The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa

Africa-rising-Time-magazineAfrica is slowly driven into the worldwide Startup mania. The new way to be cool for young people and graduates is to start or join a startup. Accelerators are sprouting around the continent, and some investors have opened operations in Africa. Wired Magazine wrote “Want to Become an internet billionaire? Move to Africa“. Forbes echoed the story in its post, “Africa Could Make You an Internet Billionaire,” saying, “More than ever before, this is the best time for venture capitalists and Y Combinator-type incubators to set up shop in Africa, scout for internet deals and invest in budding African internet companies that’ll lead the future.”

Everyone seems excited about this development, but there are some cautionary-tales to be laid down here:

1. Solving the 1% problems

Most of these startups are about web or mobile applications: social network, web rings or directories, online music or video streaming platforms, online job or news portal, etc. With the notable exception of the mobile payment startups which are focused on solving real local banking problems, most of these startups only address  the needs of the happy few, 1% population in Africa, who have access to Internet or could afford mobile Internet services. This population is not even 1% of African vast population which main concerns are more related to food, energy supply, agriculture, education, health, transportation, Water and sanitation. These are the areas where we need the few engineers, designers, architects, managers the continent train to focus their attention (Not into another social network or web/mobile application.)

If these young people want to work for Africa development, they should otherwise focus their creative mind and energy on creating Food processing or conservation startups, energy distribution research project, water purification devices, new methods for mass education, African languages revival and adoption initiatives, etc. We need captain of industries, innovators, managers addressing the big problems, not another web app or mobile game.

1. Diverting our best human resources into solving non-critical problems

Africa trains very few mathematicians, engineers, managers and designers every year. A good part of these people are trained locally and another good part trained in foreign universities.

The booms of the silicon Valley driven startup mania focused on web/mobile app development will be a good only if it doesn’t divert the few intellectual resources we have from the big problems of the continent.

If you take the case of African public administration, they have hard time competing for talent with big international corporations, international development agencies, banks, ad agencies. Most public administration can’t recruit the best managers (who all work for foreign corporations or institutions). Most hospitals can’t recruit the best doctors (who go to work for World health organization, or Medecin Sans Frontières, or other foreign-driven project). Most schools and universities can’t recruit the best teachers (who all go to teach for British school, American university, or work for some private consulting firm).

The boom of startup mania just add to the talent burden that is already severe in Africa regarding their availability and organization to address the continent big problems.

3. Externally driven incentive and governance

During colonial times, african farmers received incentive to grow cotton, coffee, and cacao, because it was what the colonial powers needed, while growing for example cherry, truffle or vine would have been much more profitable for local farmers.

The same goes for the African education model, which steered studies and curricula in African schools and Universities only toward the agenda of the colonial powers.

We might fear the same with this boom of entrepreneurship where in most cases, the operations are in the hands of foreign people. Most of the accelerators, incubators are funded by foreign investors and most entrepreneurs forums and platforms are run by foreign people but African people in second role.

Nothing is bad about foreigners investing in African economy, however past experience should push us to be careful not to repeat the same errors.

4. The naivety of most these first time entrepreneurs

Most of these startups founders are first time entrepreneurs and have never heard terms like “participation rights”, “liquidation preference” or “conversion rights”.

As in Silicon Valley, it’s easy to use entrepreneurs enthusiasm and untamed optimism against them. There is no local experience or expertise dealing with investors and the ethics patterns that might prevail now in the Silicon valley might easily be forgotten when operating so far away, in Africa.

Additional to the high failure rate of IT/web Startup, even in case of success most of these startup founders will just end up with almost nothing, because of the contracts they signed with their currents investors.

5. The Cultural gap and disconnect

The startup-mania culture comes from America, therefore inherits a lot from the leadership style that is the most popular there: “showmanship”, cult of personality, personal branding, over-hyping, etc.

This “arrogant”, personal aggrandizement style will do nothing good for Africa, but will further distance our young people from their root culture which leadership style is more based on humility or servant-ship.

