Boosting Francophone Africa’s startups with a new pan-African fund

Partech Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital (VC) firm, has launched an Africa-focused fund which will look to provide early-stage funding to promising startups and founders on the continent. The fund has raised USD70 million of its USD100 million target, making it one of the largest Africa-focused funds.

Partech Africa is backed by French bluechip corporate partners with “a strong footprint in Africa” including Orange, Edenred, JCDecaux Holding and Bpifrance, a French investment banks as well as multilateral financiers: International Finance Corporation and the European Investment Bank.

The new fund plans to differentiate itself by not limiting operations to Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s leading ecosystems.”We think the impact of a local VC should also be to widen the scope and look at other markets that people know less of,”says Tidjane Dème, general partner at Partech Africa. This includes Francophone African countries Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon as well as Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda.

Francophone Africa in particular has been a significant under-tapped market for tech startup investors over the last decade. The region of over 120 million people in 24 countries across West, Central and North Africa includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies led by Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

And yet, between 2010 and 2016, there were 167 private equity deals in Anglophone East Africa alone (Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda), according to AVCA data. During the same period, Francophone West Africa saw a third of that. More than 30% of that has gone to Côte d’Ivoire. Investment for tech startups is even more scarce.

Another gap Partech Africa is looking to plug is the lack of early stage funding much of which has typically been provided by incubators and accelerators on the continent. With majority of private equity investment going towards tickets above USD10 million, according to Partech’s data, Dème says it’s the gap below USD10 million that needs to be addressed. As such, Partech Africa will be providing funding between between USD600,000 and USD6 million. The big hope for Partech Africa, according to Dème, is that its smaller early-stage funding tickets “not only address existing demand but also hopefully drive demand for the lower stages as we create a call for more startups.”


12 competing for USD 200,000 seed capital

12 finalists are competing in an African-wide enterpreneural competition for seed capital of USD 200,000 in the Kwesé #goGettaz competition.

They include entrepreneurs in for-profit and not-for-profit businesses in Zimbabwe, South African, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Democratic Republic. They will be assessed on their business sustainability, originality, social benefit and scalability.

The Kwesé Inc #GoGettaz competition received more than 4,800 entries last August when it launched on Econet Global founder Strive Masiyiwa’s Facebook page. The top scorers won online quizzes, then asked to submit written pitches. Winners progressed to a social media voting phase where the semi-finalists made their online pitches and then used social media to lobby votes for their ventures from the general public globally. This stage closed on 30 November with 50 million combined votes tallied.

They will pitch these ideas to a live audience in the Nairobi Garage this Thursday, where a combination of votes gathered through their social media shares and final scores from the upcoming pitch session will be used to select the six top finalists.

The best three women and three men will pitch in a grand finale the next day at Strathmore University, a leading not-for-profit university in Kenya, where two winners will get each USD100,000 for investing in their projects, as well as a two week mentorship in South Africa.

The technology and social media-driven $200,000 USD Kwesé Inc competition is the largest of its kind in Africa.

The two winners will not only win investment in their businesses, but as inaugural Kwesé Entrepreneur Fellows, will also receive direct mentorship with Masiyiwa in Kwesé TV offices in South Africa, as well as the opportunity to interact with other leading African entrepreneurs and innovators, and take part in other Kwesé Inc initiatives planned for later this year.

What the judges see

I sometimes get asked to be an assessor at business plan competitions. The plans are mostly submitted by youth entrepreneurs, some from under-resourced rural and peri-rural areas, who had gone through a process of training and the competition is part of the evaluation process to select those that would receive seed funding and mentorship.

Participants present their business concept to a panel of assessors and are then interrogated on their business plan (of which we have a copy).

I am often impressed with the presentations by most participants however the following common themes come up for me, and most of the other assessors, and these are areas that challenge prospective and current entrepreneurs that I work with too.

Lack of thorough research
There is a general lack of evidence that the business model will be successful. It felt more like a bakery will be successful because it is a bakery not because of a explicit measurable need from the target market.

Lack of information on product costs and profits
It is vitally important to know what your product or service cost, yet I battle to find entrepreneurs who know the actual cost of the items they sell. I can only surmise that they don’t know how much profit they are making then and therefore are not in control of their business.

Lack of provision for funding of working capital
When working out the starting costs of a business, as a judge, I find that the participants are accurately adding all the items that needed to be purchased for their venture to commence operations. However they often do not include running costs. Therefore the businesses would have a negative cashflow from inception and no funding to mitigate this. Basically a non-starter.

Lack of knowledge of personal financial
A question I ask entrepreneurs often is what is the salary that they are taking from day 1 and what are their personal costs. This generally turns into a debate, with the entrepreneur explaining that they will not take a salary in the beginning or ensuring me that the amount they have budgeted as a salary is adequate for their needs, however they cannot tell me what their needs are. A business cannot survive if its income is less than its expenses and neither can you.

