Africa needs knowledge transfer more than grants

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Iyinoluwa Aboyeji 

By Aboyeji Ghaim

With the rise of many startups in the technology and creative industries in Nigeria and the African continent, Africans have been urged to work more on providing solutions to problems than relying solely on remittances and grants from the Diaspora. Speaking over the weekend at the African Diaspora Investment Summit organised by the African Diaspora Network in Silicon Valley, California, United States, CEO and General Partner of Fund for Africa’s Future, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, said over-reliance on remittances from the Diaspora without adequate scale-up in human capital would limit Africa’s progress into development. 

According to him, the Diasporas have three Ts – Time, Talent and Treasure, but there is too much attention on the treasure. Making reference to the logistics challenges that have characterized the demonetization policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria for months, he said: “I recall when India set up its demonetization policy some years back, it engaged the talents of its Diaspora community. Nigeria is a much smaller country than India. As the giant of Africa, we shouldn’t be going through the hassles the CBN policy has caused in months now if the infrastructure end of the cash policy had been sorted before implementation and roll out.” 

As head of Future Africa, which is Africa’s largest seed stage investor, Aboyeji has invested millions of dollars into over 100 startups across Africa. This was after co-founding Flutterwave, a billion-dollar global payments platform connecting African businesses and individuals to the global economy. 

Speaking to journalists, he said: “Africa is on a journey, but we are not going to get there by copying models from other places or throwing money at the problem. It is going to require intellectual investment. There should be a mindset shift that you don’t need the Diaspora money as much as you need the knowledge transfer.” Aboyeji added: “There is a lot of money in Africa. We raised $10 million fund at the wake of COVID-19 in the last two years and 60 per cent of the capital came from Africa. What it tells us is that a lot of resources and opportunities are in Africa but unfortunately a lot of government’s borrowing or policies tend to crowd out these investments and startups. “Despite the odds, we still have a lot of Africans investing their personal savings in innovative solutions to help Africans while a lot of pension funds, money sitting in the banks and public funding are crowded out by government bonds and borrowings.” 

Board Chairman of ADN and Founder/Managing Partner, Ignite Venture Studio, Josh Ghaim, said the ADN through its yearly symposium and other programmes, seeks to connect the bridge between the Diaspora funding and investment in startups in Africa, in an attempt to develop the continent with their innovative solutions to problems. “I don’t want to simplify it and say money is easy to find but the most important criteria is the human capital. We have a large community of Diasporas in America and the West who are high up in corporations, government and the academia and who understand the business and what it takes to thrive, but how do we harness these resources and make these people available to help entrepreneurs in Africa”? 

Josh Ghaim explained: “Entrepreneurs don’t have to repeat all mistakes or go through the hassles that could be avoided. The number one priority of ADN is to deploy and engage these resources available to everyone through mentorships. And it’s not just Africans, but African Americans and friends of Africa. We want to help their businesses scale to the next level with investible funds. Through Builder of Africa project, we are giving them $25,000 and the technical skills to scale up their businesses. This is why beyond remittances is important. Unless we create awareness, we are not going to engage fully into the resources of the Diaspora community.” 

Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke

Governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke has directed the immediate establishment of a support desk for Osun tech innovators and entrepreneurs to access the recently launched 618 USD tech fund by the African Development Bank (AFDB). In response to the tech fund, which was collaboration between the AfDB and the Federal Government of Nigeria, Governor Adeleke expressed the readiness of his government to tap into the opportunities in furtherance of the digital economy agenda of his administration. Governor Adeleke who was full of praises for the AFDB president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said his administration has created enabling environment for the Osun tech ecosystem, citing the recently unfolded state ICT Policy, State Tech Innovation Policy, domestication of Nigeria’s Startup Act, the flag off of the state’s broadband fiber optic project and the establishment of a Digital Advisory Board.  

The governor said: “My state is in a hurry to be a tech hub for South West. As the governor of Osun state, I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology has been instructed to set up a desk to assist all technology and creative sector entrepreneurs in Osun state to apply and access this fund. The desk will provide comprehensive guidance and support to all interested applicants, ensuring that the application process is seamless and efficient,” he said. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris said the United States would increase investment in Africa and help spur economic growth as she began a weeklong tour of the continent aimed at offering a counter to the influence of rival China. China has invested heavily in Africa in recent decades, including in infrastructure and resource development. Russian influence has also grown, including through the deployment of troops from Russia’s private military contractor Wagner Group to aid governments in several countries. 

American Vice President Kamala Harris

“On this trip I intend to do work that is focused on increasing investments here on the continent and facilitating economic growth and opportunity,” Harris said shortly after touching down in Ghana, the first destination in a trip that will include visits to Tanzania and Zambia.’’ Harris will meet Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo this week and will visit a former slave castle from which slaves were sent to America during the slave trade era. Harris will be in Ghana from March 26-29, then in Tanzania from March 29-31. Her final stop is Zambia, on March 31 and April 1. She will meet with the three countries’ presidents and plans to announce public- and private sector investments

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