February 7, 2022|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk|Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop

Editor's Desk

Hands off and let them grow

Browsing the internet this weekend looking for clues to the future of business in Africa this year, I stumbled across picks for 2022: that is, entrepreneurs  to watch this year.

I always think picking up on great businesses in their infancy is  more interesting than a retrospective once the millions have been made.

Down the years, you can keep an eye on them to see how they struggle through choppy waters on the way to the island of profitability. The trials of these start-ups contain lessons for us all.

That is why I was interested to stumble upon a list of a dozen start-ups to watch this year by an outfit called Disrupt Africa.

Surprise, surprise, many of these start-ups have two words in common – fintech and investment.

Like Jetstream, of Ghana, that strives to help customers with cross border payments, invoices and logistics. It enjoyed a successful and oversubscribed $3million debt and equity seed round last year and can only prosper with its cross-border trade as the African Continental Free Trade Areas slowly, but steadily, opens up this year .

Lami of Kenya is trying to seek out gaps in the insurance market this year with its API-backed app that offers an interface that allows insurance companies to offer digital products to their customers. It too has new seed funding to the tune of $1.8 million and this year plans a recruitment and expansion drive.

Also in Kenya, with new investment in hand, is a tech start-up called Wowzi. Its online platform offers brands the chance to manage massive messaging campaigns. It has secured $3.2 million this year in seed capital to help it scale up.

Just over the border, in Rwanda – one of the breeding grounds for entrepreneurs in Africa – is another start-up platform called Viebeg, that aims to help healthcare providers improve their procurement.

In South Africa, API technology is being put to work as well with a start-up called Stitch.It allows developers to connect, in seconds, with accounts to find out transaction histories and balances, confirm identities and make payments . The start-up has $4 million in new investment and is expected to launch in Nigeria this year.

All of these start-ups are internet based and clearly a sign of healthy  innovation.

What worries me this year is the temptation a number of governments across Africa may feel to tamper with the internet.

It happened last year with Nigeria and Twitter. When elections and tough times come around it is always very tempting for the people in power to pull the plug to dampen their online critics. This is likely to cause disruption and uncertainty for the start-ups mentioned above – and many more like them -who are clearly on their way to creating jobs and wealth.

My advice to those governments is short and simple – don’t.