African start up revolution was born in Nairobi

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Do you know Marcello Schermer? He quitted his well-paid job in Silicon Valley in order to be part of the startup community in Africa. Everywhere he goes, he eagerly talks about hidden potential, which is waking up on the African continent. As a Seed Star World’s regional manager he traveled all over African continent and supported business ideas created by local people in 18 African countries, including Kenya.

Recently, he was talking about his experience on TEDx conference, which took place in October 2016 in Vienna. And European audience was swept off their feet by all of the business ideas that were successful in Africa.  As he said, Africa has many problems, which can be solved by current technologies, and moreover, have global potential. Western world and European people don’t even think about such problem, so local people have informational advantage. But, there is often simple and available solution for them.

Doing business in Africa is a huge element given the fact that there live approximately 1.1 billion people in 54 countries, who speak 2,000 different languages and dialects. Business and investment consequently create new jobs and opportunities to realize career dreams of many Africans. As in other countries, also in Kenya, it is possible, anonymously and without fear, compare your salary with other people in a similar position via online local salary comparator Salarydata.co.ke that belongs under international network Paylab. The ambition of the brand is to launch salary comparator portals in other African countries; therefore the company is looking for local partners who would cooperate in these countries.

Marcello Schemer said some interesting information during his presentation:

  • The modern African start-up ecosystem has launched in 2010 in Kenya, when the first business co-working space iHub was established and became the first physical community for business. This model helped to start business ideas, and was spread to 300 branches in 35 African countries.
  • Gearbox – in Nairobi is open space for design and rapid prototyping, professionals have access to powerful machines that turn ideas into reality, it is a fantastic challenge for harware entrepreneurs, electrical and mechanical designers, engineers and fabricators.
  • Africa is the youngest continent in the world where median age is 19 years and that means that over 600 million people on the continent are 19 years old and younger. That is incredible opportunity for young people to reinvent new ways of how things are done locally.
  • According to Focus Economics, Africa belongs to the fastest growing economies across the world where GDP is growing by 4,4 per cent at an average.
  • Lot of local African investors started to support business ideas, for example one of the richest AfricansTony Elumelu, annually selects 1,000 business ideas, through his foundation, and invests to each 15,000 dollars. There were 75 entrepreneurs from Kenya in 2016

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In his presentation, Marcello introduced many innovations form the start-up world, which has global potential and recently started successfully in Africa.

  • For example, in Ghana students from MEST (School and Incubator African Starups) created the first online church management system called Asoriba – basic church management software allows easier administration of churches and members, faster communication and seamless payment for churches.
  • In October 2016 was launched the first airport for drones in Rwanda, and also the first commercially successful program for drones, which is used for fast distribution of medicaments and blood from capital city Kigali to remote and difficult accessible hospitals in the country.
  • Another project was successful in MozambiqueBlackboxTV – TV streaming box built for emerging markets where people usually do not have reliable access to internet. System allows anyone to stream content without internet, using novel video on demand (VOD) – something like Netflix for emerging markets.

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Lot of great business ideas, which are somehow connected with Africa, also have social dimension and in Western world they work on a principle “Buy one and donate the other one.”  Just to mention two products that directly support African and Kenyan schoolchildren and increase their participation in education. It’s The Soular Backpack, a backpack, which has built a small solar panel connected to a solar lamp. Kids can gain enough solar energy, on their way to school during a day, so they can study in the evening even though they are living in houses without electricity. Soular has since distributed hundreds of backpacks across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. They’ve just moved production to Kenya, which is creating more employment and impact within the region.

 

Another big challenge for businessmen is hygienic solutions for women. Because of their period, girls often don’t go to school given the fact that hygiene aids were too expensive for the family. A product Ruby cup– created by a Danish woman innovator, offers a timeless solution, which is already known in the world, but can help millions of girls in Africa.

Africa offers a vast area and market for similar local solutions with a global potential. The benefit of these solutions is that they expressively increasing the life quality among local people.

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The world can learn a lot from African innovators especially that they are creating simple but smart solutions with leapgrog legacy technology. Also Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg, visited Kenya in September 2016, in order to understand user’s behavior and local communities.  He also has launched the initiative “Free Basics” – free internet access app, which allows cell phone users to access certain types of information related to areas like health care and employment in under-server countries including Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. Zuckerberg himself said that “the future of the world is being built in Africa.” Simply said – Continent with great business potential with unique consumer preferences.

Media and Market Research Specialist with Focus on Marketing and PR