Browse Tag

Africa

1 min read

Black Owned Abroad: They Moved to South Africa and Started a Luxury Travel Company

Mark and Dr. Latesha Blanton are the owners of The Real South Africa, a luxury travel company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their company offers a variety of services for those interested in expanding their knowledge of South Africa and what it has to offer.

In this interview with Mark, he shares his experience living and working in Africa.

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VIDEO CHAPTERS

0:00 Introduction

0:38 – What does his business do?

1: 45 – What inspired them to start the business?

2:43 – Moving to Johannesburg

3: 25 – What do you enjoy the most about living in Johannesburg?

7:00 – Are there a lot of African Americans in Johannesburg?

8:32 – Relocation process

10:33 – Trends/Changes in perception

15:26 – Mindset shift

18:12 – Business goals

19:40 – Africans vs African Americans (Uber story)

22:20 – Contact info

Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

Here’s Why Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty is Expanding into 8 African Countries

Fenty Beauty is a cosmetics brand that was launched by Rihanna in September of 2017. The brand is popular for its broad inclusivity across skin types and tones.

Fenty Beauty initially launched in 17 countries with a vision of inclusivity and global reach at its core.

On May 10th, Rihanna announced via an Instagram post that beginning May 27th, Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin products will be available in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and that it’s “just the beginning”.

“I am a proud Bajan who also feels a close connection to Africa, and its people,” she said in a press release.

“I’ve had the pleasure, and the privilege, to spend time on the continent and those experiences never leave you. Now, being able to bring Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin to eight African countries and then hopefully more in the future — means so much to me.”

The African Beauty Market

Africa’s population of 1.4 billion people is projected to double by 2050. 

With this population growth, the potential in the African market is enormous. With rising disposable incomes, Africa’s 18 most populated cities could have a combined spending power of $ 1.3 trillion. 

Not only is the African population growing, so is the African beauty market. 70% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 30. This group is the most likely to be interested in a wide range of cosmetics and beauty products.

According to recent reports, the beauty and personal care market share in Africa is expected to increase by $1.26 billion from 2020 to 2025, and the market’s growth momentum will accelerate at a CAGR of 2%.

Some of the influential factors that are increasing market growth include the rising middle-class population and the rise in online shopping trends.

Another key factor driving growth in the beauty market in Africa is a demand for innovative products that address multiple concerns within a minimal time span.

Lastly, more African women, especially in the middle class, have attained higher education, allowing many to pursue careers that offer higher than average income and the luxury of spending on premium products, including skincare and cosmetics.

Fenty Beauty undoubtedly sees the potential in this promising market and has made its move.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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3 mins read

Mara Raises $23M for the First Crypto Exchange “Built by Africans, for Africans”

Pan-African centralized crypto exchange Mara announced Wednesday that it has raised $23 million to create a portal to the crypto economy for Africans.

Investors include Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), Distributed Global, TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital, DAO Jones, and about 100 other crypto investors.

mara
Chi Nnandi, CEO of Mara

Unlike its competitors from North America and Europe, Mara’s onboarding, support, and ecosystem reflect the needs of Africans. Customer support is easily accessed and will be available in both local and international languages.

“While there are other crypto exchanges in Africa, there is yet to be an indigenous African crypto exchange,” said Mara’s CEO, Chi Nnandi. “That’s where Mara comes in — we are a Pan-African crypto exchange built by Africans, for Africans.

The Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya-based company has also announced a partnership with the Central African Republic, which just passed a bill legalizing Bitcoin as legal tender. As part of this partnership, Mara will become the official crypto partner of the Central African Republic and an adviser to the president on crypto strategy and planning.

Mara’s launch comes during a period in which political and economic instability has led to the devaluation of currencies across Africa. As a result, interest rates, as well as food prices, have skyrocketed.

