Asia has had its time, and the next big destination for investment and innovation is Africa, most specifically in the continent’s tech space.
This is according to Eric Osiakwan, managing partner of Chanzo Capital, an early-stage micro-VC firm investing in high-tech startups in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Osiakwan was speaking during a panel discussion on investments in African tech at the recent Africa Technology Summit (ATS), hosted by the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), where he said Asia has had its moment but “the next big place now is Africa”.
“Though some are thinking natural resources, I argue that it is tech,” he said. “Communication, content and commerce are the major areas. We are looking at how they affect health, market, education – gamifying education and making educational content more accessible.”
This view was shared by other panelists during the session, though there was some disagreement on exactly what sub-sector of the African tech scene the biggest new businesses will spring from.
Pat Wilson, vice president of Quona Capital, said the main opportunities were in trade finance, supply chain finance, agriculture, and women’s content, but for Amber Fowler, partner at seed and early-stage tech-focused VC fund EchoVC, it is all about e-commerce.
“There are a lot of e-commerce activities happening across the continent and that is going to be an enormous opportunity,” she said.
“One thing missing, however, is that management of the customer relationship still needs some more attention. It is very important to get that right from the very beginning, and we tend to lean more towards entrepreneurs who are keen on fixing that. E-commerce, mobile and online payments are a big deal.”
In terms of where these successful ventures are most likely to spring from, Ben White, chief executive officer (CEO) of VC4Africa, said Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa were the leading investment destinations on the continent. Osiakwan, meanwhile, said he expected Africa’s first unicorn to come from one of Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.