It is hard to miss the African section of Viva Tech, where French President Emmanuel Macron has said his country will invest $76 million in African startups. He said innovation on the continent is key to meeting challenges ranging from climate change to terrorism. He spoke last Thursday at a technology fair in Paris, showcasing African talent this year.
The African section of Viva Tech comprises of some of the continent’s most innovative entrepreneurs. There are gigantic signs pointing to stands from South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda.
Omar Cisse heads a Senegalese startup called InTouch, which has developed an app making it easier to conduct financial transactions by mobile phone.
“Globally, you have more than $1 billion per day of transactions on mobile money, and more than 50 percent are done in sub-Saharan Africa,” the West African shared.
He also says the challenges for African startups are tremendous, but so are the opportunities.
“In Africa, you have very huge potential. Everything needs to be done now, and with local people who know the realities,” he continued.
Like Cisse, Cameroonian engineer Alain Nteff is breaking new ground. He and a doctor co-founded a startup called Gifted Mom, which provides health information to pregnant and nursing women via text messaging.
“I think the biggest problems today in Africa are going to be solved by business, and not by development and nonprofits,” Alain said.
Mr. Nteff gets some support from the United Nations and other big donors. Funding is still a challenge for many African Startups.
African Startups reportedly raised $560 million last year, compared to more than $22 billion raised by European ventures.
“Now they are getting a $76 million windfall, announced by President Emmanuel Macron here at the tech fair,” reports AllAfricaNews.
“When the startups decide to work together to deploy ad accelerate equipment in Africa, it is good for the whole continent, because that is how to accelerate everything and provide opportunities — which by the way, is the best way to fight against terrorism, jihadism, to provide another model to these young people,” he said.
The funding comes from the Digital Africa Initiative, run by the French Development Agency, France’s AFD (Agence française de développement).
“I think the main challenge is access to funding, and the second is the coaching to grow. AFD wants them to find solutions,” said Jean-Marc Kadjo, who heads the project team.
There are plenty of exciting projects here, says Reine Imanishimwe, a wood innovator from Rwanda.
“I try to use my wood in high technology. As you can see, my business card is wood, but I print it using a computer,” explained Mr. Imanishimwe.
Abdou Salam Nizeyimana is also from Rwanda. He works for Zipline, an American startup that uses drones to fly blood to people and hospitals in Rwanda, cutting delivery times from hours to minutes.
“Now doctors can plan surgery right away and just say, ‘We need this type of blood,’ ” and it can be delivered in about a half hour or less, Mr. Nizeyimana said.
Rwandan President, Paul Kagame toured the tech fair with Macron. Relations between Rwanda and France are warming, after years of tension over Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Entrepreneur Nizeyimana gladly shares his thoughts on the budding relationship. “ When politics are good, he says, it is good for technology transfer and Africa’s development”.