MEST Africa and Microsoft announce 2019 Pan-African Tech Summit in Nairobi

The Pan-African tech conference, the MEST Africa Summit brings together leading entrepreneurs, investors, ecosystem players and executives from across Africa and globally to explore the latest innovations and rising stars in the African tech ecosystem. In addition to panel discussions driven by the continent’s top thought leaders, this year’s event will feature an engaging second day including interactive workshops designed for entrepreneurs, a look inside the MEST training program and incubator, and more.

Following the success of last year’s event in Cape Town, this year’s Summit will build on the exponential growth and diversity that the continent’s startup scene has witnessed over the past 12 months. Thought leaders will discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in the African tech space, including the impact of AI and machine learning on Africa’s workforce, the role of tech in cultivating a more energy-efficient Africa, how the creative use of data is enabling financial inclusion on the continent and more.

The Summit will feature addresses from MEST and Meltwater Founder and CEO Jorn Lyseggen, and Microsoft’s Senior Director for Africa Chris Langwa. Additional partners include Liquid Telecom, Africa’s Talking, Ethiopian Airlines, Shell Foundation, Flutterwave, African Development Bank, ALX, iHub, GrowthAfrica, Gearbox and more.

Speakers to date include Wambui Kinya (Chief Strategy Officer at Andela), Martin Karanja (Market Engagement Director at GSMA), Fola Olatunji David (Head of Startup Successes and Services, Launchpad Africa at Google), Tosh Juma (Managing Director Nairobi,, Olugbenga Agboola (Co-Founder & CEO at partner Flutterwave) and more.

The Summit will culminate with the finals of the 2019 MEST Africa Challenge, where attendees see regional winners AMPZ.TVOZÉSnode TechnologiesWayaWayaand Seekewa pitch for a chance at up to USD50,000 in equity investment, a place in a MEST Africa incubator of their choice and full support to help their company scale.

MEST Africa’s Managing Director, Aaron Fu, said: “As we gear up for this year’s Summit, we’re excited to welcome some of Africa’s most engaging entrepreneurs, partners, corporate leaders and ecosystem facilitators. We’re thrilled to partner with Microsoft, whose entrepreneur toolkit is helping developers across the continent more easily build impactful solutions. We look forward to diving deep into discussions around the innovations and solutions that are rapidly driving change on the continent.”

Microsoft Senior Director for Africa Chris Langwa said: “At Microsoft we believe in empowering every organization and person to do more. The work that MEST does with innovators in Africa aligns perfectly with our mission to transform people’s lives through technology engagement.”

MEST Africa has been training, supporting and investing in tech entrepreneurs on the continent for more than 10 years. Over 330 individual entrepreneurs have been trained at MEST, and nearly 60 tech companies have been launched via seed funding and mentorship. Five companies have exited, including Amplify Payments Ltd. (Amplify) who was recently acquired by leading Nigerian fintech player, One Finance Limited (OneFi), to further develop the payments ecosystem in Nigeria.

For more information about the MEST Africa Summit, and to register,

Opportunity open for creative entrepreneurs

The British Council in partnership with Seed Academy and the Social Enterprise Academy are recruiting 120 creative social entrepreneurs in Cape Town and Johannesburg to take part in a fully-funded, high impact business accelerator programme. Applications open on Monday 18 February.

This three-month business development programme will include in-depth, bespoke coaching from international and local social enterprise experts designed to support creative social enterprises that are at the ideation and growth stages to build or enhance their business models and bring social impact to the forefront of their work. The programme aims to help these creative social enterprises to become funding ready and/or access new market opportunities.

Participants for this selective programme will be recruited through a competitive online application process and can include enterprises operating in the performing arts, creative arts, fashion and textile design through to stage and set design, graphic design and film and television. The programme runs from May to December 2019.

The accelerator is being delivered as part of the British Council’s Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) Programme which supports the growth of creative and social enterprises at systemic, institutional and individual levels as a means of addressing entrenched social problems and supporting youth employment, gender equality and greater opportunities for people with disabilities and members of marginalized communities.

