Picture this: Mindless scrolling is a thing. It’s the new generation plague. A canker spread on cellular connectivity and an incessant smartphone market. Anyone can be infected nowadays, and within days join the masses in the craziness hidden behind glass slabs.
So when I found an ad on Instagram asking anyone and theirselves if they’d like to be considered for media slots at Tech in Ghana, coupled with the fact that my partner sent over the same registration link a few hours afterwards with the comment, ‘I believe this is something you’ll love to attend”, how could I refuse?
Two Hours and a Heartfelt Presentation
I had put NoMonkeyTales up as a new media company uncovering truthful narratives in Africa, so this event proved to align with the vision of this Editorial.
For one thing, the event was intended to be a two day showing; with an exhibition, and a speaking lineup of some of the biggest and best in the industry, at the Accra Digital Centre.
I arrived on Day 2 and a bit too late. Just meeting the last session of talks with two hours to go. The first was by Farmerline’s Alloysius Attah, who gave a fascinating description of what it meant to be an entrepreneur in Africa, and how anything can be birthed from a place of strength if we borrowed lessons from history. It was a mix of motivation and heart, aptly titled “Looking Back to Move Forward”. A rare listen in this kind of space, yet resonating with the mostly expatriate audience who acknowledged the candidness of his delivery.
Yet for me, it was the panel discussion that followed that struck a cord, and topped off my day. Whoever assembled the team needs an award in people curation. That batch of panelists knew their stuff. They combined experience and expertise in a way I’d not heard before. There was one fellow from Moove, another two founders, a VC and an Equity partner.
Of everything discussed, here’s a summary of the top hitters. The points that got me taking notes:
Africa is lagging behind in access to funding, although awareness is increasing and investors are currently looking this way.
There’s a big difference in Private Equity and Venture Capital. Entrepreneurs should be clear very early on with which way they lean, and how much of their company they are willing to give away.
Trying to get past early stage, that is having paying customers and an MVP is a startups greatest strength, even if this is on a small scale. Investors need to see cashflows.
The biggest recipients for funding in Africa continue to be Fintech startups, which secured over 90% of all VC monies in 2022.
Moove is on its way to becoming one of Africa’s first unicorns in the mobility provider space. Their growth has been phenomenal, and have recently spread into the UAE and Europe.
The biggest hotspots for startups to thrive in Africa have consistently; since the boom, been Lagos, Nairobi, Cairo, and Johannesburg. This needs to change. I’d personally like to see more African cities embrace this.
The Francophone market should not be ignored. The influence of the Silicon Valley, steals the spotlight from other language demographics. But as AfriDigest occasionally reports, the region is blossoming steadily.
Madica is doing an exceptional job of building a program for pre-seed startups to receive funding and the incubation/assistance needed to grow. Think of them as a small YC.
Startups in Africa, and I daresay, the successful ones, continue to have an image of what founders and co-founders should like; male, based in the cities mentioned earlier, schooled abroad, carry a slight accent, and often times with means. The belief that this image needed to change was a shared sentiment.
Shirley Somuahof Africa Private Equity stole the show with her in-depth knowledge of the private equity lending markets, and venture funding terrain. She expressed deep considerations for what growth stage companies faced in their expansion work. Her communication was stellar.
The Future is Tech?
The second half of my time was at the Exhibitions, and I can rant about how small the exhibition hall, and how very few exhibitors were present, but the organisers probably know this, because they had a healthy mix of showcases.
I saw Gaming tech, Venture capital support, Startups of every kind, and a slew of other resources. It was an eye-opener to many innovations happening in Ghana that you’d rarely discover in your everyday.
This is a Ghana government-led institution that has been in existence since 2017, and is based at the Accra Digital Centre.
The exhibition attendant at their stand explained that it was started by the presidency at the time to lead the development of technology ecosystems that would bring together startups, infrastructure and resources for the promotion of ICT tech and education in the country.
Up till that event, it was the first I was hearing of them - something I made known to them. She was quick to retort that anyone within the Ghana startup ecosystem who had sought funding at any point in time, would certainly have crossed paths with them.
She further explained that they offered numerous services for startups, including:
Digital Skills Development: providing training (with a host of partners) for digital skills capacity building in youth people
Technology Events: organising exhibitions (like what we had attended), hackathons, and bootcamps for under-represented groups, and tertiary students around the country.
Technology Entrepreneurship: providing incubation for innovative and specially selected startups, especially by providing product and business development.
Startup Funding: they have an established fund with investment capital for startups and SMEs. We could all benefit from this.
I am frantically obtuse to the sluggish motions of tech in this part of the world, that seems to dictate our progress as a people. Of a certainly, the embers of growth cannot be hedged, if it burns, there’s a smoke somewhere, and Africa’s yet to even spark.
I understand that not all of Africa is at the same altitude, and the differences though steep are not although startling. Take Lagos and Accra for instance, there’s more that binds these two cities beyond Afrobeats, and jollof rice, but tech is not one of them.
For me as a writer, it’s rewarding when you receive stories that allow you to grow roots of research, joining one angle to another, till the full picture is revealed, and that can take time. So no rush to the Ghana tech scene, I have the patience to wait for you, and who knows if Denim Sandwich may well become Africa’s next unicorn?
Immense gratitude to Flora (media operations, TiG), and her team for having me!