African entrepreneurs at centre of global change – Village Capital

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Entrepreneurs, especially those based in Africa and in the fintech space, are at the centre of a process of change that will define what the next 50 years look like, according to Ross Baird, executive director of fintech for agriculture accelerator programme Village Capital.

Disrupt Africa reported in April Village Capital had announced the startups that would take place in its FinTech for Agriculture accelerator programme in Nairobi, Kenya, two of which will ultimately walk away with US$50,000 each in funding.

Village Capital finds, trains and invests in early-stage ventures solving major social problems through profitable business solutions, and has supported 450 ventures in 30 programmes across nine countries since 2009.

The programme ended with the startups pitching to investors at an event in Nairobi last week, where Baird said the one thing that was evident to Village Capital was that there was a massive change taking place across the world, and that change is being driven by entrepreneurs.

“One of the things that I want to say is if we look at the way the world is going, entrepreneurs working in Africa specifically and fintech specifically are setting the stage for what the next 50 years will look like,” he said, pointing out that 50 years ago Silicon Valley consisted of little more than apple orchards.

“What we are doing today is a 50-year project,” he said.

Baird said there was a need for those talking about African startups to emphasise the positive rather than looking only at failure.

“Particularly in countries like Kenya and a continent like Africa where there aren’t a lot of success stories for startups it is easy to talk about how this isn’t going to work. But really great businesses don’t create things in two or three years, they create things in 10 or 20 years,” he said.

The entrepreneurs that took part in the Village Capital programme, according to Baird, are at the centre of three major trends: the democratisation of entrepreneurship, the spread of fintech into many sectors such as health and energy, and growth of impact investing.

“People, particularly younger people, are more and more interested in working for companies that mean something. So as Africa grows the best people are going to work for these companies rather than corporations and places that don’t resonate with their values,” he said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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