Akintoye Akindele: Tech startups will be Africa’s next big achievement

Changing the narrative of the continent will entail solving old problems as well as harnessing the power of new technologies, says Akindele, a Nigerian serial entrepreneur and investor.

Speaking ahead of the 2022 African Business Leader of the Year award in the UK House of Lords on Monday, Akindele told CNN that the tech industry will be the next big thing on the continent.

By opening up more and encouraging creativity, while giving innovators permission to fail, Africa can take its technology sector globally by replicating the success of its Afrobeats music industry– says Akindele.

The Afrobeats had a meteoric rise, with songs from African artists topping the charts and becoming an integral part of parties and nightclubs around the world. At the recently held BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards 2022 in Los Angeles, Nigerian duo Wizkid and Thames fended off stiff competition from more established American stars such as Kendrick Lamar, Doja Cat and Drake and won the best collaboration award.

Africa’s technology landscape is also increasingly attracting attention and funding. According to African Tech Startup Funding Report 2021.

According to the report, 125 tech startups in Africa raised $185 million in 2015, and 564 startups raised $2.1 billion in 2021.

Several unicorns have appeared in Africa’s tech ecosystem. In countries like Nigeria, home to five of the continent’s seven tech unicorns, these success stories are still mostly seen as Nigerian and African rather than global tech companies. Akindele noted that taking African tech companies to the global stage will also require efforts similar to how Afrobeats became known around the world.

“Afrobeats was the deliberate export of people in the business who truly believe they can compete with the best in the world. Just like Afrobeats went mainstream, little by little our tech ecosystem is also going mainstream,” he told CNN.

“Love Affair with Failure”

Akindele just released a book “Love affair with failure: when reaching the bottom becomes a launching pad to success“written with Olakunle Soriyan. They claim that many people do not realize their full potential because they are afraid to fail. But without risk, the innovations that could spur Africa and the world’s growth will not emerge.
Akintoye Akindele speaks at the launch of his book Love Affair with Failure: When Hitting Bottom Becomes the Launching Point to Success, co-written with Olakunle Sorian.

“Failure is a good thing to generate curiosity and innovation. Everything that is successful today has its foundation in failure. To encourage more people in Africa not to be afraid, we are sharing stories that will make them understand, experience, magic is possible,” he told CNN.

Akindele noted that Africa’s growing fintech ecosystem is only about ten years old, but he has high hopes for its growth in the global market.

In early June 2022, it was announced that African fintech firm MFS Africa had acquired Oklahoma-based Global Technology Partners for $34 million, a move the Financial Times described as “a rare instance of an African group making a U.S. tech deal.” “

“I think the era is coming when African fintech companies will buy global financial institutions, forming a marriage, because by solving money problems on the continent, they [also] solving global cash problems,” Akindele said.

Building a New Africa

Akindele is also the chairman of Platform Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in technology companies around the world, but mostly in Africa. In May 2022, Platform Capital announced an investment in Zuri Health, a company that provides affordable healthcare services to patients through SMS, WhatsApp and a dedicated app. Akindele noted that technology can help Africa quickly solve its problems, catch up and take over the rest of the world.

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“Technology has lowered the barriers to problem solving, market access, knowledge and everything else. Market know-how is now more accessible,” he said.

Among the many companies Akindele manages is Duport Midstream Company Limited, which is building what it calls Nigeria’s first energy park. The company said the park, located in Edo state, will include an oil refinery, a gas processing plant, a compressed natural gas plant and a power plant within five years. According to Akindele, the energy park will indirectly affect thousands of lives.

But building a new Africa also involves addressing some of the problems the continent continues to grapple with — inadequate energy supplies and food crises in some countries — as well as investing in and actively participating in new technologies.

“We are not lagging behind in any way,” Akindele said. “We fundamentally believe that Africa’s youth and old can work together to build a new Africa.”

He noted that the “older guys” know how to build heavy industry infrastructure, and the “new guys” know how to build a flexible business. And in addition to solving long-standing problems with food, infrastructure, energy and transportation, “we then combine them with payments, robotics, health technologies and others. Africa will be able to create a world in which it can determine its own future.”

Akindele maintains that despite the many challenges Nigeria is grappling with, he is “hopeful and confident” in the Nigerian narrative. “We are stronger than we think,” he said.