Last week, our COO Benjamin was on a trip to Nairobi, where he participated at “Nairobi Innovation Week”. It was a week in which he discovered that Europe should send more than just NGOs to Africa.
We had a chat with him about his week and why he believes that Africans and Europeans should work together more closely.
What were your expectations of NIW?
Our local partner Moses and I had done some preparation and already contacted a few startups which we thought had an interesting business. We managed to set up some meetings before I arrived in Nairobi. That was important for me, because I didn´t know what to expect from NIW. To be honest, it wasn´t necessary to have all these appointments.
never been to a startup event with so many great startups and entrepreneurs all
in one place. We met so many great people with amazing ideas that it was hard
to deal with all the potential investments we could have made. Of course, there
were also ideas which I don’t think will ever develop into a real business.
What I found impressive was the fact that so many startups were trying to find a solution to everyday problems. Young people faced with a problem, who wanted to solve that problem by creating their own business.
Why do you think there were so many startups?
Because there are so many problems to be solved. It’s a whole other world to ours, and their everyday life is so different to life in Europe.
One major problem is public transport. Between 3,000 and 13,000 people lose their lives in road traffic accidents in Kenya every year [lh1] . At the “Urban Mobility Event”, I met many startups who wanted to deal with that problem. This is not something we can relate to in Europe, but this is what makes the idea of supporting them so interesting – the fact that they are dealing with other issues to us.
After your return, you said that we, as a company, should work more closely with the African market, and that you hope more European investors will find their way to Africa. What made you say that?
What I witnessed over the past week was a startup environment which is still in its infancy. I met so many young people with burning ambition, eager to make a difference to their local community, that I believe there is much more to come.
As a company, we can learn and obtain input on how on they solve their problems and use that knowledge to grow our business in different ways.
The business opportunities for investors are immense.
Naturally, there is a downside. You have to understand the African market and how things work.
The workflow is generally a lot slower than we are used to in Europe. I call it “hakuna matata” style. If you ask why, the simple answer is: This is Africa. This is why we decided to cooperate with a local partner. You need someone on the ground.
Where do you see the biggest improvements for the future?
I think that, working together with European partners, the local authorities have to give young startups a bigger global perspective on things. Many startups I met were trying to solve local problems which we have already solved in Europe. It goes without saying that you can´t just copy paste a solution from Europe into Africa, but that knowledge and experience can at least be drawn on so that startups don’t have to start from scratch.