Our young people need to stay connected to their local culture and values, not to be distanced from the communities and nations they want to serve and work for.

Conclusion:

My tone is quite edgy in this article, and it might sound like I’m making my point too strongly here, however my duty is to warn my fellow African tech people of the dangers of our over-enthusiasm.

 

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About Mawuna KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background. He is the Editior of SiliconAfrica.com, Founder of Goodbuzz.net, and Social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, you can reach him directly by emailing at mk@linkcrafter.com.

25 Responses to “The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa”

  1. Mr. Majani

    I agree with the premise of this article, but the way you have put it shows me you haven’t done much research.

    Take for example point number 1 about solving problems for the 1%. Research shows that internet penetration in rural Africa stands at about 2%. That is why apps and websites are targeted for city dwellers.

    On the point about solving non-critical problems: research has shown that Africans’ main reason for browsing the web is entertainment. Business is a simple game of supply and demand. That is why apps and websites are solving non-critical problems.

    On point number 3 about foreign investors: This point was clearly flaming in search of a reaction. I will not give you the satisfaction.

    Otherwise I agree about the naivete and cultural gap.

    Reply
  2. mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

    About Internet penetration in Africa, you can read a wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Africa
    Here is an excerpt that shows the harsh reality “Internet access is also irregularly distributed, with 2/3 of overall online activity in Africa being generated in South Africa (which, on the other hand, only accounts for 5% of the continent’s population).[7] Most of the remaining 1/3 is in Morocco and Egypt.[3] The largest percentage of Internet subscribers are found in small economies such as Seychelles, where as much as 37% of the population has Internet access (while in South Africa this value is 11% and in Egypt it is 8%).[3]

    About point 3, as your startup is funded by 88mph Seed Fund, you better not have a public opinion on this topic here (clearly not because the subject is flaming and I’m desperate of reaction 🙂 we understand each other)

    Reply
  3. Majocci

    This is drivel finely mixed up with a few truths.

    Entrepreneurs are a subset of Professionals or Graduates and they are typically an insignificant number compared to large populations of Graduates from which african societies can draw workers. If you look at the Total Entrepreneurial Activity Index, the number of people engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity in many african countries has never been more that 10% and that is a number too low to justify your concerns.

    The parochial fascination with African styles of leadership only reveals your Personal preferences, Business leadership can take many forms and there is no reason it should always be a style or approach you like.

    It is one thing to embrace a particular approach towards leadership and quite another to beleave in one approach for reasons of cultural preference. Entrepreneurs are pragmatic and they will try whatever they think will work, we have to allow them to try.

    The Point you make about Culture is equally nonsensical, Culture is merely a medium of shared beliefs, customs, practices and social behaviour, It does not define who we are nor does it serve as our religion.

    When new ways of doing new things come along we have to embrace them because there may create change and markets and that will lead to new opportunities.

    Finally, I want to say, that this trend is the best chance for african development. Entrepreneurs create firms with the intention of realising a particular vision of the future, when they succed, Society is always a little better off, and it really does not matter what they don’t know because that creates a set of opportunities for other entrepreneurs.

    If you are really interested in Africa’s Development, perhaps you should start a training firm or a Business school and teach this entrepreneurs what you feel they do not understand.

    Reply
    • _breezy_

      @Majocci, you are right – what Mawuna has written here is mostly untrue and baseless.

      What is the big big risk in trying something and not succeeding? You survive to try again and are even smarter (most times).

      Why not study software engineering – even if you cannot succeed in business, aren’t still a more productive and contributing member of society?

      Lastly, this is not a zero-sum game. Cool games can help educate. They can help generate employment. Entertainment is not a waste – it is a business with lots of revenue? Should we also throw away sports?

      Muwana, rather than WARN others what not to do, why not ENCOURAGE them about things to try? That is the input I can share with you for now.

      Reply
      • mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

        @_breezy_

        @Majocci, you are right – what Mawuna has written here is mostly untrue and baseless.

