“It’s one thing to say that Africa is very diverse but it’s another thing to experience this diversity.” – Sahil Affriya
Sahil Affriya, Principal at Savant Capital, recently embarked on a month-long tour of Africa to network, exchange ideas, and deep dive into the local ecosystems. From 23 June to 19 July Sahil spent over 50 hours travelling to explore the start-up ecosystems of Namibia, Kenya, and Senegal.
All the findings and comments below are Sahil’s perspective, and at times may be based more on heart and perspective than hard fact.
I spent a memorable five days in Namibia and cannot express enough gratitude to all the people I met, the stories I heard, and the relationships I have built.
1. Namibia needs to focus on agriculture and manufacturing. It is difficult to build a service-based economy if agriculture or manufacturing is not strong in the country. Entrepreneurs can change this.
2. I experienced the power of social innovation businesses. Jojoba for Namibia Trust has made the Namib Desert green, and this is impacting more than 14 000 people’s lives in the rural areas.
3. EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYONE. Hence a higher possibility of collaboration.
4. I sensed a disconnect between the South African and Namibian VC ecosystems. A lot can be done together. I have been purposeful in sowing the seeds of friendship and collaboration and cannot wait to see the impact.
10 days in Nairobi, Kenya has left me grateful for all the connections built during this trip. My main takeaway from Nairobi is #Hustle!
Some learnings and key takeaways from my time in Nairobi:
1. “Hustle” is a keyword in Nairobi, which is quite visible on the streets, offices, and co-working spaces. People are just hustling and keep pushing. Nairobi is on a different energy level. It seems Kenya will soon leave South Africa behind in attracting investments into start-ups.
2. Kenya is culturally very close to India. I could see so many similarities between India and Kenya, such as buildings, infrastructure, roads, small corner shops, similar buying habits, and similar types of businesses. Kenya reminds me of the Indian start-up ecosystem from 2014 to 2019. Africa will see investment flowing from India via Kenya connections.
3. The India Africa Entrepreneurship Forum was the key highlight of the trip. It was a great success.
4. Start-ups are very open to collaboration. Many entrepreneurs prefer to work together rather than compete, which makes a change to what we so often see in South Africa.
5. As always – the ecosystem is crying out for more partnerships needed between VCs from different geographic regions.
6. Kenya is the epitome of financial inclusion through M-Pesa. You don’t need to have cash in Kenya, if you don’t want to.
7. Nairobi is very safe and has a busy nightlife.
Senegal is an experience of its own. It’s one thing to say that Africa is very diverse but it’s another thing to experience this diversity.
Some learnings and key takeaways from my time in Senegal:
1. Senegal is not the biggest economy or the most populated country in the French-speaking (Francophone) West African countries. However, Senegal seems to have one of the fastest-growing start-up ecosystems.
2. Senegal seems to be a pilot market for start-ups to expand in other Francophone countries, such as Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
3. Since Senegal is a breeding ground for start-ups. The ecosystem can benefit a lot through a co-incubation model; partner with incubators in different parts of Africa, which will provide access to market, networks, resources, and knowledge to help expand the market.
4. The Senegalese government directly invests in early stage start-ups, through Délégation Générale à l’Entreprenariat Rapide des Femmes et des Jeunes – DER, tapping on the funding gap from ideation stage to MVP stage. This has a direct influence on maturing the start-up ecosystem in Senegal.
5. Some VCs with a pan-African presence are operating from Senegal such as Partech, Orange Ventures, Wuri Ventures.
6. Senegal is very safe however; English-speaking travellers can find it difficult to move around in Senegal.
I am truly grateful to have met the most amazing people on this journey. It has been a privilege and an honour to hear their stories and exchange ideas. Thanks for all the great time together – you know who you are!
To follow Sahil on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sahil-affriya-234a2929
To contact Sahil: Sahil@savant.co.za