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What does Africa look like in terms of population?

I like HackerNews because I always find one or two surprises. This DayOneData project by Peter Main was the latest find. He basically looks to re-imagine the world in terms of population. India and China crowd the global map, and the US takes a commanding third. Looking closer at the African continent we can see usual suspects like Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa and Morocco. But more interesting is the size of the population in countries like Ethiopia (+/- 88 million), Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. These countries don’t usually get a lot of positive press, but looking at their potential consumer base, are potentially major economic engines in the making. It is expected that Ethiopia could become the most populous nation on the continent, eventually surpassing Nigeria. Given the continent’s youthful population it will be interesting to see what this map looks like in 2050.


VC4Africa and the emergence of an African startup culture

Want to know more about VC4Africa and our work to support starting entrepreneurs? Here is a presentation we recently recorded. I outline some of the recent trends and developments we are witnessing in the space and some of our thinking on how we can do more to support the emergence of an African startup culture.

Time to look beyond ICT4D: New media research in Uganda offers a different perspective

Beyond ICT4D: New Media Research in Uganda is a collection of ethnographic reports from diverse perspectives of those living at the other end of the African ICT pyramid. Crucially, these texts refocus on the so-called “ICT4D” debate away from the standard western lens, which depicts users in the developing world as passive receivers of Western technological development, towards Ugandans whose use and production of technologies entail innovations from the ground up. It is this ‘other’ everyday point of view that is too often missing in the ICT4D debate: valuable voices that put technologies, projects and organizations into their proper context.

Conducted in 2009 by a group of five Masters in New Media (humanities) students from the University of Amsterdam under the supervision of Geert Lovink the research examines both the role and implementation of ICTs in Uganda, covering a wide range of subcultures and projects, including internet cafe usage, print media, NGOs and communities, software subcultures and civic new media. The book argues that now is the time to look beyond the technology layer and instead focus on the social implications and local consequences of digital media’s widespread use. By recognizing the impact that ICTs have on society and identifying what functions currently and what needs to be improved, we can more effectively understand and develop these technologies in the future.

Initiated and introduced by Dutch-Australian media theorist and internet critic Geert Lovink this Theory of Demand publication was produced at the Institute of Network Cultures (HvA).

Authors: Ali Balunywa, Guido van Diepen, Wouter Dijkstra, Kai Henriquez and Ben White (yours truly).

Colophon: Authors: Ali Balunywa, Guido van Diepen, Wouter Dijkstra, Kai Henriquez and Ben White. Editor: Geert Lovink Copy editing: Cindy Jeffers, Lily Antflick and Morgan Currie. Design: Katja van Stiphout. DTP: Margreet Riphagen. Printer: ‘Print on Demand’.

Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam 2011. ISBN:

This publication is also available through various print on demand

Download the free pdf.

Fast Moving Targets: Africa as promising investment frontier

Here is an interview I did last week with Fast Moving Targets, a new series dedicated to showcasing innovation in media, technology and communications. They are very much tapping into Amsterdam as a creative media lab and the beginnings of a promising startup culture here in the city. Importantly, they ask the question, ‘what’s going on, what does that mean for whom and how do you actually get new trends and technologies to succeed?’

It’s great to see initiatives like this come online. It adds to The Next Web (many people do not know they are based in Amsterdam) and Hackers and Founders Meetups as important platforms for engaging the community, identifying key developments and highlighting protagonists in the space. Fast Moving Targets is an initiative of ‘The Crowds‘ and hosted by Erwin Blom and Roeland Stekelenburg. They have a great production team and it was nice of Johan Schaap, the founder of Probaton, to make the connection.

The show is filmed live which gives it an interesting character and streamed via the site. They film the chit chat before and after the actual show (so be aware:) and take questions from people watching via Twitter. The show has an interactive and relaxed feel to it. Mostly because of the Palm beer. It was also great practice for my Dutch!:) Here is the description as posted on the site: ‘Ben White van VC4Africa probeert werelden bij elkaar te brengen. Investeerders en ondernemers. Europa en Afrika. Omdat hij ziet hoe groot het talent in laatstgenoemd werelddeel is, omdat hij overtuigd is van het zakenlijk potentieel, maar ook omdat hij een idealist is die van Afrika houdt. VC4Africa gaat over geld, maar nog veel meer over netwerken. Met al duizenden aan boord. Een aflevering van Top Names van Fast Moving Targets.’

