solve some basic problems have turned some people into seriously wealthy individuals. This has been the trend at least in more advanced tech ecosystems such as the famed Silicon Valley.
The formula has been used by startups from other parts of the world, and more recently with China’s Alibaba. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s listing in The USA has given credence to the fact that economic competitiveness is now a truly global thing.
China, a developing country that has led the wave of a new economic front focused on emerging economies, has by all accounts arrived with successes like Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba.
Of course the argument that Chinese businesses and startups likewise benefit from its huge population and expanding middle class is fair. It’s interesting to imagine what sort of an impact an African startup can have if it were to come up with a product or service that can be adopted across the entire continent.
So why isn’t this happening with African tech startups? Why haven’t we seen African tech firms, started on the continent with a focus on solving the numerous problems we have here getting snapped up for huge figures or being valued as such? As a continent we have already established ourselves as an investment centre since all eyes are on Africa’s growth potential and untapped opportunities.
The truth is the level of engagement and investment in African tech has already started. Some notable successes that have gained a global audience include Konga, MXit and iROKO Partners. Each of these successes has managed to offer a service that has appeal to a large audience and in the case of Mxit and iROKO, one that stretches beyond national boundaries. This is one factor that any startup harbouring multinational ambitions should consider.
Is there any hope that this sort of success will come from Zimbabwe any time soon? Judging from the attention gained by some tech startups and the ideas that have turned into runaway successes it would seem so. If opportunities like DEMO Africa are harnessed it would also seem likely that a good, bankable idea with the right impact can get the right attention, investment or partnership.
DEMO Africa which give startups from all over the continent a chance to showcase their products and services to potential investors and business partners. The DEMO Africa Tour that was held at Hypercube Hub offered participants a chance to gain a better understanding of the requirements to participate on the continental platform that gives startups a chance to present their ideas to potential investors and business partners.
We had a quick chat with the speaker at the DEMO Africa Tour, Ali Hussein Kassim. The Kenyan business consultant is a board member of LIONS Africa, the initiative behind the DEMO Africa and he’s had the opportunity to engage with several startups across the entire continent.
Kassim believes that Africa, Zimbabwe included, is at a prime moment to have its own success stories judging from the progress being made by the various tech ecosystems. He also highlighted that the focus on Africa as an investment centre is a good indicator that whatever huge successes we anticipate are already on the way. He referenced Nigeria’s e-commerce successes which have included Jumia and Konga that have raised $61 million and $63.5 million respectively.
In the same line of conversation Kassim pointed out that Africa needs to take advantage of learning institutions as centres of innovation and entrepreneurship. This approach which has been a huge contributor in the success case of countries like the USA, Israel and India is absent across Africa and might be one way Zimbabwe can strengthen its fledgling ecosystem.
Multi sector support is also key to enabling the flourish of bankable ideas. This is one advantage Kenya, a tech success in many ways, has managed to capitalise on to strengthen its techpreneurial pursuits.
Kassim noted that this did not happen overnight and Zimbabwe would also get to that stage, noting that an element of patience would also be necessary. He also pointed out that this patience should also be extended to local tech hubs that are still in a period growth of development.
The truth is as a continent we are probably as ready as we’ll ever be. The only drawback, at least for local techies, is the development of innovative, scalable ideas that have the ability to offer solutions to people in more than one geographical setting.