        Don’t be so hard on me 🙂

        Lastly, this is not a zero-sum game. Cool games can help educate. They can help generate employment. Entertainment is not a waste – it is a business with lots of revenue? Should we also throw away sports?


        Sport is the best example ever to illustrate my point.
        Thanks for pointing it out. It’s almost a century now that black people continue to show the word that we are capable and successful. What good does this proof did for Africa or black people in general? No big difference. Racism still is very high against black every where in Europe and America. Did that success translate into any economical success for those countries? NO. When something is not critical, it’ll stay as such even if you are successful at it. IN contrary, Look China, after they got the critical things done first, winning olympics medals is a welcome bonus. Look France, they hire black people to win the medals for them in the Olympics and in football!

        Muwana, rather than WARN others what not to do, why not ENCOURAGE them about things to try? That is the input I can share with you for now.

        This blog is for both. I feature a lot of startups here. I encourage them. I will continue in that direction.

        Reply
    • mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

      @Majocci

      Entrepreneurs are a subset of Professionals or Graduates and they are typically an insignificant number compared to large populations of Graduates from which african societies can draw workers. If you look at the Total Entrepreneurial Activity Index, the number of people engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity in many african countries has never been more that 10% and that is a number too low to justify your concerns.

      If entrepreneurs are the ones that design and create the future, then the percentage is no what is important, but what they are working on. it’s like leadership, it needs to be focused on what is critical first.

      The parochial fascination with African styles of leadership only reveals your Personal preferences, Business leadership can take many forms and there is no reason it should always be a style or approach you like.

      It is one thing to embrace a particular approach towards leadership and quite another to beleave in one approach for reasons of cultural preference. Entrepreneurs are pragmatic and they will try whatever they think will work, we have to allow them to try.

      Chinese, Japenese, German, Turkey, Dubai or French didn’t change their subculture to become “modern” societies. Look, Chinese leaders, they don’t imitate Sarkozy showmanship style to feel modern, or try to make impressive speech like Barack Obama to feel important!
      If you think there are superior culture to others, so you are free to copy from culture you think they are superior. As a word of wisdom, a leadership style that disconnects you from your people and only make you likeable by foreign will not help you lead your people into the right direction.

      Finally, I want to say, that this trend is the best chance for african development. Entrepreneurs create firms with the intention of realising a particular vision of the future, when they succed, Society is always a little better off, and it really does not matter what they don’t know because that creates a set of opportunities for other entrepreneurs.

      I agree with you. we just need to focus it on the right things, not solely on things we think are nice and trendy. You need energy, food, infrastructure, heath care to be an IT entrepreneur.

      Reply
  4. Victor Osaretinvbeniyaghagha Asemota II

    “The startup-mania culture comes from America, therefore inherits a lot from the leadership style that is the most popular there: “showmanship”, cult of personality, personal branding, over-hyping, etc.”….

    I agree with you and I think we are on to something here as we have now started waking up to see that “The Emperor has no clothes”.

    I wrote a post earlier on how the narratives should change and it can be found here: http://asemota.posterous.com/the-african-startup-ecosystem-narrative

    Reply
  5. _breezy_

    Muwana,

    What is your perspective on the following:

    1. Building for the 1%
    * don’t all business build for customers willing to pay? Does m-pesa cater to the 1% only? Is it not successful? how many other mobile money solutions are following it regionally? globally?

    2. human resources solving non-critical issues
    * Do you think you can force someone to study the subject you choose and work on the problem you choose? For how long? If it beneficial, however to solve a problem, private businesses do not need prodding from govt – look at pharmaceuticals. There is a balance, but you cannot stop a young person who wants to study computer science from doing so and force them to go into agriculture instead. Government policy can instead incentivize private investment in agriculture. Don’t you agree?

    3. externally driven incentive and governance
    * it seemed to work well for Singapore. Maybe it is govt inefficiency that is the biggest problem, and not foreign investment in our societies. And if you still don’t like that, then what about what export has done for China’s economy? And Japan’s? And Germany’s? They export to the world and are rich for it.