The Rise of a Startup Culture in Africa [Video Presentation]

Technology + Entrepreneurs + A vision = Startups in Africa in need of Venture Capital.

This is a one line summary of the presentation I recently gave at the 1% Event in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In the presentation I talk about the rise of the techprenuer in Africa and the cheetah Generation that is now empowered with the knowledge and tools they need to change the world. This presentation builds on a lot of the ethnographic research I did in Kampala, Uganda and my experiences working on the ICT Entrepreneurship program at Hivos. I also talk about AfriLabs as a network organization connecting technology incubators in Africa and VC4Africa (Venture Capital for Africa) as a platform for crowdsourcing network, information and capital via the web.

Cameroon’s leading techpreneurs [video]

I am pleased to share this video from my recent trip to Cameroon and the time spent with the team at the African Center for Technology, Innovations and Ventures (ActivSpaces). It was great to spend time with so many promising entrepreneurs and meet VC4Africa members in the country. I especially want to thank Valery, Fua, Al, Ebot, Benyella, Fritz and Mohamed for all of their insights and constant inspiration.

I look forward to going back soon and can’t wait for my next plate of Ekwang 🙂

VC4Africa launches a crowdsourced knowledge base for doing business in Africa

About VC4A Questions:

VC4Africa seeks to connect entrepreneurs with the network, capital and knowledge they need to build promising businesses on the continent. We have members from 156 countries that network via our online platforms and offline via our VC4Africa Meetups. Our matchmaking site is a tool for entrepreneurs to publish their venture and connect with possible business partners and investors. Our matchmaking program further supports entrepreneurs in their business planning and support entrepreneurs seeking venture finance. So how do we support the community with knowledge? 

Building a business is hard and having access to the right knowledge and information is critical. Unfortunately, in the African space information is too often lacking. What do the changes in local tax code mean for the tech sector? What are the import duties for heavy machinery? What are the key points investors look for when reviewing a cash flow prognosis? What are the legal issues I need to consider when expanding across borders?

VC4A Questions is a  collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by the VC4A community. Together we are building a community generated database of knowledge. A few points that make VC4Africa Questions & Answers unique:

A Growing Knowledge Base

People use VC4A questions to document their African business adventures. Over time, the database of knowledge should grow and grow until almost everything that anyone wants to know about doing business in Africa is available in the system. The information is organized, the history of the questions is archived and the information is freely accessible for anyone with the same question today or tomorrow.

Community Managed

Each question makes use of tags that make them easier to find across multiple search queries. This also helps members link new questions with existing discussions and further centralizes the conversation. Members can find similar questions they can borrow from when outlining additional context. Each question and answer is also rated and sorted by the users. This ensures that only the most pertinent questions rise to the top of the landing page and search results. It helps push prominent issues into the forefront and crowds out any unwanted messages or noise.

Follow Discussions

Members can follow topics they are interested in. Any updates are automatically forwarded per e-mail and this helps maintain an active dialogue. Members, the VC4Africa team and officers can also ‘recommend experts’ with certain questions and encourage them to share their expertise and input. This further serves to mobilize an active network and adds to the growing knowledge base.

VC4A Reputations

VC4A Questions is linked directly to member profiles. The system tracks who posted a question, who responded, how many responses were recorded and whether or not the questions and answers were valued by the VC4A community. This feedback is part of a reputation the user builds via the system. This helps other users appreciate the quality and level of a user’s contributions and serves to recognize the members who contribute the most and are otherwise experts on certain subjects or specific fields of interest.

Visit VC4A Questions

Please visit the new section of the website We encourage you to take a look and play around with this new tool. Please add your own questions or share feedback with the community. We look forward to building this resource together and for the benefit of the entrepreneurs and investors working to build promising businesses on the continent.