Our three takeaways from Demo Africa 2018

On the 18 and 19 October, the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team took part in Demo Africa 2018 in Casablanca, Morocco. The event gathered local and international investors, big tech companies, mobile operators and other ecosystem players to foster pan-African collaboration. The two-day event included pitches from 30 shortlisted start-ups, as well as keynotes, panel sessions and fireside chats tailored at helping both African and international investors to explore investment opportunities, share best practices and broaden their knowledge of the African start-up ecosystems. As usual, we have put together a short blog to highlight our key takeaways from the event.

1. Mobile connectivity in Africa drives economic opportunities and lays the foundations for technological innovation to flourish

The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team was granted the opportunity to speak on two panel sessions: ‘The African Future of Infrastructure’ and ‘Connectivity and Scaling African Start-ups’. During the sessions, it was made clear that connectivity and infrastructure are not by-product of technology and economic progress, rather they are vital enablers and critical components for accelerating African start-ups’ growth. Both sessions focused on key enablers of internet adoption (infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness, content and services). Representatives from mobile operators Inwi and Orange, as well as major ecosystem stakeholders like Google, Microsoft, Afineety, Flat6Labs and the US Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, were present on both panels.

2. Africa’s challenges are opportunities for resilient, impact-driven entrepreneurs

In line with Demo Africa’s tradition, 30 start-ups from across the continent were mentored and got opportunities to pitch in front of investors interested in the African start-up ecosystem. Combined, these start-ups are not only solving unique and diverse challenges but driving efficiency and impact across multiple verticals in their respective countries.

Among these start-ups were Agritech start-ups Complete Farmer and WeFlyAgri; Logistics and TransportTech start-ups, Kourtim and GoZem; HealthTech solutions Redbird and Chefaa, to name but a few (here’s the list of the 30 start-ups). Five of the 30 start-ups (Chefaa, Complete Farmer, VirtualFX, Kourtim and Hawkar (Demo Africa 2018 winner)) also won the opportunity to tour Silicon Valley on the Lion’s Africa tour.

3. Investment appetite for African start-ups continues on an upward trajectory

The event marked the seventh year of running Demo Africa and hence it was time to look back, reflect on and discuss the progress the African start-up ecosystem has made over the last couple years.

We witnessed that over the last seven years, deals after deals, African start-ups have not failed to impress but also continue to exceed expectations in funding raised. Africa start-ups’ ability to increasingly attract local and foreign investors cannot be overstated. The impressive list of investors which attended Demo Africa is a good illustration of this trend.

The group included mobile operator driven CVC fund Orange Digital Ventures, institutional donor French Development Agency (AFD) via their Digital Africa initiative, but also a number of commercial venture capital funds like Convergence Partners, Cross Culture VC, Eden Ventures, IDF Capital, PreCursor VC, Outlierz VC, ReEngine Ventures, to name just a few.

To end this blog, we would like to thank the Demo Africa and Demo Ventures Executives teams (Stephen Ozoigbo, Harry Hare and Tania Ngima) for offering us the opportunity to share our views and the insights we’ve gathered over the last two years of the programme.

The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund provides selected start-ups in Asia Pacific and Africa with equity-free funding, technical assistance, and the opportunity to partner with mobile operators in their markets to help scale their products and services into sustainable businesses with positive socio-economic impact.

The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.

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