    4. naivete of first-time entrepreneurs
    * newsflash: this is a universal phenomenon. No one was born knowing how to run a multi-national corp. We learn. We learn by trying, failing, and trying again. Being naive is not a crime.

    5. Cultural gap and disconnect
    * What do you mean here? That you are afraid that african entrepreneurs will imitate american business culture? american business culture is very successful – not the things you read about often but the true culture all across the u.s. is phenomenal. henry ford? wright brothers? alexander bell? howard hughes? they all invented and did business. are they not good examples to follow?

    Your article is at best ignorant.

    Reply
    • mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

      1. Building for the 1%
      * don’t all business build for customers willing to pay? Does m-pesa cater to the 1% only? Is it not successful? how many other mobile money solutions are following it regionally? globally?

      My point here is not to dismiss our success stories. The point is that the 99% needs our attention as entrepreneurs. Diverting our most creative minds from the biggest problems is not the way to go.
      For me, the best entrepreneurs are the ones that first serve the community in which they live, then expand what they do to other communities or nations. Happiness comes from the satisfaction you get when you can meet and have a drink with people using your product or service.

      2. human resources solving non-critical issues
      * Do you think you can force someone to study the subject you choose and work on the problem you choose? For how long? If it beneficial, however to solve a problem, private businesses do not need prodding from govt – look at pharmaceuticals. There is a balance, but you cannot stop a young person who wants to study computer science from doing so and force them to go into agriculture instead. Government policy can instead incentivize private investment in agriculture. Don’t you agree?

      People react to incentives. I agree with you that it’s the responsibility of government to provide the right incentives to steer people into the most beneficial things for their nation. Now the incentives are coming from abroad, which means we are working on agenda set by other people which is to serve the 1% who can pay or has money, and forget the 99%, because they are here to make money, nothing else. the 99% is your uncle or aunt in the village who can’t afford health care, it’s your mom who don’t have a smarthphone, your uncle who can’t speak his mother language in his own country and be served in the administration or on Internet. Never ignore people who love you and brought you up with the best of what they have!

      3. externally driven incentive and governance
      * it seemed to work well for Singapore. Maybe it is govt inefficiency that is the biggest problem, and not foreign investment in our societies. And if you still don’t like that, then what about what export has done for China’s economy? And Japan’s? And Germany’s? They export to the world and are rich for it.

      It seems to me that You don’t know the story of Singapore. Please try to find a copy of the memoir of Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore http://www.amazon.com/Singapore-Story-Memoirs-Third-1965-2000/dp/9812049843/, or this book on his beliefs http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Kuan-Yew-Beliefs-Behind/dp/0878408169/

      by the way, China economy is in the hands of Chinese. Germany economy is in the hands of Germans. What web or mobile app will you export to become rich? (If you look into the contracts most this Kenya startups have with their investors, even in case of success the money will only go to the pocket of those investors). Enthusiasm is not a cure of ignorance.

      4. naivete of first-time entrepreneurs
      * newsflash: this is a universal phenomenon. No one was born knowing how to run a multi-national corp. We learn. We learn by trying, failing, and trying again. Being naive is not a crime.

      You have no idea what is capitalism. It’s darwinism but with smiles and good PR. (You chose to see only the smile and good press, and ignore the darwinism at your own peril)

      5. Cultural gap and disconnect
      * What do you mean here? That you are afraid that african entrepreneurs will imitate american business culture? american business culture is very successful – not the things you read about often but the true culture all across the u.s. is phenomenal. henry ford? wright brothers? alexander bell? howard hughes? they all invented and did business. are they not good examples to follow?

      I love America, its entrepreneurial spirit, and achievements. The examples you’ve mentioned are great, but believe me, American leadership is the most flawed in the world. It’s the country with the most poor people on the street and homeless in all developed countries. The political and economical system is a predatory one, that leaves no place for pity, and compassion. Black people in that country are like in hell! I cried many times when I was visiting this country.