According to Rachael Millson, African partnerships director of the Social Enterprise Academy, “Creative entrepreneurship can play a significant role in addressing joblessness in South Africa and therefore more needs to be done to develop enterprises in the creative sector. In the face of rising unemployment, creative enterprises are employers, especially of young people, they open up business opportunities, especially for women, and they help build livelihoods for people living in local communities. Beyond their inclusive economic contribution, many creative enterprises address social issues.”

Kate Gardner, who manages the British Council’s DICE programme in South Africa, says, “Creative social enterprises have an artistic and social vision whilst operating as income generating businesses. By working with creative social enterprises, we are able to support the arts, enable the continued social impact of these enterprises and contribute to the growth of a creative economy that creates quality work opportunities for South Africa’s most underserved communities.”

Donna Rachelson, CEO at Seed Academy, says, “Creative industries provide South Africa with an opportunity to build inclusive economies and were identified as far back as 2014 as a growth area for job creation, especially because they tend to outperform traditional industries in terms of black, youth and female ownership.

“But not enough is being done to accelerate creative social entrepreneurship in South Africa. This is why we partnered with the British Council and the Social Enterprise Academy to develop a programme to build more social and creative businesses to make their impact sustainable.”

Aspiring and established creative social entrepreneurs are invited to apply. The programme is suitable for businesses at both ideation as well as the growth and scale stage. To apply, you should be an entrepreneur with a great idea for a creative business wanting to build it into a viable business with social impact. Or you should already be running a creative social enterprise and ready to scale or to bring social impact into your business model.

Applications can be made at from Monday, 18 February 2019.

ENQUIRIES and assistance contact Surika Behrens at or call 021 447 2556 / 083 411 0927.


British Council, Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) :

The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. DICE is an ambitious programme that supports the development of creative and social enterprises in the UK and five emerging economies: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and South Africa.


Social Enterprise Academy :

Social Enterprise Academy delivers transformational learning and development programmes for people and organisations working for social change. We are a social enterprise driven by a vision of a society which combines economic activity with community benefit, led by dynamic social entrepreneurs and enterprises. Our unique approach to learning has helped thousands of social entrepreneurs and social change organisations to become stronger and more resilient, increasing both their impact and their economic sustainability. Social Enterprise Academy South Africa is part of a worldwide network of 13 hubs, supporting social change within local communities and beyond.

Seed Academy :

Seed Academy builds successful, sustainable businesses by providing entrepreneurs with high-impact business development support and access to markets whilst assisting them to become funding ready. Our systematic methodology moves entrepreneurs from ideation to growth and ultimately to scale. We partner with clients to deliver real ROI based on measured outcomes combined with high levels of transparency and accountability for Enterprise and Supplier Development. Our programmes have been designed with sustainability in mind – we ensure our entrepreneurs are equipped, personally and professionally, to know what it takes to build, grow and scale a business.

Making History at IAC: #NewSpaceAfrica

The International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in October 1 – 5, 2018 in Bremen, Germany, opened the doors for a historic New Space event – one focused on space entrepreneurship on the African continent.. This panel was hosted by Airbus and moderated by NanoRacks’ VP of Business Development & Strategy, Allen Herbert.

Coined “#NewSpaceAfrica,” this event brought together emerging African, European, and American companies, including Airbus, the European Space Agency (ESA), regional space industry representatives of the European Union, and NanoRacks.

In its 69th year of existence, IAC Bremen featured for the first-time representatives from Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Somalia, welcoming the emerging African private sector in the space industry and new space entrepreneurial leaders.

What emerged was the following:

  • The need for space-tech hubs that bring leaders together
  • The need for angel investment funding geared towards private new space companies
  • The to partner across the region to meet others with similar  space initiatives, and share risk
  • The need for African countries to gain flight heritage on aerospace components, so they can compete with COTS providers around the world

The momentum for space advancement in Africa appears to come from individuals at the university and private sector level. With the young professionals leading the way.

