Startup Rising Africa
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
It’s hard to get more American than generalizing Africa as one big homogenous thing. It is, of course, a rich and diverse continent of more than 50 nations, where merely a piece of it — say from Kenya to Nigeria — is a greater distance than the entire United States. Each country, and within each country, has distinctive languages, heritages, cultures and histories.
But something relatively new is tying this great continent together: Progressively universal access to mobile and smart devices driving a new generation of regional — and someday global — startups. It’s happening everywhere.
I recently saw this firsthand with my friend, 1776 co-founder Evan Burfield. 1776 is a Washington, D.C.-based global incubator that is hosting its third annual Challenge Cup, discovering the best startups from 50 cities on every continent. We just came back from the regional finals hosted in Nairobi. From Morocco to South Africa, women and men came to pitch how they were deploying technology to solve problems and create opportunity locally, nationally and regionally.
Burfield has a great global context, so I asked him: Why Africa, and why now?
“First,” he told me, “from money to food to energy, the challenges that the rapidly growing African middle-class face are significant. You still have hundreds of millions of people without access to an electrical grid across sub-Saharan Africa. Despite rich agricultural production, many urban citizens face significant burdens from food inflation.”