      Your article is at best ignorant.

      This is the best compliment I received so far for this article. 🙂

      Reply
      • _breezy_

        Muwana,

        I assume you have heard of the BOP – they are the majority of the world people and there are great benefits and success to be realized in serving them, as opposed to the 1%. But building web apps to serve the so-called 1% is not mutually exclusive to building other apps (like mHealth apps referred to) that will serve the 100%. So why criticize young engineers who first aspire to build cool mobile apps?

        Yes, investors get rich when you succeed. If they help you to succeed, is that so evil. The current largest-cap company in the world is Apple. Apple’s investors (board) fired Steve Jobs from the company, but they also helped him build it to begin with and also re-hired him. This is business, it is not fair, but you cannot over-manage it to keep it safe for entrepreneurs that you call naive.

        You accuse others of being naive, ignorant of Singaporean history, and the rest. But I think you sound like a dictator who wants to tell bright young people what subjects to study, what problems (or opportunities) in society to tackle, and what exactly should make them happy. It does not work well – countless examples in the world show this. You say you love America but your original article only talks about the arrogance of some of its business leaders.

        Your original article does not sound like someone interested in sharing and discovering knowledge and perspective. Entrepreneurs do not lessons from you or me in morality or civics. If government policy and efficiency were improved, problems would be better addressed by private enterprise because it is _profitable_ to do so and entrepreneurs would be motivated by the satisfaction and the profit or any combination thereof.

        You know, Muwana, mainly your article comes across as that of a old-minded telco exec who assumes that Africans are too poor to buy or use mobile phones and so they are really a useless market. Lets focus on the critical problems instead – like government corruption maybe?

        Do you know that technology can also help with government corruption? Do you know mobile apps help generate real-time (un-riggable) election results In Egypt? The guys doing that are those taught tech by their interest in “non-critical” mobile tech apps. Have you heard of the open-data government initiative in Kenya and how it can help fight corruption?

        We call all open more books to read, Muwana, but I think you in particular can also gain from opening your mind. And you are right in that the responses to your article that have called out your ignorance have indeed been hopeful for better discourse on the future of Africa.

        Reply
        • mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

          I assume you have heard of the BOP

          I have never heard about them. Who are they?

          So why criticize young engineers who first aspire to build cool mobile apps?

          While you are creating your “cool” mobile app, British, Chinese, Arabs grabs your fucking mother and father land, and produce the food that will feed their mothers and fathers
          While you are creating the “cool” mobile app, Americans and Indians will be creating enterprise level software that will empower your local government administration.

          Listen, I have nothing against you creating your cool apps. The point of this article is to ask our young people to think Big. To stay connected to their local realities, and focus on creating meaningful things, not wasting brain power and their health on cool mobile apps that will never go anywhere. 99% of mobile apps are crap and will never make any money!

          Yes, investors get rich when you succeed. If they help you to succeed, is that so evil. The current largest-cap company in the world is Apple. Apple’s investors (board) fired Steve Jobs from the company, but they also helped him build it to begin with and also re-hired him. This is business, it is not fair, but you cannot over-manage it to keep it safe for entrepreneurs that you call naive.

          Being naive could be your choice, but when you look back in the mirror, being naive brought a lot of misery to Africa in its relation to Europe or other foreigners. They destroyed our culture, our languages, our religions, etc.

          You accuse others of being naive, ignorant of Singaporean history, and the rest. But I think you sound like a dictator who wants to tell bright young people what subjects to study, what problems (or opportunities) in society to tackle, and what exactly should make them happy. It does not work well – countless examples in the world show this. You say you love America but your original article only talks about the arrogance of some of its business leaders.

          I’m a leader of my people. I can use my experience to guide, and advise. I’m not a dictator.

          You know, Muwana, mainly your article comes across as that of a old-minded telco exec who assumes that Africans are too poor to buy or use mobile phones and so they are really a useless market. Lets focus on the critical problems instead – like government corruption maybe?