At the #NewSpaceAfrica event, two emerging South African companies, Simera Sense and NewSpace Systems, provided pitches which led to robust discussions. The organizing committee hopes that this session will grow to become an IAC staple, leading into the IAC 2019 which will take place in Washington, DC.

IAC 2019 provides the opportunity for the African space industry to learn from the leadership of entrepreneurial inspired companies, such as NanoRacks, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, One Web, Virgin Orbit, and many more.  The accumulation of the forerunners of space entrepreneurship will lead to even more meaningful conversation.  These firms represent the companies paving the way for other space entrepreneurs in both in the United States and around the world.

There is a movement led by the young people in Africa to have an interpluvial space environment that is supported by governments, as well as regional and continental-wide African organizations.  But this is preceded by innovation that is taking place in other technology sectors with hubs popping up all over the continent.  We are only now in the beginning stages of the space sector hub development on the continent.

#NewsSpaceAfrica provides a conduit for all to send and identify what is occurring in the space sector on the African continent. This movement is far more than a hashtag- but we all know hashtags can blossom into something big and start change. Look at what they have done in America and around the world. Hashtags start movements and spur activity!

Starting from this event, there will come a very strong African contingent of the most creative and resourceful people in the world to participate in the space sector.

The future is bright and alive with positive conversation that will lead to the leapfrogging of space technology development and innovation becoming the domain in Africa’s emerging space companies.

The advent of space development and entrepreneurship is a movement with momentum that will continue to grow as Africa’s creativity and investments move to the space sector.

The African representatives that attended the IAC and those back in Africa are the seeds that will be the impetuous of African astronauts, Space Stations and modules circling the earth, as well as an African Moon and Mars facilities for research, development, and entrepreneurial advancement.

The future of space and technological innovation in Africa is here, real and advancing now.

Venture Capital and Private Equity investment a cornerstone of SA economic growth

As a proven catalyst of job creation, private equity and venture capital investment holds the potential to drive real economic growth and development across South Africa. Over the past two decades, the sector has shown remarkable expansion, with a total compound annual growth rate for venture capital and private equity funding of 9,4%.

However, with the region’s attractiveness as an investment destination having come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, it is vital to demonstrate to investors that Southern Africa possesses the necessary capabilities to identify and maximise these investment opportunities.

This is according to Tanya van Lill, CEO of the Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA), who points to research by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) which reveals that companies with investment from the private equity and venture capital sector experience an average growth in their staff complement of 40%.

“Considering that job creation remains one of the most critical challenges facing Southern African economies, it is key to recognise not only the role that venture capital and private equity can play in contributing to the success of investee companies, but also the positive impact that this type of investment can have on the broader economy and society.”

Craig Dreyer, Chairman of SAVCA says that it is against this backdrop that the SAVCA Industry Awards were launched in 2018. “The objective of the awards platform is to create an event that not only recognises the portfolio companies that have thrived from private equity and venture capital investment in the region, but also to promote the significant positive impact that these thriving businesses have on the economy.”

Aside from the vital benefit of capital injection that these asset classes can provide, Dreyer explains that investee companies also gain access to a wealth of experience, financial acumen and strategic foresight. “Gaining access to capital is important, but real value is derived in the form of sweat capital through mentorship, the promotion of market access, business development, guidance around corporate governance, and the general support from seasoned experts within the private equity and venture capital industry.”

“As these investee companies formalise their operations, they are in turn creating meaningful employment opportunities and contributing to the national fiscus; thereby increasing government’s ability to invest in infrastructure and social development,” he explains.

The winners for the inaugural SAVCA Industry Awards will be announced at a gala dinner and awards ceremony – an even that is open to anyone with an interest in the industry says Dreyer. “There are still a limited number of tickets available to the formal gala taking place at Montecasino on 8 November 2018, which promises to be a spectacular evening of industry celebration and networking.”

In order to attract promising talent into the industry, Dreyer says that all ticket proceeds will go to the SAVCA Bursary Fund. “The purpose of this fund is to provide financial aid to a deserving student who has an exceptional academic record and demonstrates an aptitude for a potential career in the industry,” he concludes.

