A few weeks ago,we wrote about Clinton Mutambo, a Zimbabwean tech startup entrepreneur who had made it to the Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list because of the work he’s doing with his B2B platform Esaja.com
Now Esaja has been selected as one of four African tech startups to be co-opted into the think Accelerated Program. think is an incubator based in Kigali Rwanda and it offers programs for talented tech entrepreneurs, particularly from digital companies. It is powered by Millicom, a Scandinavian telecoms operator with extensive interest in global markets including parts of Africa. It operates as Tigo.
Traditionally think offers this as a 6 month program, but it has now introduced the Accelerated program as a more intensive 3 month course which will be targeted at entrepreneurs keen on a quick return to their home countries.
Esaja joins Asuqu from Nigeria (an online market for freelance services), SafeMotos from Rwanda (an “Uber” style service for motor taxis in Rwanda) and Team Tigo (a cohort of staff from the Rwandan mobile network operator Tigo. These are “intrapreneurs” from the MNO’s commercial, marketing and IT departments) Tigo’s involvement in this program stems from the investment it has made to the incubator.
Through initiatives like the think incubator a strong trend towards mobile network operators’ investment in tech startup ecosystems is becoming even more apparent.
In 2014 not only was think launched, but there was Orange’s launch of an incubator in Niger. MTN pledged $400 million towards a partnership with Millicom and Rocket Internet which led to the formation of African Internet Holdings (AIH). This is the vehicle which has been powering into African countries with different clone startups and it’s even shown up in Zimbabwe through startups like Lamudi and plans for Carmudi.
Kenya’s Safaricom set up a venture fund and has even started co-opting startup solutions onto its network while Nigeria’s Airtel also launched its Catapult-a-Startup platform.
These are signs of steps being taken to prepare for the next wave in telecoms and internet opportunities. It’s no longer just a discussion on infrastructure roll-out but how this will be harnessed profitably. These startups represent the enterprises which will take advantage of the broadband investment to provide services that will generate the revenue streams of the future.