How is Hack for Big Choices helping startups in Africa?

Africa is a continent that has suffered a lot despite the fact Africa is the richest continent in the world thanks to all the natural resources and mines found there. A brief list of products there are in Africa includes copper, gold, iron, steel, nickel, zinc, platinum, titanium, lead, phosphate rocks, uranium, oil and diamonds. Fortunately, the last two decades Africa have been experiencing different positive changes led by important countries such as United States and among others who aim to the Africa’s emergence through new startups creation. Nowadays, different entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in this continent because aspects such as human-rights application at work and young people are attending schools at their villages for then mastering abroad are factors that lead people to think about Africa in a different way. Moreover, statistics show how fast is the growth of the middle class in Africa. Nevertheless, this process has not come alone and it is evident this emergence is something led by people who care for Africa and for that reason, Aurora Chisté and Irina Issakova founded H for Big Choices.

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Image courtesy of Viewminder at Flickr.com

What is Hack for Big Choices?

Hack for big Choices is non-profit and global community created for change makers all around the world who are connected within the community in order to empowered big ideas to solve problems. They strongly believe big changes come from little changes and it is inside these communities’ little changes emerge. Collaborators are spared around the world, main cities are New York, San Francisco, Guadalajara, Bogotá, Sao Pablo, London, Venice, Accra, Bangalore, Moscow, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
What are the issue areas Hack for Big Choices is working on?

Hack for Big choices has three main lines and within these areas, they establish challenges they consider are vital to work on. Issue areas and some challenges are:

Design & Technology:
This issue area helps and guides people who are interested in working on these subjects. Experts around the world on this area give advices and recommendations about how people can find solutions to the challenges. Companies also invest their money in order to develop new technologies that are helpful not only for African countries but for all countries around the world too because these problems affect population in general.

Car driving safety, Simulation of crisis management activities, Human identification     on-the-fly, Automatic people counting, Food safety, Intelligent parental control, B2B platform for international businesses.

Healthcare:
Challenges inside this area affect various host cities, that is way participants are supposed to think about solutions as unique ones because they must be focused on an unique community. Challenges are taken from global health crisis that affect societies, these challenges are: Confronting Depression, Health Data In Action, Geo-Localized Health Solutions (in this topic there are 3 micro-challenges that are Sanitation, Pregnancy Complications, Metabolic Syndrome) Sexual Health.

Education:
It is not a secret poverty has its roots on illiteracy and in the past, it was really difficult to deal with this problem in Africa. Now, as wars are diminishing, interest can be guide towards education. The following challenges are being taken into account: International Accreditation of Academic Programs, Education in Remote Areas, Education for Special Needs Students, Nutrition Education at School, Bridging the gap between research and markets, Telematics for education.  

Dreamers_startups in africa_cecilia ibru
Image courtesy of BK at Flickr.com

What are the steps Hack for Big Choices follows in order to create successfully projects?

As there is a platform that linked collaborators, steps are quite simple as follows:

  1. The Call for Action: This is a calling for people around the world to change the world with small actions. They make people be aware about importance of little changes.
  2. Integrate Software Solution: They link problems solvers and experts who guide in them in the process.
  3. Options for Change:  Start a focused challenge-tree area from which problems can be selected and solved

Who is Aurora Chisté?

Aurora Chisté (Guadalajara) is a social entrepreneur travelling the world to develop new business opportunities for communities around the world.  She encourages people to make little changes that have a meaningful impact in people’s lives.

Does Hack for Big Choices have partners?

Yes, it does. Fortunately, the organization has more than 70 partners who are engaged with Africa’s development. Some of them are FACEBOOK, HONDA, TECNOLÓGICO DE MONTERREY, WORDPRESS, ACM, GOOGLE DEVELOPERS, among others.  

According to the founder Aurora Chisté, it is time, efforts and right people what make a change but building a new community is something that requires more than that. It requires commitment and dedication but it is essential to engage young generations earlier to this change makers’ programs because future belongs to them and when starting a new company, they are in charge of apply their passion and talent towards improving people’s lives.

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The top 6 most growing African countries in the past 2 years.