Tunisia: 34 countries confirm participation in “Futurallia 2018”

Delegations from 34 countries have confirmed their participation in the International Business Forum “Futurallia TUNISIA 2018”, to be held from November 14 to 16 in Tunis.

These countries are: Algeria, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo China, Egypt, Spain, France, Guinea, India, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Morocco, Qatar, Romania, Syria, Senegal, Chad, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, UK and the USA.

“Nearly 600 entrepreneurs and more than 8,000 B2B meetings to conclude partnership and cooperation opportunities in around 40 sectors” are on the agenda of this forum, organized by the international section of the Confederation of Tunisian Citizen Enterprises (CONECT).

The forum is expected to see a record number of participants among experts, businessmen and representatives of African and international institutions. Registrations will be open until October 15, 2018.

A “Startup Village” will be organized in collaboration with Smart Tunisia, Novation City, Sfax Technopark, El Ghazela Technopark, Tunisian Startups, CONECT INTECH, and Biatlabs. It will be made available to the most promising startups to better promote their projects “to encourage more young entrepreneurs to internationalize, to have access to the external market, “said the CONECT.

In parallel, an “exhibition space” will offer participants the opportunity to present their companies.

The General Public Private Partnership Forum (IGPP) will also be present at “Futurallia Tunisia 2018”.

It will present 33 projects that integrate vital sectors such as transport, logistics, energy, water and environment, communication and information technology, infrastructure and urban development in several governorates of the country.

An “International space” is reserved for the heads of delegations of foreign companies and another space “experts in business services” is planned as part of the Forum’s program. Donors and sponsors of the forum will in turn have their spaces.

Africa Continental Free Trade Area to boost Intra-Africa Trade

One of the biggest challenges African countries face to develop their trading base and volumes has been linked to enshrined historical colonial trade ties that has seen most Afro countries trade (import and exports) being concentrated with their former colonial masters. There has been some progress in diversifying trade partners but it has largely been trade with other major global players were the negotiation power is mostly steeped against the African countries.

These enshrined historical trade deals are so complex and opaque such that the national taxation authorities have limited capacity to understand their underlying transaction and thereby effectively tax them. Moreover, even getting the forex volumes trickling back into the local economies and banking sectors has been limited leading to volatile local forex markets as well as limited sizes of the money markets.

Zambia is no exception to this scenario. Despite its greatest potential for the best trade deals and growing its export volumes being with neighboring countries such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC which have huge markets for primary products such as fresh farm produce, the country has seen more trade missions to Europe, Asia and the USA.

What these advanced economies need from Zambia for instance is mostly primary goods, Efforts to attract upstream investment in areas such as processing of copper to final goods manufacturing has been met with mere promissory notes. Even diplomatic efforts and establishing of good transport infrastructure to the neighboring Angola and DRC have moved at snails pace when these are the markets that are a low hanging fruit to strike trade deals with.

Zambia hosted for the first time the meeting of the African Union on the Continental Free Trade Area – CFTA from 10th to 15th September, 2018 in Lusaka. “The main purpose of CFTA meetings is to review and consult on outstanding issues on modalities for tariff liberalization, rules of origin and Trade in Services among African Union Member States in order to provide parameters that will guide member states to schedule their tariff and services concessions, and designate their sensitive products and products that will be excluded from liberalization,” Trade Ministry public relations officer Godfridah Chanda told the Zambian Business Times – ZBT

Chanda told ZBT that the African Continental Free Trade Area – AfCFTA is expected to create opportunities for scaling up production for producers, not only in Zambia but in the whole of Africa if properly implemented. The AfCFTA is expected to provide huge market access for produce, and ultimately contribute to job and wealth creation for Zambia in particular and African Countries as a whole.

However, there is a caution that the benefits under the CFTA are not automatic, individual countries such as Zambia need to prepare with their private sector to build the necessary capacity to trade and take advantage of market openness while minimizing the negative impact. Outstanding issues on modalities for negotiations on trade in goods relate to the version of Harmonized System of Commodity Coding and Description will be used as the basis for tariff concessions.

