Crowdfunding helps diasporans support Maghreb startups

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France-based crowdfunding platforms are allowing North Africans in the diaspora to support startups from Maghreb countries either through donations or equity investments.

Tunisian entrepreneurs Thameur Hemdane and Amina Nasri, based in France, are behind the launch of donation-based crowdfunding platform CoFundy and the more recent Afrikwity, which allows for investments in return for equity stakes.

The aim of the two platforms is to support projects with social, cultural and economic impact in Maghreb countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya.

“With our solutions, entrepreneurs and organisations with an impact in Africa, such as NGOs, startups and SMEs, have access to a new source of financing adapted to their needs,” Nasri told Disrupt Africa.

CoFundy was launched in 2014, and has so far financed seven projects. It allows organisations and startups to raise funds online, with 70 per cent of donors coming from the African diaspora.

“This very community expressed another need: they also look for investment opportunities with social and economic impact in their home countries,” Nasri said.

“Given this fact and the important financial needs of SME’s and startups we decided to propose another crowdfunding solution based on private investment.”

Afrikwity was thus launched in March, enabling anyone to invest African startups. Nasri said thanks to the continent’s economic growth and increasingly vibrant digital economy it had become an attractive investment destination.

“Returns on private investment are higher than those in other emerging and more established regions,” she said, adding, however, that startups still found raising capital a challenge.

“They are either too big for microfinance or too small for venture capital funds. That’s the equity gap problem, to which our startup offers a solution.”

Hemdane and Nasri believe equity crowdfunding is an appropriate answer for African SME’s financing needs.

The platforms themselves are financed by a French development agency and Mercy Corps, though both are for-profit, charging a success fee for funds successfully raised on CoFundy or Afrikwity.

“So far we are the only crowdfunding platform dedicated to Africa that has submitted a licence to French financial authorities, based in France and with a local presence in Africa – our first office is in Tunis, Tunisia,” Nasri said.

“Our goal is to build bridges between Europe and Africa, raising investor money in Europe for businesses impacting Africa.”

The team’s strategy is to expand gradually and regionally.

“We will first feature French startups with an African market on our platform, then we will propose Africa-based startups and SMEs,” Nasri said.

“Our long-term ambition is to allow any African investor to crowdfund local projects in his own country.”

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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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