With seven of the top ten fastest growing economies originating from the African continent, it is no surprise that there has been a renewed focus on Africa as an engine for global growth in the next century. On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Orange Silicon Valley hosted Ingressive, an organization that finds the top performing Sub-Saharan startups and connects them with global investors, to discuss the innumerable opportunities in Africa and the many ways in which Silicon Valley could support their growth story.
Ingressive Founder and Executive Director, Maya Horgan Famodu, spoke about the upcoming Africa Tech Tour that she is leading, where she will be taking Silicon Valley luminaries to not just enjoy the African Safari but also to meet with several burgeoning African tech start-ups and business leaders around the continent. The Tech tour will be going to Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria with participants that include the co-founder of Priceline.
As an example of how the African opportunity is moving from one of NGO participation to a more investment-driven role, Matt Flannery, the co-founder of Kiva (a non-profit), chatted about his recent transition. He stepped down from his role as the CEO of Kiva to become the founder of a for-profit startup called Branch, endowed with a $1.6 million investment from Khosla Ventures and Formation 8. Branch is a lending platform for emerging markets and after 10 years at Kiva, Matt sees Branch as the next big thing.
As part of the night, Orange showcased the significant amount of work that the group is doing in Africa around digital health and e-health. With over 100 million subscribers in 19 countries across Africa, Orange Group is an active player in the African market. Orange discussed how innovative startups in Silicon Valley can use the Group as a conduit to get to Africa. An example is MedWhat, a startup utilizing artificial intelligence to create a personal medical assistant. MedWhat was an OrangeFab participant that received help from Orange to distribute their solution in Africa.
There is a reason why Orange is currently in exclusive discussions with Bharti Airtel to possibly buy some of their African Assets. Given the increased GDP growth, greater political stability, and young population, most of the participants agreed the African continent holds immense investment potentials.