          Most of the mobile companies are owned by the old-minded telco exec, and companies, aren’t they?

          Do you know that technology can also help with government corruption? Do you know mobile apps help generate real-time (un-riggable) election results In Egypt? The guys doing that are those taught tech by their interest in “non-critical” mobile tech apps. Have you heard of the open-data government initiative in Kenya and how it can help fight corruption?

          I never said in the article that technology is bad. Read my responses to other comments below.

          We call all open more books to read, Muwana, but I think you in particular can also gain from opening your mind. And you are right in that the responses to your article that have called out your ignorance have indeed been hopeful for better discourse on the future of Africa.

          I appreciate having this conversation with you. Together we will make Africa a better place to live.

          Reply
  6. Bruno Rakotozafy

    Hello Mawuna,

    I really like the tone and the main idea behind this article and I understand that you’ve used sharp assumptions only to catch our attention.

    My point of view is that new techs in Africa have made it possible to catch up with western/”past-colonial” nations. And the fanciest things are often the most attractive ones, that’s why Africans (entrepreneurs BUT also consumers) are so keen on entertainment and leisure products.

    However I’m sure that the boom of those “superficial” services/products will allow to improve the general knowledge, the infrastructure and the mindset necessary to boost entrepreneurship within Africa. And will be a solid base for development of real problem solving innovations in the near futur.

    For instance the emergence of mHealth in Africa really benefit from the whole mobile tech wave.

    Reply
  7. mwadi

    Your article sounds straight from the government.I do not know which part of
    Africa you are writing from,but you sound like a government official.

    All I can get from this article is “say-no-to-modern-technology-investors-pack-and-go-creatives-work-fo-the -government”.

    I would be excited to hear you proposing that African govenments need to provide a conducive environment and build strategic partnerships with both the startups and investors to solve your so-called critical problems.

    Technology is growing to provide solutions in every day of our lives.If we kept your line of thought then things like mobile communication should not have reached Africa.

    Remember,these so-called intellectual resources if not tapped would end up in brain drain to the developed world.Please we would like to see you write on ways in which Africa can strategically position itself in terms of policy to harness this technology.

    Again I am wondering what if the same startups were funded by the governments or local investors,what would be the difference?

    My experience,even most governments in Africa are sourcing their software from Silicon Valley and are the last option for Africa startups.

    If you think the enterprenuers are poorly informed,help,post information on how they can avoid the short change.Otherwise you still sound like a whiner complaining about this and that and offering no solutions.

    Reply
    • mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

      Your article sounds straight from the government.I do not know which part of
      Africa you are writing from,but you sound like a government official.
      All I can get from this article is “say-no-to-modern-technology-investors-pack-and-go-creatives-work-fo-the -government”.

      Without a good government, the critical problems of Africa could not be solved. Corruption will continue to kill innovation and entrepreneurship.
      I’m not a government official, and I don’t serve any public administration, however I still think that without the ability to hire the best people, our policy making and governance skills will drag us all down, now or later.

      I would be excited to hear you proposing that African govenments need to provide a conducive environment and build strategic partnerships with both the startups and investors to solve your so-called critical problems.

      You are right, but that was not the subject of the article.

      Technology is growing to provide solutions in every day of our lives.If we kept your line of thought then things like mobile communication should not have reached Africa.

      You are right again, but ask yourself “solutions” in very day life of “Whom”?. I’d prefer to see my uncle in the village to use his little revenue to support his kids at school than using 30% of his monthly revenue in mobile credits purchase, while failing to support properly his family. Mobile communication comes with a very high cost that is sucking the blood out of many people, push may young people to prostitute their mind and body to get access to this technology. Do you call that development!

      Remember,these so-called intellectual resources if not tapped would end up in brain drain to the developed world.Please we would like to see you write on ways in which Africa can strategically position itself in terms of policy to harness this technology.

      Your wish is my command, I’ll do that!