And the proportion of tariffs to be designated as sensitive products and those to be excluded from liberalisation based on options provided during an earlier meeting held in Senegal. The options are 5% sensitive and 5% exclusion; or 7% sensitive and 3% exclusion; or 9% sensitive and 1% exclusion; whether to apply anti-concentration to ensure that countries do not exclude an entire sector from liberalization; how to treat countries that are in a Customs union composed of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Non-LDCs and how to apply flexibilities,” she narrated.

The AfCFTA envisages liberalizing trade of goods and services for African Countries and extends its coverage to investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights. AfCFTA, once fully operational, will be the largest trading bloc in the world, bringing together fifty-five (55) African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than USD 3.4 trillion.

Intra- Africa trade remains a key economic lever that African countries need to take advantage of. Zambia which has eight neighboring countries should put more efforts in completing roads, bridges and transport infrastructure to connect and link up these nearby markets. The country’s diplomatic efforts should also follow a similar trend and facilitate the striking of more trade deals with these neighboring and Great Lakes region countries which are in close proximity and do not need multi-billion dollar capital base for local entrepreneurs to engage in trade.

Tunisia: “Ambition Africa 2018”, an opportunity for local entrepreneurs

“Ambition Africa 2018″, an event to be organized on October 22 and 23, 2018 by Business France and placed under the auspices of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, ” offers an exceptional opportunity for African and French companies to share their expertise, to find prospects or to build partnerships, around conferences, workshops and B2B meetings.

Based on the speech of French President Emmanuel Macron, in Ouagadougou, this event, whose objective is to strengthen the economic and commercial links between Africa and France, will bring together ministers, ambassadors and companies from all over the African continent.

“Ambition Africa 2018” is supported by leading institutional partners, AFD / Proparco, Bpifrance, CIAN, Medef, Medef International, CCEF, Presidential Council for Africa (CPA), French Chambers of Commerce and private sponsors such as CMA-CGM, TOTAL, ENGIE, GENERAL COMPANY, CFAO GROUP, FIDAL, BOLLORE LOGISTICS …

The French Embassy in Tunisia and its Business France office invite Tunisian companies to participate in this forum by registering for free on the following website:




‘Pitch AgriHack 2018’ is a competition organised by CTA to support young agricultural entrepreneurs (agripreneurs) build viable businesses and boost innovation for a more sustainable agricultural sector.

The two categories of start-ups, early stage, those just launching and advanced stage, were judged on criteria including problem(s) addressed, unique value proposition, market addressed, current market traction and revenues.

The winners of the early stage category, Illuminum Greenhouses Kenya, Kenya; Fenou Packaging, Benin; Develop Digitally, Jamaica; Farmignite Company, Nigeria – were rewarded grants of between €5000 and €7500. In the advanced category, CowTribe Africa, Ghana; Agro Innova, Ghana; Ankora Global Services, Nigeria; CLIN SARLU (e-agribusines), Togo received grants between €12000 and €15000. A special prize offered by Suguba Africa to the best Francophone start-up led by a woman was awarded to Fenou Packaging, Benin.

Michael Hailu, Director, CTA: “These are entrepreneurs who have been inspired to make a difference – to help transform agriculture for future generations and to encourage young people to see the potential in farming and agribusiness. They are showing a pathway to enable the modernisation of agriculture. They are shining a light on the hope that will greatly improve rural lives and make agriculture attractive and profitable to youth who are too often migrating to cities in search of better opportunities.”

Edson Mpyisi, Chief Financial Economist and Coordinator ENABLE Youth at the African Development Bank: “AfDB is committed to working with youth and women to catalyse entrepreneursip, facilitating access to technologies and networks that will create a thriving agribusiness sector in Africa, increasing rural jobs and improving livelihoods. We believe that Pitch Agrihack offers a value step-up for youn entrepreneurs and we are a proud partner in the initiative.”

Fayelle Ouane, Managing Director, Suguba: “Suguba was proud to offer investment readiness training to the finalists and a few additional start-ups. We were impressed by their energy and their innovative solutions that will help promote agriculture in ACP markets. We offered a prize to the best Francophone start-up led by a woman and look forward to continuing to work with the finalists and strengthening our relationship with CTA.”