“The inefficiencies inherent to the old 20th [century] centralized Sub-Saharan African financial systems has presented an obstacle to the proper development of Sub-Saharan individuals and economies for decades,” said Chi Nnandi, CEO of Mara, in an interview with VentureBeat. “A decentralized alternative (which will include but not be limited to finance, art, ownership, infrastructure, and business as a whole) will give Sub-Saharan Africans an alternative to these tired systems. Through this digital financial system — through this freedom — the region will find itself in a much stronger competitive position before other parts of the world.”

“Mara’s mission is to facilitate a more equitable distribution of capital by providing a decentralized alternative that spans across tribes, class, cultures, and countries,” said Nnadi. “Our goal is to close the gap in opportunities for Sub-Saharan individuals and establish a financial infrastructure that they can build their lives upon.”

 

Tony O. Lawson


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5 mins read

Yenaé, High End Jewelry Inspired by African Culture

Yenaé (pronounced as Ye.Nay) is a high fashion jewelry brand that offers culturally curated and African-inspired collections. Their exquisite jewelry designs fuse deeply rooted and diverse African culture with a twist of modern design appeal.

We caught up with co-founder Seble Alemayehu to find out more about the business.

Yenaé
Yenaé co-founders, Seble Alemayehu and Felekech (Fei) Biratu.

What inspired you to start your business?

Yenaé was born out of our shared experiences – two Ethiopian- Americans, jewelry lovers, and co-founders, Seble Alemayehu and Felekech (Fei) Biratu.

While living in different parts of the US, we saw the magnitude of the lack of awareness that existed about Africa, especially in a positive light.

We were both born and raised in Ethiopia and we had first-hand knowledge about the creativity, craftsmanship, and resources that exist in Africa.

Coming from entrepreneurial families and holding MBA degrees ourselves, we decided to pursue our interest for business and love for jewelry.

With that, we founded Yenaé – a high fashion jewelry brand that takes patrons on a journey inside Africa through exquisite jewelry designs that blend culture and storytelling with a twist of modern design appeal for a wide range of jewelry enthusiasts.

How did you raise the capital to start your business?

Yenaé is 100% self-funded and women-owned. We raised our initial funds from our immediate families while we worked on the side to raise our own capital. But most importantly, we learned how to kickstart with minimal investment.

We heavily utilized a lean startup model to build the brand, where our ideas started with customer interviews, building out the minimum viable jewelry, testing it, quickly iterating, or pivoting to get to the core of our offering and branding.

What makes your pieces unique?

What makes Yenaé stand out is its creative focus on offering customers multi-wear jewelry. Currently, 50% of our collection fits this category, whereby a single piece of jewelry can be worn in a minimum of 3 different styles.

All of our jewelry is made from recycled brass, plated with 14K gold or rhodium; responsibly and ethically sourced Ethiopian semi-precious gemstones, hand-crafted by artisans in Ethiopia, and hand-polished hypoallergenic jewelry made in California, USA.

Ranging from simple, everyday jewelry to one-of-a-kind, contemporary statement pieces, each piece of jewelry has a story behind its design, sourced from historians and storytellers.

What is one lesson you’ve learned as a business owner that you’d like to pass on to other entrepreneurs?

One of the most important lessons we learned is the power of taking action and having a “Start Today” mentality. Often, there are so many limiting reasons for why one may not pursue their ideas or take it to the next level.

There will never be perfect timing, working capital, network or resource. Whatever you want to explore as an aspiring entrepreneur, don’t limit yourself. Just start.

We both love to wear jewelry, but we didn’t have a single clue or background on how it’s made. We just made the bold decision to start, figure it all out, and learn as we go along our journey.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In 5 years, we see Yenaé playing a role to influence a consumption pattern that moves towards a more sustainable community, away from fast fashion.

We will be expanding the design of our jewelry collections to cover every corner of the African continent, showcasing the rich heritage and culture of each African country. Lastly, we see our collections available in major retail stores in the US.

Tony O. Lawson


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2 mins read

Flutterwave Triples Valuation to $3 Billion, becoming the Highest Valued African Startup

African fintech Flutterwave has raised $250 million in a Series D round that tripled the company’s valuation to over $3 billion in only twelve months.