      Again I am wondering what if the same startups were funded by the governments or local investors,what would be the difference?

      The area of focus of the entrepreneurs will be different, and the contract you are getting will be different.

      My experience,even most governments in Africa are sourcing their software from Silicon Valley and are the last option for Africa startups.

      Because most of you guys are disconnected from what is needed locally, but driven by reading daily American tech news. Also, most of you are not thinking big enough to solve government level problems.

      If you think the enterprenuers are poorly informed,help,post information on how they can avoid the short change.Otherwise you still sound like a whiner complaining about this and that and offering no solutions.

      You guys need to help me to help out here. Disclose anonymously to me the contracts these guys are giving to you, and I’ll tell you how they are screwing you! Send them here: mk@linkcrafter.com

      Reply
      • mwadi

        Much appreciation to what you plan to do for the tech scene in Afr

        We had an opportunity to exhibit in at a government funded exhibition.

        Our concept was geared towards e-government as well as our current products.A senior government official was quick to encourage us to ape Techstars.

        Talking to startups alone wont be the best way about this.First there needs to be enabling environment for startups by the government otherwise African startups have no choice but to look towards Silicon Valley for people who can believe in their ideas.

        Truthfully,apart from few startups who succeed to join the accelerators,there many more with noble ideas,some even focused towards those ‘critical’ problems that are yearning for discovery.

        Many African counties are yet to properly set-up policiesand facilities that support innovation.

        Name for me any government funded accelerators you know in Africa reaching for startups and have not got applications because the startups have joined the Silicon Valley accelerators.

        As a matter of fact in my country,the government comes last in technology adoption.

        What do you have to say now?

        Reply
        • mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

          @Mwadi
          Thanks for your thoughtful analysis.
          You are right about the fact that young entrepreneurs turn to foreigners because there are no local or government organizations to feel the void.
          Without these local actors, the problems I’ve mentioned in the article will still persistent.

          Reply
  8. mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN
    • Edmund Diddles Awesome intelligent post… Very intelligent guy. I like the part about the deals and deal terms and entrepreneurs letting the hype get to their heads…. But entrepreneurship by nature spots opportunity and solves it. It is not and shouldn’t be restricted to identifying socio-economic gaps like he mentioned with Agric, education etc. Govt has to first solve the policy issues surrounding that before entreprenuers will spot the opportunity… But frankly I never saw the “resource gap” arguments. I always saw it as entrepreneurship plugging the gap and not widening it. Great to see another persons view…
    • Amaete Umanah This is an awesome article. He said and I quote: “We need captain of industries, innovators, managers addressing the big problems, not another web app or mobile game.” is what I have always said.

      Many of the startups in Africa are not addressing the real problems that Africa faces. Africa’s vast population which main concerns are more related to food, energy supply, agriculture, education, health, transportation, Water and sanitation. That is why from day one, my startup Pontaba was never targeted Africa. I was addressing a totally different problem.

      I would love to see more African Startups focused on energy. Why? Because Energy makes change possible. We use it to do things for us. It moves cars along the road and boats over the water. It bakes a cake in the oven and keeps ice frozen in the freezer. It plays our favorite songs on the radio and lights our homes. Energy is needed for our bodies to grow and it allows our minds to think.

    • Edmund Diddles Amaete, I am preaching to the choir here, but its about Resource, Risk, Reward…. Code is a relatively cheap resource… Apply risk and you get some form of reward… May not even be monetary in X’s but the opportunity to be identified and given a better job later. To do a start-up in biotech for health or Greentech for Energy takes far more resources- knowledge base and otherwise. Until the govt solves policy issues around edu such that those inventive engineering skills are nurtured from day 1, we won’t see any powerful biotech or greentech coming coming out of Africa- you may get a dynamic site trading solar panels etc but not inventing them. Alternatively we may have diaspora Africans like my past self (pardon the humble plug) in biotech and you too doing cool alternative things in tech… But not homegrown/developed. I wish to see it too, but how and when?
    • Oyehmi. T. Begho Brilliant article couldn’t agree more…. with everything!
      16 hours ago via mobile ·
    • Uduak OduokAmaete Umanah – on an African energy startups, you are on to something. Particularly every international trade conference involving African government entities I attend focus heavily on your point.
      12 hours ago ·
    Reply
  9. mm Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