The theme for 2018’s competition was “Women entrepreneurs innovate for agricultural transformation in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific”. 26 start-ups, 14 of which are women led, from 9 countries were selected out of 325 young AgriTech start-ups that applied.

Earlier in the week the finalists were shepherded through a boot camp process before pitching their innovations to potential investors and a judging panel.

The panel of judges comprised: Professor Ruth Oniang’o; former winner of the African Food Prize; Ethel Cofie; Founder of EDEL technology also named as one of the Top Five Women impacting IT in Africa; Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl, Managing Director of the African Innovation Foundation; Chiji C Ojukwu, former Director of the Department of Agriculture and Agro-industry at the African Development Bank and Thomas Festerling; CFO and Managing Partner of GreenTec Capital Partners.

Since the launch of CTA’s AgriHack Talent Initiative, at least 1 million farmers and agricultural stakeholders have been reached by services provided through the use of applications developed in the process. Start-ups, mostly information and communications technologies (ICT) based innovations, have raised more than two million Euros from other investors and partners.

Pitch AgriHack 2018 is organised with the support of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Suguba Africa. Other collaborators include Women in Tech Africa and Wennovation Hub.

Intelligent drones crack down on illegal fishing in African waters

Young entrepreneur Badr Idrissi never waited to be told what to do. Instead, he looked for innovative solutions to problems. He would often take the family TV or video recorder to pieces. “My parents would always tell me to put it back together!” he says. “But that’s how I learned to fix things.”

Today, thirty-seven-year-old Idrissi, from Morocco, is CEO and co-founder of ATLAN Space, a deep technology startup using drones and artificial intelligence to crack down on illegal fishing and protect natural resources in Africa.

“I had a conversation with a friend, Younes Moumen who is also a Co-Founder of ATLAN Space, about our terrible track record in Africa on illegal fishing, poaching, deforestation,” he says. “We dug deeper into the statistics and what we found shocked us.”

They found, for example, that Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, lose an estimated USD2.3 billion in total to illegal fishing annually, as reported by Frontiers in marine science.

A former Microsoft Account Executive with a degree in Telecommunications Engineering, Idrissi and his co-founder worked hard to find a solution. They developed software technology that arms unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, with artificial intelligence.

“The drones use artificial intelligence to decide where to go. We give them information about protected marine areas, illegal fishing hotspots, and the weather. We also program them to distinguish each context,” he explains.

“For example, if a fishing boat is detected, the drone will analyze its behavior based on whether it is located in a protected marine park, what it is doing, whether there is a fleet, etc., to decide if its activity is illegal. It will use the context to decide whether or not to report the situation.”

Other drones can only cover a radius of about 70 kilometers and need a human pilot. ATLAN Space’s technology increases the operational range of the drones, and allows them to monitor very large marine areas without any human interaction.

Depending on the number of hotspots which need to be monitored, one drone can cover 10,000 square kilometers . They fly at over 300 meters, making them unreachable by non-military means.

“If the drone is 95 percent sure that behavior is illegal, it will send the relevant local authorities information detailing the time of the occurrence, the GPS coordinates, the location and any other relevant data that will help them decide on the course of action,” he says.

The novelty of the technology lies in its ability to bypass the need for human intervention over long distances. The drones can cover a large area and make autonomous decisions. For example, two drones can communicate and ‘decide’ to split up and track two different boats.

But Idrissi’s vision is not to replace humans altogether. “Our technology is there to help people do their jobs more effectively. Illegal activities destroy jobs, for example in the tourism industry,” he says.

ATLAN Space has won a National Geographic award to fund its “FishGuard pilot” partnership, which will deploy the drones for the first time, to tackle illegal fishing in the Republic of Seychelles.

FishGuard is a unique partnership that includes in addition to ATLAN Space, Trygg Mat Tracking – a Norwegian analytical non-profit and the international organization Grid-Arendal, to provide technological solutions to combat illegal fishing.

