How the continent’s millennials and digital natives are unleashing their…
I am an entrepreneur and a Diaspora living in Norway, writes Dede Koesah (pictured left).
As diaspora who grew up in Ghana, Togo and Benin before moving to Norway at the age of 13, co-founding Pangea Accelerator is part of my path of purpose, which is that I want to ‘contribute to changing the faith of entrepreneurship on the continent’. This purpose is manifesting through different start-up projects, and Pangea is part of that. Fortunately for me, there are other individuals in Norway who believe in the vision of Pangea, namely Gilbert Kofi Adarkwah, Chisom Udeze and Jonas Tesfu. Together, we are on the mission of changing the way angel investing is practiced in Africa.
Pangea is simply about solving the missing middle. Angel investment plays a key role in building the start-up ecosystem, especially when there is lack of trust between founders and investors. Pangea is hence about bringing value to African ecosystems.
So here are five reasons why I co-founded the Pangea Accelerator:
1. Making Angel Investment ‘Accessible’
I am an advocate for democratising complex systems into simple and accessible activity. Thus, the notion that angel investing is complex or for the rich is, in my view, incorrect. Angel investing is a mindset of deploying competence and personal capital to entrepreneurs.
Simply put, angel investing is about appropriating startups with the essential tools and attitude in building scalable companies, while connecting them with the right network of partners, customers, talents and markets.
Pangea has changed the face of your ‘typical angel investor’. In fact, many Pangea Angels are young with no investment background. Our approach is that given the right tools and knowledge, any intuitive individual interested in making impact could be a great angel. This is why Pangea Angels learn from experts from the continent, while putting those lessons into practice by mentoring start-ups in the program.
Moreover, angel investment is not only about making angel investment digestible and accessible to anyone. It is also about making investors and startups accessible to each other. By connecting 31 angels to the 40 start-ups in our pilot, we were able to bring entrepreneurs closer to the investors.
2. Access to Smart Money
My experience from learning about the different African ecosystems is that the continent is home to some of the world’s most resilient entrepreneurs and bootstrappers. From Kenya’s Onesha, Lakeview Fisheries and Yusudi, to Nigeria´s Printivo (who worked for three years to save up the start-up capital), and Flutterwave, as well as Mergims in Rwanda; African startups are solving global challenges without waiting for any angels to fund their MVPs.
In fact, many African start-ups go far before raising money from angels. So, co-founding Pangea was about aligning my entrepreneurial purpose with my philosophy of start-up investment, which is that ‘angel investing can change African startups for good’. Smart entrepreneurs tend to chase smart money. I recently did some research in Ghana for one of my other start-ups, and I came across Saviour Enyam Dzage (co-founder and Chief Product Developer of Asoriba), who mentioned that the team turned down investment in the beginning, and bootstrapped with their own money because ‘it did not feel right’.
Pangea is all about smart money, as we believe great angels often have the drive to help the entrepreneurs grow together with the company. As such, we match startups with investors who have the right competence, network and passion. This approach has enabled us to surround the start-ups with an army of angels and mentors with relevant insights, while giving the start-ups the freedom to bring their vision to life.
3. Diaspora is the Bridge to Angel Investment
As former Managing Director of Diaspora Network (an umbrella organisation of Diaspora organisation in Norway), I’ve had the privilege of working with diaspora from Africa, Asia and South America. My experience is that as African entrepreneurs try to raise investment capital both inside and outside of the continent, diaspora could be a critical component of their early stage investment landscape.
However, it has to be the right diaspora. I refer to this group of diaspora as multicultural; they have lived in different countries; are well educated with a good job and an international network. It has thus been critical for Pangea to educate diaspora about the African opportunities by showcasing start-up cases, while building bridges where diaspora could help entrepreneurs get access to other markets.
4. Empowering the Ecosystems from Abroad with International Angels
The fact that Pangea is founded by African Diaspora means that we understand the impact that international angels could have on African start-up ecosystems. Empowering the ecosystems from abroad is a powerful way to drive foreign investments to start-ups and SMEs. Thus, promoting a culture of angel investing means that we are engaging with different key stakeholders from corporate to aid and development, international angels, diaspora, government, public and private sectors from the continent and abroad.
By providing a platform where both diaspora and international angels can share experience, we strive to bring international and diaspora angels closer to African start-ups. In doing so, we hope to deploy more smart capital that could help African entrepreneurs drive private sector growth for the next market of billions…
5. Preparing African Entrepreneurs for the Next Market of Billions
The last reason why I co-founded Pangea is simply because I want to be a part of any movement that is training African start-ups and SMEs for the market of the next billions. While the world is ageing, the majority of the 1.2 billion Africans living on the continent are
young, ambitious and entrepreneurial. According to the UN, the continent’s 226 million youth population (aged between 15 and 24) is expected more than double by 2055. This means that more than half of the world’s population growth will be in Africa by 2050.
These demographic trends represent great challenges in terms of job creation, access to education, improvement of infrastructure, modernisation of the agricultural sector and access to financial services. I believe job creation is going to come from SMEs and startups so I co-founded Pangea, because it makes sense. Africa is on the run, you either join the race or you stay on the sidelines. Investing in developing Africa’s start-ups is central for the economic growth of the continent.
Dede Koesah is passionate and interested about the Africa start-up ecosystem, and is a co-founder of Pangea Accelerator, Founder of Start.Space, an independent consultant and a public speaker. She brings experience in writing about the African Startup landscape, and 14 years of experience from business development, strategy development and international relations from private, humanitarian and development sectors.
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