Flutterwave has grown significantly since Shoppe Black interviewed founder and CEO,  “GB “Agboola, last year.

“We started Flutterwave due to the fragmented nature of payments in Africa— there were multiple ways of making and receiving payments within countries but cross-border payments remained a hassle. This made it difficult for individuals like myself or businesses to make or receive international payments in Africa”, said Agboola.

Today, the company supports international payments for over 34 countries and processes payments across 150 currencies. In September 2021, the number of businesses using Flutterwave was 300,000. Now, 900,000 companies use Flutterwave to receive money from their customers.

fluttervwave
Flutterwave Founder and CEO, Olugbenga “GB “Agboola

B Capital Group led the $250 million round, with participation from Alta Park Capital LP, Whale Rock Capital and Lux Capital. Several existing investors who participated in previous rounds also followed this round, including Glynn Capital, Avenir Growth, Tiger Global, Green Visor Capital and Salesforce Ventures.

The company will use the funds to expand through mergers and acquisitions in Africa and the Middle East in the coming months.

Flutterwave currently facilitates cross-border transactions in multiple currencies for Uber, Netflix, and Microsoft on their expansion across Africa.  And, have started talking to many other US-based merchants that have growth ambitions across the continent.

Tony O. Lawson


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4 mins read

Alitheia Raises $100 Million to Invest In Women Owned Businesses Across Africa

Alitheia IDF (AIF), Africa’s first women-led and women-focused private equity fund announced the final close of a $100 million fund in December of 2021. With this final close, Alitheia IDF becomes the largest woman-focused private equity fund by value in Africa.

Led by principal partners Polo Leteka and Tokunboh Ishmael, Alitheia IDF invests in growth-stage companies across six African countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Zambia.

Alitheia
Polo Leteka co-Founder and Principal Partner – South Africa(Credit: Bridget Corke Photography)

The fund has a mandate to plug the over $42 billion investment gap between male and female entrepreneurs as a means of catalyzing the economic power of African women as producers, distributors, and consumers.

In 2021, the fund began implementing this mandate by leading investment rounds in five women-led businesses across essential sectors including agribusiness, education, manufacturing, housing, technology, and logistics.

The investee companies are Jetstream Africa (Ghana), ReelFruit Ltd (Nigeria), SKLD (Nigeria), AV Light Steel (South Africa), and Chika’s Food (Nigeria).

“Globally, women have tremendous purchasing power as consumers and controllers of household economics. In the same vein, women entrepreneurs have a significant presence in Africa’s SME sector with African women making up 58% of the continent’s self-employed population.

Alitheia
Tokunboh Ishmael – co-Founder and Principal Partner – Nigeria

However, despite this economic power and presence, African women are underserved as consumers and producers.

This has had a huge impact on economic growth as the potential of more than half of the continent’s population remains untapped due to structural and systemic issues.

We are proactively working towards filling this gap with a clear mandate to support women-led businesses across the continent while raising awareness for gender-smart investment as a path towards inclusive economic growth,” said Principal Partner Tokunboh Ishmael in Nigeria.

African women have remained underserved by the financial sector even as the historical investment gap between men and women continues to widen.

Estimates show that African women receive less than 5% of all investment on the continent even though over 40% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa are women-led.

Reports by McKinsey point out that closing the investment gap will lead to 26% gross domestic product (GDP) growth ($28 trillion) by 2025.

By applying a gender-smart lens to investment, Alitheia IDF is setting the pace and providing a framework for gender-inclusive investments with the goal of enabling economic growth for African countries and, critically, African women.

Polo Leteka, Principal Partner in South Africa, explained that it is her hope that Alitheia IDF’s leading example will inspire other investors on the continent to invest in women, noting that women have an important role to play in unlocking the economic potential of Africa.

She further stated that “the historic inability to appropriately capture the economic potential of African women has affected Africa’s development. Alitheia IDF is on a mission to fill this gap by using a gender smart approach and financial capital to empower women as consumers and producers.”