Idrissi estimates that this system costs half of what is already commercially available on the market, making it a highly cost effective option for tackling illegal activity, especially among emerging economies.

“The deployment cost of the FishGuard solution depends on many parameters and is specific to each project. It doesn’t only include the technological element, but also capacity building for a sustainable ocean resources management strategy,” says Idrissi.

“This is about more than detecting crime: we can build marine protection capacity; understand trends and patterns to see the bigger picture of what is happening at sea. We expect this will have a deterrent effect, because people will see that the area is monitored,” he says.

After deploying its solution in the Seychelles, Idrissi plans to expand the model to tackle other environmental problems like deforestation and illegal mining in future.

Idrissi believes that while there is much potential for startups like his in Africa, entrepreneurs and innovators still face challenges. “I do feel that today we focus on educating young people about how to be an employee. That doesn’t allow people to be creative – and that is risky.”

UN Environment Regional Information Officer for Africa, Mohamed Atani, notes that supporting young entrepreneurs in Africa is critical for sustainable development, and for finding more innovative solutions like FishGuard in future.

“Today more than ever, we need young people like Idrissi, who understand challenges in Africa, and who find solutions for which there is great demand,” says Atani. “Entrepreneurs are not people who fail to find a job – they have immense vision for the future. We must support that.”


African startups in China highlight growth of two-way ties

China-Africa business ties are increasingly being built on two-way ideas combining the best of both sides, with a growing number of China-based African entrepreneurs striving to turn their startup ideas into reality.

While Chinese investment in African infrastructure has long been reported on, the effects of cultural exchanges, foreign study placements and closer business ties are cultivating a new generation of young African entrepreneurs.

The recent Africa Week – a series of events in Beijing focusing on African culture, tech and business -– concluded with a pitch competition that saw young African entrepreneurs look to win 30,000 yuan (4,680 US dollars) in startup funding.

The five competing entrepreneurs came from across the continent, pitching ideas ranging from green technology to African jewelry design.

One factor that they all shared was a connection to China. Most were postgraduate students, using their experiences of living in the country to identify niche markets linking Africa and China, or business concepts that could be established in China before being exported back to the continent.

President of Shanghai-based Russell Investments Brian Ingram was on the board of judges, and set the tone for the event in his opening comments by referring to so-called exploitation within the China-Africa relationship, telling competitors it was their “job to exploit back” by valuing and utilizing the networks they built in China.

50,000 Africans were studying in China in 2015, more than the US and the UK. At the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China pledged to offer 30,000 scholarships to African students by the end of 2018.

The business ideas on show included a smartphone-based gamified recycling system, born from a desire to tackle litter left on Chinese university campuses, and a tourism company that set out to challenge stereotypes about Africa through VR technology, combining local on-the-ground knowledge with cheap Chinese tech to tap into one of the world’s biggest source of tourists.

One pitch, offering business services to African small and medium enterprises highlighted the huge untapped potential of SMEs on the continent. When asked how his company would compete with similar services being provided by China’s Alibaba, Aminu Ibrahim Hashim replied that local knowledge was always essential, saying “for African business, you need Africans.”

The African startup scene attracted 129 million US dollars’ worth of investment in 2016. While only a small amount compared to other regions, the startup sector is growing rapidly despite being largely ignored by Silicon Valley, according to Techcrunch.

While there was general agreement that without local knowledge major Chinese companies would struggle to succeed in Africa, it was clear that China’s mass adoption of mobile technology in recent years has been an inspiration, showing entrepreneurs how mobile payments, Fintech, gamification and e-commerce could be the spark for new business ideas.

Judges were ultimately won over by a pitch for expanding Nani’s Creations, a small-scale jewelry manufacturer with African designs, using materials sourced from Africa and sold in China.

Impressed by Ghanaian designer Yaa Anima Opare Appiah, the judges pointed to how she combined traditional African designs with a clear set of goals for doing business in China –utilizing e-commerce, obtaining a business license to set up shop in Beijing and spreading her product through word of mouth and social media.