“I really, really disagree with the narrative of helping Africa because I feel like Africa doesn’t need help. There’s so much potential here.”
Michel Weiss, co-founder and CEO at Counder Network, a platform connecting European investors to African talent, spoke earlier this week at the AfricArena 2022 Grand Summit, which was packed with insightful panelists, candidly spelling out what needs to be tweaked and supported in the African startup ecosystem.
During the session I moderated about investment in African AgriFoodTech Alison Collier, managing director of Endeavour South Africa, emphasized the need to build commercial businesses beyond the prevalent goal of creating impact that often dominates the investment landscape on the continent. Founders need to build businesses that make commercial sense to ensure longevity in the ecosystem, she added. The panel referenced a few specific failures in agrifoodtech that succinctly highlighted this need, including Kune Foods, a cloud kitchen that closed down just a year after launching and with $1 million funding.
In the session about ‘building bridges of innovation between Africa and the world,’ speakers revealed the misconceptions held by ecosystem enablers in other parts of the world about Africa. The speakers all agreed that in order to foster these bridges between Africa and the world, there needed to be a demystification of the idea that Africa needed help from other regions. Instead, partnerships need to be fostered between them.
“We can make business together and not because one is helping the other but because we are forming partnerships,” said Weiss.
Tracey Austin, sector director of financial & professional services at the UK Department for International Trade had similar sentiments.
“I can tell you the hardest job I had was selling the African narrative. We may be here, we may believe in it, but our [the African] story is not transported across in the same positive, potential-oriented way that we believe it can,” she says.
“And I think what we need to work on is we need to build our data. We need to show return data; we need to show growth data. And we need to show this real potential that we talk about amongst ourselves [to others].