Put a search on twitter for Africa and Innovation and you will find a wealth of information on events, new technologies and innovations, and tech hubs in Africa. There will also be a lot of content on inspirational stories of how an innovation changed the life of an individual or how an area was dragged out of poverty because of renewable energy or a new farming innovation. There is so much good news coming out of the continent, but still much of the world is oblivious to Africa’s potential.
We often discuss our passion for African innovation with people we meet and unless they already have a relationship with the continent, or they are involved in an industry that is gaining traction in Africa, such as renewable energy. That Africa is leading the way in mobile money, and providing services and technology that is still in its infancy in other parts of the world seems to utterly surprise a lot of people in Europe and America. It is not just the layman that are clueless about the continent’s potential. Decision makers and potential investors are often still weary to trust that Africa is the real deal.
When they see the news, and Africa is on it, we still have a situation where it is hardly ever good news. The images from the famine in Ethiopia in the 1980’s made famous by Band Aid, linger in the mind of many. If you go to the BBC website today (12/01/2017), you will see stories about Jammeh clinging onto power in Gambia even though he lost the election, Kenya threatening to cut the internet during their election in August (a sensationalist headline), Ghana’s new president plagiarising his inauguration speech and even about an African chimp that is drinking alcohol! Search a little harder and you will find some other stories which are more positive, but the big headlines are not the positive ones.
Right now, you are thinking that this is the case all over the world. Negativity sells papers! That is true, but Africa is trying to rebuild a reputation that has been beaten down over decades, even hundreds of years. The stereotypes of corruption, lack of attention to detail and skilled workers, terrible bureaucracy, and frustrating delays, are discussed at every conference regarding Africa, not only the tech conferences. There is, of course some truth to these stereotypes, they are hurdles, but they can be overcome and when they are overcome, the returns on investment are substantial.
Funding for projects is so difficult to find anywhere in the world. You are competing against other like minded people for a limited pot of money. Hoping that your presentation and innovation will catch the eye of those judging the contest, or looking for investments. With the lack of knowledge or trust regarding African business, young tech startups face an even bigger struggle to gain funding.
This year could be the year where innovation solves this problem. There are already some interesting methods of funding for small businesses in Africa, for example Zidisha, which we wrote about last year. This week also it was announced that The Sun Exchange solar project in South Africa had found an innovative crowdfunding technique to fund almost the entire project. Using bit coin, people from all over the world were able to buy a stake in the project. Because of the low transaction fees of Bitcoin, investors are able to receive a return on their investment for every kilowatt hour produced by their section of the solar plant. It just goes to show, that if Africa needs to innovate in order to find funding, it will!
People need to be shown that Africa is innately innovative!
If you know of an innovative way that African start ups are getting funding, please let us know we would love to feature it. If you would like to be a guest blogger, or have a comment please get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or email, and please also share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.