Adequate distribution planning
If your business requires transport to collect your stock or distribute your product to customers, you need to have developed a strategy for this and have arranged the necessary resources. This may mean buying a vehicle and having a licensed driver or arranging transport and knowing the cost of this transport as well having a reliable schedule.

And most importantly the X-factor
This is the most important component of the competition for most of the judges.

Are you the person to make this happen? Are you the person to make this happen NOW?

Are you excited and passionate about your business idea? Can you answer the questions specifically? Do you have any experience in that field?

Funders fund people not ideas. As people implement and execute ideas and strategies.

Practice before you pitch your idea and don’t be afraid to let judges, funders or investors see your passion and belief in your idea and your ability to make it happen. If this is backed up by solid research and facts, you will be successful.

Motivation as a currency

Recognition! We are so often focused on fixing the weaknesses in our businesses that we often forget to recognise our successes and the people that make them happen. This does not mean spending money, but it is about setting goals, working hard and then celebrating and rewarding success.

One of my businesses had an outbound telemarketing callcentre department as well as sales consultants on the road. The telemarketers would call clients on a twice-weekly basis for regular orders as well as cold-calling and following up on telephonic and quotes generated by the consultants on the road.

I had various incentives schemes in place on an individual level, as a team with “their” consultant as well as company targets. Sales initially increased and then plateaued.

We then implemented a recognition system for performance as well as a recognition system for “closing” new business (closing a sale by the customer accepting a quote that had been issued.)

Performance recognition was for the best sales figures and consisted of a small ceremony and their name being placed on a board on the wall.

A ritual symbolised the new business recognition. Once a quotation was accepted and signed by the customer, the sales person (telesales or external consultant) would go to an old-fashioned bell mounted in the showroom and were allowed to ring it as loudly as they wanted.

These small gestures increased the sales figures as much as the performance bonuses and where much cheaper.

An unintended consequence of this bell ringing was the sales volumes from the showroom increased. Customers felt the heightened energy of the staff and could see how successful and popular we where and this made closing the sale easier. It also motivated the administration and logistics staff as they felt the energy and new that the company was successful and was bringing in new business.

So ‪when it comes to rewarding your employees, cash is king—but only for a few hours. Money is not a long-term motivator. Sure, employees love cash — who doesn’t? — But finding ways to engage with them rather than pay them off will result in more loyal, harder working employees.‬‬‬

Here are some other ways to say, “I recognise you and appreciate all your hard work,” without destroying the budget.

• A thank you note. Saying thanks about something specific may be the ultimate reward. If you do it selectively yet authentically, a thank you note may be kept at your employee’s desk for years.
• Lunch party. Lunch with colleagues is fun, breaks up the routine and keeps employees in the office. It’s an all-around win for anyone who likes to eat.
• Outing. Take your employees for a tour of one of your vendors or suppliers’ facilities. It’s a cool way to learn more about whom you work with, and can be as fun as a school trip was in your school days.
• Letter from the Big Dog. Create a formal letter recognising your employee’s achievement. Sign it and use the company’s stamp or seal to give the letter something extra. If you really want to do it right, frame it too.
• Standing Ovation: Get all your employees together in the same room. Really pack them in. Then invite in the employee you’re recognising and give him or her a standing ovation.

Dale Carnegie, wrote a book, How to win friends and influence people that sold 15 million copies between 1936 and 2008. He said “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.” He was right.

Stories of struggle

For most entrepreneurs, there comes a time when you need to share, often around a fire with beers or over a glass of wine, your stories of struggle.

Big deal, not

Here is one of my positive ones regarding big deals, contracts or the like:

The first time I exhibited at a trade show was Hostex, at the time, the premier event for the hospitality trade in South Africa. We had a small corner stand and we went to considerable effort to be noticed (within a very limited budget.) It was not as difficult as we thought and we used very bold colors, shiny black and bright green throughout, even the floor was black and green carpet tiles. We trained hard to be different and draw many potential customers to our stand.

And it worked, we had a tremendous increase in business attributed directly to the show and (the war story) one of the top 3 German motor vehicle brands negotiated that we install espresso machines in all their branches nationwide. What an achievement, what a great deal, we would increase our current turnover by almost 70% for the next 2 years. I unfortunately still had a lot to learn about negotiations in those days and did not close all the loopholes. So although the motor vehicle manufacturer had an agreement with us, the individual dealerships order from whom they wanted and we only supplied 2 outlets.

Always start at the beginning

There are also stories about bad luck or challenges, such as:

I was called by one of the external sales people that there where glasses missing out of a case that we had delivered. This was not the first time I had got a call and it was now time to upgrade our systems to stop this stock loss.