    A rare grounded view of tech in Africa: The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa http://www.siliconafrica.com/lessons/the-danger-of-silicon-valley-driven-startup-mania-in-africa/

     

    Bob Schukai Bob Schukai@iammobilebob

    @rassina: #Africatech @iammobilebob absolutely true also check this out on startup mania http://www.siliconafrica.com/lessons/the-danger-of-silicon-valley-driven-startup-mania-in-africa/ ”. See tweet I just posted!

     

    My thoughts almost exactly, African Silicon Valley mania > …http://t.co/VwugzMfS

     

    “Edgy” as author warns but worth the read ::RT @VC4Africa: The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa http://bit.ly/Rd3OKv

     

    Valid points but Africa this investment: The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa «http://www.siliconafrica.com/lessons/the-danger-of-silicon-valley-driven-startup-mania-in-africa/

    The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania – in Africa, Italy and everywhere http://www.siliconafrica.com/lessons/the-danger-of-silicon-valley-driven-startup-mania-in-africa/ via @VC4Africa

    A must read for start ups, the danger of silicon -Valley driven startup Mania in Africa http://www.siliconafrica.com/lessons/the-danger-of-silicon-valley-driven-startup-mania-in-africa/

    Wes Chege@WesChege

    Valid points but Africa this investment: The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa «http://www.siliconafrica.com/lessons/the-danger-of-silicon-valley-driven-startup-mania-in-africa/

    The Danger of Silicon-Valley Driven Startup Mania in Africa: http://bit.ly/QVdEMR (via @Mbwana)

    Reply
  10. Yinka

    I think you people are missing the point,one reason why young people are not making apps that address “Issues ” is because there is no support, compare them to developers in foreign countries. they(foreigners) dont have to think of what to eat and all that, thats kind of settled so you can actually build an app that solves “issues”. But here,you first have to build an app,that sells,so you can then make money to build apps that solves “issues”.
    Most of the startups i see here in Nigeria fit into this category,and you cannot blame them. Their friends are buying clothes while they sit down somewhere trying to code,so until the day they make enough money to actually handle their basic needs,you cannot blame them for trying to make money.
    Moreover do a research,all the apps that are succesful are actually apps that target 1%,becos they are the ones that pay. internet penetration is still terribly low. and beleive me the 99% contains a large number of people alien to Internet, and are actually not worth the effort for now

    Reply
  11. Abbas Zaini

    I am not African and I don’t live in Africa, I am Iraqi, I live in Iraq, and I think that the circumstances are pretty much the same in both areas. I also don’t want to sound harsh, but this article isn’t realistic, yes, what you are communicating and pointing out is IDEAL more than right, correct me if I am wrong pleas.

    Are you asking educated people and new graduates to turn down jobs (which I believe are very few there) just because they are not in the benefit of the continent, or taking these jobs does not help solving their countries’ problems or support the long term advantages?? are you asking individuals to do governments and institutions work?? do you really think that turning down these jobs and staying jobless will be of any assistance to either the continent or educated people themselves??? is it rational not to work because it doesn’t look IDEAL?? those people have needs and they have to provide for their families, they are driven by the circumstances and current conditions, and I don’t think that any of them would turn down a job that serves his or her country if he or she was offered one.

    I apologies, and as I said I don’t want to sound offensive, you pointed out some very good examples and statistics, reasoned things but you didn’t provide a solution, and if we speak with Ideals without considering facts and realities then we will neither be serious nor be taken seriously.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  12. Nzingha Shabaka

    This is excellent information, I will share this with some of my relatives, and other black people. Thank you.

    Reply

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