Over the last years working on oratio and several other projects I started to become increasingly interested in digitally emerging markets such as South America, Eastern Europe, South East Asia and Africa. The latter has caught my interest in particular.
I realized that most of the entrepreneurs I know in my network across Berlin, London, San Francisco and the Valley build products focused on Western markets mostly for one simple reason: it's easier to relate to markets you are personally familiar with (and I'm not an exception to that.)
However, the more time I spent researching on the current state of digital African development, the more I realized that it's hard to find viable information online, especially on the startup scene in East Africa.
Visiting a king
Kenya's capital Nairobi seems to stand out among the KINGS countries – an acronym for economically soaring countries in Africa (Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa) – as just recently TechCrunch and Facebook joined forces to host their very first Startup Battlefield Africa in the capital city on 11th October 2017.
You can watch it again on YouTube:
Another great source to better understand Kenya and the overall development of entrepreneurship in resource-scarce ecosystems is the excellent e-book Digital Kenya by Prof. Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss. It is packed with up-to-date information and interviews with local entrepreneurs and expats, hightlighting how Kenya's society is moving fast towards becoming an interesting playground for entrepreneurs to solve big problems.
Experiencing it myself
The more I got myself into Africa the more I wanted to know about it. I wanted to learn more, not only in theory but to see it with my own eyes.
Hence over the next three months I plan to spend a total of about four weeks in Kenya and South Africa to better understand the local, digital movements and startups in Africa. What problems are they solving? What problems are they facing themselves? I compiled an extensive list of people I want to meet to answer these questions.
My first journey will start first week of December for about ten days where I will be spending most of the time in Nairobi meeting entrepreneurs, founders, expats and locals to better understand a growing society with a notably high smartphone penetration, paired with an excellent mobile payment system called M-PESA which is already widely used.
Follow me and learn more
I will keep record of my experiences and thoughts on this blog and Twitter to give you more insights on what it means to see emerging markets through 'Western eyes.'
Due to my previous work, I'm particularly interested in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), messaging (especially business-to-consumer), mCommerce as well as two-sided marketplaces. Hence I will keep looking for these patterns throughout my journey.
Honestly, I don't really know what to expect and I might come to the conclusion that I had overestimated the current digital movements in East Africa – something I have heard while from friends and contacts – but without me actually experiencing it first-hand I will probably never know.
Follow me for #digitalafrica on Twitter (@_bernhard) and subscribe to this blog below.
- Article: East Africa through Western eyes: Society & Technology
- Article: East Africa through Western eyes: Startups & Entrepreneurship
Learn more about M-PESA in this article by Sam Floy: http://samfloy.com/how-and-why-mobile-money-m-pesa-works-in-kenya/ ↩︎
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