This week, the Web Foundation is collaborating with Seedstars in its series of startup competitions across Africa, with our Africa Regional Coordinator Nnenna Nwakanma serving as a judge as the competition comes to Abidjan for the first time.
The Seedstars Competition is making its world tour, one country at a time. In each country, shortlisted entrepreneurs are given five minutes to convince a jury of the value of their proposed projects. A session for questions and answers allows the jury to decide if the startup is worthy of investment. Country-level winners will progress to the global final in Switzerland where they will compete for US $500,000 in investment, and other in kind support.
3000 startups, 600 selections, 50 countries, 17 African cities
It has been an incredible journey across the world for the global Seedstars competition. Seventeen African cities are engaged, more than double the number in last year’s competition and making up a third of all entries. From Cape Town to Cairo, Dakar to Dar es Salaam, through Lagos and Maputo, startup fever is high and the race is on.
This year, the competition comes to Abidjan for the first time. The selected projects and companies are honing their communication skills to impress the jury, while polishing their projects and keeping their eyes focused on Switzerland.
The Internet and the rise in technology entrepreneurship
There is a golden thread that runs through all projects so far: technology. All startups are required to provide technological solutions to everyday problems. The quality of the projects, the extent of innovation and reliance on an Internet that will serve as the backbone of either communications, transactions, relay or basic functions is what runs through all of the projects.
In Mozambique, compra.co.moz is bringing an “Amazon-like” experience to shopping in the country. Mozambikes allows for the purchase, donation and branding of bicycles. In Lagos, MyQ, a mobile application, provides queue management, passenger loading and ticketing services to the transportation industry, while TalentBase offers a lightweight and easy-to-use mobile/web-based HR & Payroll Software for the 20 million SMEs in Nigeria.
Internet access and a free and open Web enables these startups to drive economic growth
For me, it’s exciting to be on the jury of the SeedstarsAbidjan startup competition. Looking at the projects selected as finalists, I see young people using the free and open Web to create jobs, solve problems and add value to society. I feel inspired by their dedication, and even more driven to accomplish our mission at the Web Foundation.
As the whole world celebrates youth today, it is critical that Africa, a continent of young people, invests more in its youth to achieve economic emergence. For me, the economic emergence of African countries will only be accomplished by making sure that the population has affordable Internet access, public data sets are made available and are open to ensure citizen participation and the Web is maintained as an open and free platform for personal, collective and communal expression, innovation and collaboration. This is exactly what we’re fighting for at the Web Foundation.
Inspiring and enabling the startups of tomorrow
On International Youth Day, we should reflect on the future of the African startup scene, and the opportunities it provides for our young people. We should ask ourselves some critical questions:
- How many African entrepreneurs are waiting to be enabled by affordable Internet access?
- If businesses and entrepreneurs rely this much on Internet access in 2015, how crucial will this access become in the coming years?
- Is our economic emergence sustainable and scalable if users and customers cannot have affordable Internet access to take advantage of these startups’ products and services?
- Are we ready to work to protect the Web as a free space for innovation, entrepreneurship and citizen engagement?
- To what extent are we willing to work for openness in data, contracting standards and governance so that African youth can be empowered with knowledge for innovation?
Our responses to these questions will be some of the key determinants of how successful and inclusive Africa’s economic emergence will be for current and future generations. Hosting a national startup pitch is fantastic a starting point, but it is just that – the beginning. Joining forces to empower youth and make economic emergence inclusive is the bigger mission.
Happy International Youth Day