You think you have seen them all until you see more of them. Solutions that you thought had been long employed. Innovations that you thought had long been exploited. The DEMO Africa Innovation Tour across the continent was an eye opener. Last week we were in Ghana. Be sure to apply before coming Sunday, June 15th.
The startups came in numbers and ready to impress the judging panel, which comprised decision makers from top companies in Ghana and other global players including Google. From Citizen Eye, a social enterprise that aims at tracking oil money with an aim to empower citizens to hold the government accountable, to Kitiwa a startup bringing Bitcoin to Africa.
Ghana, like other countries we visited across the continent, indubitably has talent. The pitches were on point, good solutions to problems that most of us could relate to, sharing a stage with a few dazzling ideas that may use better convincing to get through the investor. The potential was remarkable, even the ideas with a little tweaking could clearly form solid business potential that would eventually graduate to revenue generating enterprises
More than 70% of the 20 startups that did pitch at the Flagship event in Ghana were products of Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) probably confirming the conclusion of a DFID-sponsored report on tech entrepreneurship in Ghana: MEST is one of the largest private investments in Ghanaian economic development and effectively the single most comprehensive entrepreneurship ecosystem player in Ghana.
Speaking to some of the stakeholders in the Ghanaian ecosystem, connectivity seems to be the pain point, followed very closely by unreliable electricity. I did experience the erratic connectivity but not the power failure. This could probably be attributed to the various measures that Ghanaians have taken to shield themselves from these imperfections. Investing in generators is key here. It’s probably what we were on so I just did not experience the power problem.
From this experience, entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted, with all the efforts that all the teams put into the 6 minutes pitch, only one will qualify to pitch at a bigger event and potentially attract investment. As Vince Lombardi rightfully put it, winners never quit and quitters never win, so all is not lost to the startups in Ghana, they have what it takes to create profitable and sustainable businesses. Some of the businesses don’t require much investment and the potential to bootstrap is probably more viable for them. From my brief interaction with these start-ups, the levels of confidence need a boost and here all the players need to push until something happens.
By Harry Hare, VC4Africa (source)