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Navigating Africa's broad, complex start-up funding landscape

Navigating Africa's broad, complex start-up funding landscape

There is a gap between funders and start-up businesses in Africa because of a lack of targeted education and support to help fledgling companies understand the funding landscape and pitch themselves appropriately.

This is one of the outcomes of a panel discussion on innovative platforms to fund start-ups in Africa which took place during the first annual Southern Africa Startup Awards, hosted recently in Johannesburg.

Founder of Limit Breakers Global Foundation and discussion facilitator at the event, Nokuthula (Nokky) Ndlovu said, "We should not end this at discussion, but rather commit ourselves to action, as we become deliberate about growing start-ups, creating an environment for tech innovation to thrive, and opportunities to promote diversity, particularly inclusion of women in tech."

Mckevin Ayaba, Regional Director for GSA-Southern Africa (GSASA), the organisation that is spearheading the Awards programme and development, said start-ups in South Africa have more options compared to their SADC counterparts.

While South Africa's start-up ecosystem is considered to be the most developed, it is closely followed by Kenya and Nigeria.

"Based on the data alone, it is quite clear that South Africa has a far more developed start-up ecosystem ... just by looking at the number of tech hubs, incubators and accelerators, start-up programmes, investment platforms etc... even the number of start-ups that are active and making an impact in their environments," said Ayaba.

However, all start-ups are faced with similar challenges in trying to break into the market he said citing common complaints such as the need for more overall development of the ecosystem, poor flow of information and a lack of access to investment opportunities.

"That of course does not speak to the level of innovation in the different SADC countries. There are some incredible start-ups coming from multiple countries, like Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania.

There were fifteen winners in fifteen categories from fourteen participating SADC countries.

Among the accolades, South Africa's Easy Equities secured the Startup of the Year award, Tanzania's Lilian Makoi won the Female Role Model in Tech Award, EcOrganics from Mauritius was named Best Student Startup, with South Africa's Startupbootcamp Afritech being identified as the Best Accelerator/Incubator Programme.

Winners were also offered web services which includes Website design, hosting and managed services for 12 months to the value of R150 000 by Kaskade.Cloud

Speaking of any correlation between business incubation/ innovation programmes and start-up ecosystems, Ayaba said: "If we agree that a well-developed start-up ecosystem is critical to fostering tech and innovation, then we must agree that innovation hubs and incubation centres, being an integral part of any start-up ecosystem, would be very helpful."

Ayaba said GSASA will continue to work with partners SAIS (Southern Africa Innovation Support programme), CABAN Investments and Burj Financials, to drive several activities lined up for 2019.

"This will lead up to the next edition of the awards, including the Global Startup Awards event that our region will be participating in, which will be hosted in 2019."

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