Eghosa Omoigui: Education is a very significant issue. These markets are growing very quickly. Nigeria is adding 26,000 babies every day. Education and how you create a pathway to households is a key part of this.
We invested in a company called Kukua, which is based out of Nairobi. What they built is a platform for early age education on STEM. There’s a heroine and she loves STEM.
What that builds is the ability to learn in a manner that works. You start to get introduced to these concepts very early. It’s delivered in bite-sized modules. This is how we think about investments. We are very fortunate to be able to partner with companies that we invested in.
We continue to be very active in thinking broadly around inclusion and healthcare. We are investing in a company called Lifebank. They’re optimizing supply chain for access to blood and blood products. It’s led by a woman.
We’ve got an amazing portfolio. What’s interesting as well is that we’re beginning to see companies coming out of Africa that have a shot at being global companies.
Sramana Mitra: I have a few questions based on what you said. What are the backgrounds of these entrepreneurs? Have they been educated in Africa? Have they grown up in Africa? Did they leave and come back? What trends are you seeing?
Eghosa Omoigui: When we started, there was nothing there. A year or two later, we started seeing more activity. What we found is, they tend to skew to entrepreneurs that have backgrounds like the US founders. You had degrees in US schools.
We hosted VCs. They said, “All these entrepreneurs went to HBS or MIT. Who’s investing in local founders?” I said we are. The truth is we did and continue to recognize that all these local founders had a high resolution or understanding of local dynamics. That was interesting to us.
We also found that we have founders who are not necessarily African but cared deeply about the continent. They had been on the continent. They have lived there. They’ve worked there and want to make changes there.
Our portfolio is broadly diverse. It’s mostly African founders, but we also have European and American founders as well.
Sramana Mitra: What about countries? You talked about Africa as a whole. What are the granular trends in the different countries within Africa?
Eghosa Omoigui: From our perspective, a lot of the initial activity in the startup ecosystem is concentrated in South Africa and East Africa. Those two markets attract expats. That offered a lot of liquidity in terms of being able to access angel funding.
Over the last five years, I would say that Nigeria has become the undisputed center of startup activity. It also represents the largest market in Africa. Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania are spots that are under-served for many reasons. We’re more opportunistic there. We haven’t done a lot of stuff there because of the language. We’re going to fix that this year.
We like North Africa as well. North Africa has always been interesting to us. We are now beginning to see some interesting companies.