#VivaTech 2018: African startups solve real problems

By Time of article published May 26, 2018

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INTERNATIONAL -  African startups ‘solving real problems’, but no one is hearing about it, says Startupbootcamp Africa co-founder

Despite the fact that African startups are building tech products that solve real problems, lack of media exposure means that few people outside the continent are aware of how African innovation has grown, Startupbootcamp (SBC) Africa co-founder, and chief investment officer Zachariah George said today.

George was speaking in a discussion on accelerators in Africa held at French tech summit VivaTech. The talk which was moderated by Africa News chief editor Nathalie Wakam also included MEST MD Aaron Fu, and Seedstars chief investment officer Charlie Graham-Brown.

“There is so much interesting fintech, insurtech, AI, and big data. Some beautiful pieces of tech being built every day in Africa, but the story is not making it past our shores,” said George.

“We know that there are entrepreneurs solving problems in electronic health records, in peer-to-peer insurance, in money transfer, in agritech, solving real problems versus building the next 400 dollar juicing company in San Francisco,” he added.

He stressed the importance of holding similar events where, “the African story is told in a public forum”. This after the tech conference this year featured [email protected], an area solely dedicated to showcasing African innovation, for the first time in Viva Tech’s three-year history.

George called on international media organisations to also cover Africa’s tech startup scene.

Caitlin Nash, Managing Partner of www.theloudhailer.org and Africa Innovation reporter at VivaTech commented, “We couldn’t agree more, we are passionate and dedicated to telling the African innovation story and it’s the focus of our business to partner with global media houses an to have a consistent platform for authentic African storytelling.”

“People are doing fantastic things, and no one is hearing about it. Why? Because it’s in the deepest, darkest parts of Africa that no one cares about. I’d like CNN, I’d like BBC, and these big news agencies to start saying we don’t just want smart, sexy stories from the US,” he said, adding that media exposure “is a critical component of selling the African story”.

During the talk, the co-founder of SBC’s first African accelerator revealed that SBC Africa had received 1000 applications for this year’s edition of its Cape Town accelerator programme.

Africa’s tech ecosystem to be ‘successful’ in a decade

Responding to a question on how long it takes for an ecosystem to become successful, Graham-Brown said that was dependent on how many startups were raising Series A funding from venture capitalists (VCs).
“Let’s assume an ecosystem needs 20 VC-backed companies a year. Not many, or I don’t think any, in Africa have reached that yet. But to reach that it’s going to take 10 to 15 years,” he explained, adding that the continent currently does not have “many ecosystems, real initiatives”.


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