It seems it is Africa’s turn to impress the world in terms of the growth of their economies. One or two decades ago it was China who was shocking the entire world by being on every single economic report and headline because of the growth it was having in so many industries. Right now, Africa is taking the lead, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, as one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. The development shown in this part of the continent has been showing better numbers and facts than the regional average of the Asian continent. This is only good news for Africa and its people because of what is represents. Poverty rates reduction, increased employment rates, progress in education, in healthcare and even in the cultural environment. Africa is going from being the continent with the highest hunger rates in the world to becoming the continent with the most increasing amounts of business and entrepreneurial ideas, funding and international investments, globally speaking, for the past few years. The economy growth rates in Africa are even higher than the ones in developed countries and one of the reasons is that African countries have become the biggest sources of raw material for many other regions in the world. Giant companies of all the sectors and countries you can imagine have chosen Africa as the new business target. Some countries in Africa are starting to appear on the list of the top African economies. Maybe not as much as the most recognized ones, but still, they are attracting some attention. These countries with a lot of potential are Liberia, Benin, The Gambia, Chad, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Democratic Republic of Congo. The top African countries that have become the most important ones due to their current economic progress and future promising growth are the ones in this list of the 6 most differentiated ones.

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Image courtesy of Jack Zalium at Flickr.com

Mozambique

Mozambique has grown mainly because of its offshore natural gas reserves that have attracted large investments projects and infrastructure. The Banking sector is also responsible for this growth, since middle class people are opening more bank accounts every time and using more card payments instead of cash.

Rwanda

Rwanda is also being called the “Sub-Saharan Singapore”. After being one of the most devastated countries because of the amount of genocide and danger in society, the government has turned this country into a place with a lot of business potential and development characteristics that are very interesting to foreign investors. Tourism and mostly agriculture are very strong. Minerals, tea and coffee are a few of their most important products in the economy.

Tanzania

Tanzania is also strong in offshore natural gas reserves. Investments in transport infrastructure and power infrastructure have brought many benefits to the country, along with tourism and the gold production. The penetration of smart-phones in Tanzania has been something huge, which means the mobile and communication sectors are also contributors to the development of Tanzania.

Africa - Gambia_woman_cecilia ibru
Image courtesy of melenama at Flickr.com

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the largest economies in Africa, because of its agriculture, manufacturing, textiles and construction sectors. Education is becoming more important to families and this will always be something that changes people’s lives. Although it is considered a country with an important growth, the income per capita is still considered as one of the lowest in the world.

Kenya

Communications and technology are two of the top industries in Kenya. This country is now considered as the world’s third-fastest growing economy in 2015. Kenya has shown amazing technological and scientific development, especially for the past two years, which why companies like Google, IBM, Facebook and many others of different sector have decided to invest in this country.

Uganda

Manufacturing is one of Uganda’s most growing sectors. Transport and power infrastructure are the sector in which the government has the most faith in. They consider these two to have a great potential for foreign investors. Uganda has seen its poverty rate decreased significantly over the past couple of years. At the same time, as a country, they have experienced a macroeconomic stability that has brought many positive reactions in people and therefore in the rest of the sectors that are still evolving.

Why investing in African startups really pay off?

Africa has real problems that need real solutions. Startups reflect this reality and set out to solve everyday issues with brilliant ideas. In Africa there is a growing movement of young entrepreneurs looking for a way to make life better and are doing just this with some of the solutions they have come up with. It’s no surprise that many investors around the world are looking to Africa as the place to put their money. But, despite all of this let’s explore more in detail why it’s worth investing in Africa and looking to these young entrepreneurs as the next big thing.

Potential to grow

In Africa, the lack of resources, energy and basic essentials in some places around the continent sets the scene for a plethora of opportunities for those willing to find solutions amidst so much adversity. But the up and coming generation has proven to be innovative, creative and full of potential, in such a way that they are solving their own problems in very effective ways.

Since there is room to grow and invest Africa has become a haven for venture capitalists, incubators, accelerators, angel investors, private equities and an array of events and conferences geared towards startups. So, quickly before moving on just to clarify what the difference is between all of the previously mentioned investors:

  • Venture capitalist (VC): Looks to invest in early-stage startups that usually represent as much high potential as it does high risk. Usually, the VCs in Africa are a group of local firms or international non-profit fund.
  • Incubator: Usually keep the majority of the shares, by developing an idea with an outside team that will be in charge of managing it.
  • Accelerator: By supporting the idea or project for about six months they help to accelerate the growth of the business.
  • Angel investor: This is usually a wealthy investor who believes in paying forward and supporting new talent.
  • Private equity: As opposed to VC they take on a business later on when it’s developed. They usually restructure to optimize financial performance.