I worked with the warehouse manager and we developed a system to mitigate the risk of pilferage by our warehouse staff and our drivers. We had stock checked and doubled checked in the warehouse. Stock was checked again on loading and signed for by the drivers and I was feeling very optimistic almost arrogantly so that we had beaten this internal problem of theft.

To my amazement, we kept getting calls that stock was missing and eventually I decided to drive to a customer myself and see what was wrong with his order, what was missing. I thought that some how, by seeing the physical evidence, I could work out how my delivery staff where stealing from me.

After apologizing profusely to the customer and working hard on developing the  trust that was lost, I went and had a look at the evidence.

It was a case of beer glasses. The glasses are packed in 2 rows of 24, one on top of the other and it was in the bottom row that there where 3 glasses missing out of the 24.

I then realised that it was not my staff stealing but rather the staff in the factory who produced these glasses or faulty equipment, who knew?

Not sure if the customer believed me but I had a huge grin on my face as it proved the innocence of my staff and laid the blame squarely at the manufacturer’s doorstep.

What’s your story?

Can you create your own luck?

Gary Player, the famous South African golfer once said, “the more I practice the luckier I get.” Here is one of the luckier moments I have had as an entrepreneur and it most probably wasn’t due to practicing but rather just doing.

In the first year of entering the hospitality industry on the wholesale and distribution side, my partner and I where asked by a franchisee of the largest steakhouse franchise in South Africa at the time to quote him on the catering equipment for his new restaurant. He gave us a list of all the equipment needed, which was a supplier’s quotation with all the prices removed.

We where very excited and knew that as a small start-up company we could most probably cut the prices of the equipment as our overheads where so low.

The next step was the obvious. To look up the contact details of the equipment supplier as their brand name was listed next to each piece of equipment on the blank quotation.

I phoned the manufacturer and excitedly told them how we had got this quotation and that we where going to secure this order and then become the supplier of choice to the franchise through our competitive pricing and excellent service.

The manufacturer provided me with a detailed quotation, exactly as I required, in a short space of time and I marked up the equipment and sent it through to the franchisee.

To my horror and dismay, my quotation was way more expensive them the original quotation the franchisee had, in fact it was exactly my mark-up too expensive.

As I was new to the industry, and in my excitement had naively chosen not to do any research, I was not aware that the supplier I had contact had a national contract with the franchisor to supply all catering equipment and had quoted the franchisee and me the same price.

I felt humiliated and discouraged.

However, at the same time, my partner had been introduced, by one of our existing customers, to some guys who where going to open a massive sports bar and not knowing that our quotation would be ridiculously over-priced, had given it to them for their kitchen and bar equipment.

They where obviously as new in the industry as we where because they accepted the prices; and ordered even more equipment.

To add icing and a cherry to the top of this incredible opportunity, they also shared that they weren’t brand conscious and where more interested in opening on time than having to wait for a specific brand.

This allowed us to negotiate with various suppliers and we ended up with an order greater than anything we could of wished for (and greater than all the other orders for the year added together) and a gross profit margin of almost 100%.

That was the lucky break that really set us up in the industry as we now had the reputation and the unencumbered finances to command better prices from suppliers and grow like crazy, which we did.

What questions should you be able to answer before starting your business

1. Will my loved ones support me?

Have I shared my vision with them? Have I explained the sacrifices that may be need as well as the rewards of success? This will be an emotional journey and most probably a bumpy ride so it important for everyone to understand your desire and determination and hopefully buy into it.

2. How much time do I have available?

Is this a part-time affair or a means to change my life that you are prepared to commit everything too? Long hours, weekends and public holidays may be needed to drive this new venture and a mobile phone becomes an appendage. Retail and some other industries and sectors determine your lifestyle.

3. How long can I live without an income?

Entrepreneurs are generally paid last and your planning may not play out as you anticipate so how long can your reserves last? What costs can you cut personally?

4. How much capital do I have/need?

Are you going to take on debt and/or put my assets at risk? Can you afford to start this business and do you have enough capital so that you are not setting yourself up for failure? Have you received the advice of a professional (accountant/banker) or mentor as to the financial needs of starting and running this venture?

5. What is my exit plan?

What are you going to do with this business if it is successful? List on a stock exchange, sell it, leave it to your kids? What’s your plan?

6. How do I handle rejection?

Every minute of every day you will be selling. Whether it is to your staff, suppliers or customers. You will be selling yourself, your business, your brand your product or service, all the time, always and you will be rejected!

7. Who am I competing against? 

Google it. See who else is in the game and whether you are offering something better. If you have no competition, there may be a reason.

8. What makes my offer unique?

Your offer is unique because ____________? If you cannot answer this question in a simple manner that can be included in your marketing information, you shouldn’t get started.

