Why Silicon Valley’s money can’t solve Africa’s tech problems
Thursday, June 21, 2018
By Esha Chhabra
When Mark Zuckerberg went to Kenya and Nigeria in 2016, he proclaimed that the future would be built in Africa. That same year, Y-Combinator accepted startups with African roots for its much sought-after accelerator program. But is Africa indeed the next frontier for Silicon Valley?
Not so fast, says Mercy Mutua, an investment manager based in Nairobi. Despite all the fanfare and media coverage, the venture capital scene in Africa, particularly beyond South Africa, remains nascent.
“There are few, if any, funds here that are run by Africans that invest in African-led companies. It’s all largely capital from the US and Europe, much of it going to foreign-led companies on the continent,” she says. “So how do we build the next generation of private equity funds or impact investors that are actually led by locals?”
Mutua is sitting in a mall coffee shop in the Nairobi Kilimani neighborhood, surrounded by (mainly) young people concentrating behind laptops. Many of them are entrepreneurs, she points out, or working on social enterprises. But most are foreigners – not Kenyans.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Magill.