Through events, conferences and events all of the key players in startups are able to network and create communities, contacts and at the of the day opportunities. Of course, we can’t leave the media, which plays an essential part in creating the narrative of the growth in Africa for the world to see.

Growth in past years

Revisiting what the experience has been for Africa to grow their startup ecosystem exponentially in such a relatively short amount of time. African startups started invading the financial news back in 2011, and it seems that this was just the start. Everyday, more and more Africans are getting an education either locally or abroad, and coming back to Africa to open up their own business. The amount of startups in the last years has surpassed expectations, reason why it has become a referent for the young entrepreneur startup movement. There is still a long way to go in some areas to truly create a sustainable ecosystem, but the different fields are building strong foundations for the future.

Some examples

African startups stand out due to the nature of their ideas. They are not just creating apps that can be stored away on your phone, or generating business ideas for your leisure time. Instead, they are investing in those ideas that help improve Africans lives and deal with everyday issues such as loss of energy, addressing or lack of clean water.

  • BRCK: This startup is attempting to make a backup Internet generator that will allow you to use the Internet even if you are located in a remote location with no electricity.
  • OkHi: In Africa, many houses don’t have a proper address, which makes it quite difficult for people to get correspondence or to be found for that matter. This app is tracking people so that it guides people to where they are with no need of an address.
  • M-Kopa Solar: In search of finding ways to solve Africa’s problem to reach so many isolated villages with electricity, but with the evident lack of power grids and possibility to build them, this startup has designed a pay-as-you-go solar power that can reach those destinations that before had no possibility of having energy in their homes.

    CLICK TO VIEW M-KOPA SOLAR VIDEO

What’s next?

In 2016, the number of startups emerging from Africa is only expected to rise. The tech startups are the ones to look out for, which isn’t to say that others like: commerce, education, and health are not doing their part as well. Africa will continue to grow and with international investors willing to support the business ideas from this growing population of entrepreneurs. We are likely to see growth from many countries, but the ones that are expected to lead the pack are South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

Top 8 new Startups Incubators in Africa that are bringing value to the continent

Startups incubators have been originally created mainly for 2 reasons. The first one is to offer and provide funding to the startups that somehow are attractive and interesting for the angel investors that are behind these incubators. The second one is to offer and provide business advisory to the new business initiatives in order to strengthen them and prepare them for the real world and market. In essence, incubators are the entities that help startups speed up or “accelerate” the growth of their business and this basically means one thing for society. It means investors and local government and leaders are willing to support and promote the growth of a country.  In Africa, Startups Incubators are becoming stronger and more numerous every year for the past decade.  From agriculture, to communications, healthcare, banking and education, new Incubators in Africa are not focused on any particular subject, but instead they are interested in the development of initiatives that promote the country’s economy, the social and cultural wellbeing in many aspects. Local and international investors are coming together, forming organizations that seek for new niches and markets that the startups can bring great value to. For the past couple of years several new incubators have been born and established in Africa and are already making a big difference in the African territory. Here are the top 8 new incubators that are making a difference in Africa for the past couple of years.

Stellenbosch’s LaunchLab
This incubator was created with the support of the Stellenbosch University in South Africa and one of its programs called Innovus. It has also partnered with the University of Cape Town and one of the things that it offers to the startups is a series of workshops that will help the entrepreneurs to develop the skills they need for the growth of their companies.

WAARI – West African Agri-Business Resource Incubator
WAARI is considered the very first incubator that is dedicated to agriculture business in West Africa. Founded by the Agricultural Research Forum in Africa, along with the Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation University in the province of Mali, Waari doesn’t only provide training and advisory but it also helps startups to initiate in research programs. This incubator is the proof of the importance agricultural business initiatives are having in West African countries.

The Passion Incubator
The Passion incubator was created with the important purpose of being the premier technology incubator in Africa. With their accelerator program they work on a short term goal which is to launch at least 5 startups in one year.  This incubator does not provide any funding, but instead, it connects startups with their prospect investors. The Passion incubator is located in Yaba.

440NG
440NG was created as the result of a partnership between 2 different entities: L5Lab and 88 mph. The mission of 440NG is to invest in mobile and internet startups in Nigeria. They have a program called Deal Weekend which is a 24 hour event where the incubator evaluates the startups that attend the event and by the end of the weekend, they will know which startups will become of the 440NG startups that receive funding and regular feedback sessions with their new investors.

Think
Think was created by Millicom, the huge telecommunications company. Think is located in Kigali, Rwanda. It is a tech incubator that wants to develop innovative and scalable business in which Millicom can take an equity stake. Think will provide seed financing, well-structured training plans and coaching programs for startups and entrepreneurs.