9. What is the problem I am solving?

You can only sell solutions and without being able to answer this question, in a simple and direct manner that other people understand, you do not have a business to start and the rest of the questions are irrelevant.

10. Will people pay for this?

If you cannot commercialise your idea, then it is just a hobby.

Spark* South Africa 2018 Accelerator Programme Applications now open

Spark* International, an initiative of Australian international development non-profit YGAP, has opened applications to its Spark* South Africa 2018 Accelerator Programme.

The five-day programme takes place in Johannesburg between 15 and 20 April. Interested entrepreneurs have until 4 March to apply and can do so here.

The accelerator is aimed at South African entrepreneurs who are looking to scale and are currently making an impact in education, health and job creation.

Spark* aims to find, accelerate, support and connect startups. Since the initiative launched in 2011, it has gone on to support 295 entrepreneurs. The organisation claims 90% of its entrepreneurs have doubled their “impact” and revenue.

Programme participants will receive post-programme training and support as well as access to business coaches, mentors, lawyers, accountants and research assistants for 12 months.

In addition, participants will also be able to continually apply for small grants of up to R10 000. Selected entrepreneurs will be moved into a growth track where they will be provided with access to grants of up to $AUD25 000.


Sagarmatha Technologies launches $1m AI challenge for African startups

One lucky African startup with a cutting edge artificial intelligence (AI) solution stands the chance to win an investment of USD 1 million from Cape Town based technology platform Sagarmatha Technologies, with the launch today of the AI Revolution Challenge.

Sagarmatha Technologies commented that the company will provide USD 1 million in development funding, as well as more than USD 2 million in marketing value-adds and prizes to the leading African AI startup.

Applications for the challenge close on 31 March and a panel of AI investors and experts will select up to 20 startups for the final event, which will be hosted in South Africa in May this year.

“Africa as a continent is creative and has unique perspectives, providing a fertile space for innovation and disruption,” Sagarmatha Technologies CEO Paul Lamontagne said.

He said the business case for Africa is “very strong” and added that he sees the continent at a tipping point if more is done to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“There are trailblazing innovators and disruptors on the continent and we hope to shine the light on these pioneering entrepreneurs,” he said.

The challenge is open to businesses that currently offer or that intend to offer a product, service or platform that utilise AI, can apply. Their product or service must demonstrate commercial applications worldwide.

Furthermore to qualify to apply, the startup must have secured a minimum investment of USD 25 000 at date of application, either in seed funding or in equity or loans. Only companies registered and resident on the African continent may apply.

As part of the entry process, applicants must upload a presentation (PDF or PPT) describing their product, team, market opportunity and financial projections

In addition applicants must submit a five minute pitch video via the aiRevolution app. The video should include all key members of your team.

Further information is available at
Fill the week with fun lessons and activities to get your students engaged and excited about digital citizenship.

Tony Elumelu Foundation Accepting Applications for 4th Cycle of $100m Entrepreneurship Development Programme

Africa’s largest philanthropy supporting entrepreneurship – The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is now accepting applications for business ideas that can transform Africa.

The Programme provides critical tools for business success, including:

• Training: 12 weeks of intensive online training which guides creating and managing a business

• Mentoring: A world-class mentor to guide during the early transformation stages of the business

• Funding: $5,000* in seed capital to prove the concept, plus access to further funding

• Network: Access to the largest network of African start-ups and TEF’s own global contacts

The Programme, in its 4th cycle, is TEF’s 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs by 2024.

TEF Founder, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony O. Elumelu, CON said:

“When we launched the TEF Programme and committed $100 million, I knew we would create impact, but I never imagined it would be of this magnitude. We’ve unleashed a movement of African entrepreneurs — a force so strong, I am confident they will collectively transform Africa. We need Africa’s best and brightest to grow their businesses and build our continent.”

1,000 entrepreneurs will be selected based on the viability of their idea, including: market opportunity; financial understanding; scalability; leadership and entrepreneurial skills.


1. The business must be based in Africa

2. The business must be for profit

3. The business must be 0-3 years old

4. Applicants must be at least 18 and a legal resident or citizen of an African country

CEO of the Foundation, Parminder Vir OBE said:

“We encourage women, French and Portuguese speakers to apply. Our 3,000 alumni are already growing their businesses and improving lives. If you have a transformational business or an idea, we have an opportunity for you.”

* $5,000 seed capital is paid based on the official Central Bank of Nigeria naira equivalent value at the date of selection for the programme.

About The Tony Elumelu Foundation

The Foundation’s long-term investment in empowering African entrepreneurs is emblematic of Tony Elumelu’s philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions 
To be good digital citizens, and then have them share their pledges with the class.