SWAPP – Sustainable West Africa palm oil programme
This is a program launched in Ghana, supported by the Dutch government in terms of funding and its main interest is to provide funding for new oil palm companies. It concentrates on helping develop farms and mills that work with the oil palm sector, aiming to increase their productivity and profitability.

Oil Palm plantation in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo_crowdsourcing_africa_cecilia_ibru
Image courtesy of Angela Sevin at Flickr.com

The Rwanda Media Hub
The main purpose of this incubator is to support digital media and media production startups in East Africa. It is actually the first one with this purpose. It was founded in 2014 and it aims to fund local media entrepreneurs in Rwanda, providing them with shared offices spaces, coaching, training and seed funding.

Transform Africa_people_crowdsourcing_africa_cecilia_ibru
Image courtesy of Rwanda Government at Flickr.com

Edupreneurs
Edupreneurs was originally launched in India with a great success and now, the incubator wants to do the same thing in Africa. Their goal is to support and promote education entrepreneurships in Africa through the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund.

The top 5 reasons why Africa is in the scope of investors

The African continent is living a digital and social renaissance and experiencing a decade of increasing economic growth, where the middle class population is also increasing and IT infrastructure is much more developed  and available than what it used to be only five years ago. One of the biggest phenomena that is occurring is the technology startup boom that is showing a promising future for African entrepreneurs, as they keep receiving funds from international investments that are continuously showing interest for more. There is a speculation saying that Africa might be the next biggest startup hub, and this is something that is becoming more of a reality every day, with three industries that are leading the activity and trends, such as e-commerce, mobile and “Edtech” (education technology). The rapid evolution for startups in Africa is mostly attributed to the expansion of the mobile and internet market throughout the entire continent and this is something big that international companies, investors and universities are keeping an eye on.

One of the most interesting things about this rapid startup evolution in Africa is that ideas are becoming real solutions for real problems that are not limited to simple issues people may encounter, but to real issues that are essential to be eradicated such as poverty, lack of education or the access to it, lack of technology, power cuts, addressing and location difficulties. These are just some of the subjects the new entrepreneurs are attacking and investors are willing to help with, and that is why Africa will be facing a brighter future very soon.

Here are the 5 biggest reasons why Africa is in the scope of investors throughout the globe.

Population and workforce growth

Africa has a population of more than 1.2 billion people, which keeps growing more than 2% every year. This means the workforce will also be bigger and this is a very important resource for emerging economies. Africa´s young population gives the continent the chance to ensure a prosperity in the coming years, if the right education and skills are offered and developed among them. The world has 12 fast growing countries in terms of population. Six of those are part of the African continent. This means there is a lot to do there and to make the most out of it.

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Image courtesy of DIVatUSAID at Flickr.com

Infrastructure

Infrastructure improvement has been the focus of countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Power generation and telecommunications are the first priorities and considered to be the basic resources for the development a country needs in terms of technology, education and economy. The social development will be therefore also empowered and these better life conditions will be responsible generating a better environment for people to grow, learn and prepare themselves for the new promising Africa.

Participants from Liberia and Malawi_africa
Image courtesy of UN Women at Flickr.com

More consumers

In the same way population is growing, so is the consumer base in Africa. Middle class is increasing, which means the amount of possible consumers is also increasing. According to the African Development Bank, there are more than 123 million people in Africa that are considered having a stable middle class condition. This number is the 13% of the entire population, which is very interesting for new businesses and investors, because of the potential it represents for their present and future sales.

Education

African countries are finally understanding the importance of education and what it represents for the future development of their economies. The level of education is improving and more people are getting secondary and tertiary education. There is more access to scholarships and access to superior education for those who are showing real entrepreneur and leader characteristics, which are needed for the business and the economy of the Africa of future generations.

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Image courtesy of Book Aid International at Flickr.com

Leadership is becoming a trend in young people

Due to the high and increasing amount of young people in Africa, the amount of young new leaders is also growing. Young generations are representing important business initiatives that are driving the economy. Only in Kenya, 60% of the population is 25 years old or younger. Young leaders are becoming great influencers in education as well as in the socio-political environment, and the most disruptive ideas for startups and new technology projects that are being developed and applied to society have also been created by young minds of Africa.

Young African Leaders Presidential Summit_africa
Image courtesy of Exchanges Photos at Flickr.com