Tony O. Lawson


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2 mins read

From Hotel Cleaner to “Afro-Chic” Luxury Hotel Owner

Souadou Niang is the owner of The Palms Luxury Boutique Hotel, a 5-star hotel located in Dakar, Senegal.

At the age of 18, Souadou moved from Senegal to New York to further her education. As she studied to earn a Bachelors degree, she also earned a living as a cleaning lady at a Ritz Carlton hotel located in Tysons Corner, VA.

 Palms Luxury Boutique Hotel in Dakar, Senegal.
Souadou Niang

“I arrived in the country where they tell you the sky is the limit. My vision was to be part of the hotel management,” she said during an interview with BBC.

After completeing her studies, Souadou returned home on a mission to prove that Senegal could have the same luxury accommodations as the hotel she had dedicated over a decade of her life to.

Souadou Niang

However, accomplishing that dream was easier said than done. “I only had answers such as ‘You won’t get far, ‘It’s not for women, ‘It is not for African women,’ and I had no guarantees in Dakar. I knocked on the door of several banks,” she said.”

The ambitious entrepreneur eventually met an investor who believed in her vision, and her goal of being a hotel owner in her home country came to reality.

Souadou Niang

In terms of visual presentation, The Palms rivals any other five-star hotel you can find anywjere else in the world. Furthermore, the hotel’s staff is 80 percent women, an ode to Souadou’s belief in the spirit and capabilities of African women.

Souadou Niang

“My dream is to conquer Africa, and why not the world. As the international hotel franchises in Africa, we should be able to adapt our Afro-chic boutique hotels in Western countries and show African women can run luxury boutique hotels with the same standards as the international hotels,” Souadou said.

Tony O. Lawson


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1 min read

Meet Sangu Delle, one of Africa’s Most Successful Investors

Sangu Delle is a Ghanaian investor, entrepreneur, activist, and author. He has received several international accolades including being named Africa’s “Young Person of the Year”, a TEDGlobal Fellow, one of Forbes’ top 30 most promising entrepreneurs in Africa.

Sangu serves as CEO of Africa Health Holdings, an innovative company focused on building Africa’s healthcare future.

In November, African Health Holdings raised $18 million to expand its telemedicine service beyond Ghana to Nigeria and Kenya, and scale its network of health facilities.

He is also the Chairman of Golden Palm Investments (“GPI”); an investment holding and advisory company focused on building world class technology companies in Africa.

Via GPI, Sangu has been an early investor in several African tech startups including Andela and Flutterwave, two of only three West African companies valued at one billion U.S. dollars.

In this interview, Sangu and I discuss:

  • His journey from Ghana to the U.S. and back to Ghana.
  • Why he pivoted from investing in agriculture to focus exclusively on technology
  • What inspired his passion for building Africa’s healthcare future.
  • The importance of Africans and the Black diaspora collaborating on economic and social issues.
  • Advice for those interested in investing in startups based on the continent.

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Tony O. Lawson


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2 mins read

AMP Global, Empowering Creators and Giving a Voice to Music Fans Across the Continent

Three-time Emmy-nominated producer and host Derrick N. Ashong is the CEO and co-founder of AMP Global Technologies, the company behind the Take Back the Mic (TBTM) app, and The Mic: Africa, the first interactive TV format born on the continent.

This tech-enabled entertainment company helps content producers build a direct relationship with their audience and be rewarded for discovering and sharing trending content.

amp global

The “AMP-powered series”, Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of Hip Hop was the first 100% fan curated series to get an Emmy nod, becoming a back-to-back Emmy Finalist for Outstanding Interactive Programing and proving itself in the market with deep engagement, media impressions, and ROI across Mobile, Digital, TV, VR and Live media.

AMP Global also gives brands and media companies deep insight into global youth audiences.

amp global

In this interview with Lucia and Derrick, we discussed:

  • The inspiration behind “The Mic: Africa”, the first interactive TV format on the African continent
  • Why the Take Back the Mic app, is sometimes described as “Netflix meets Instagram.”
  • How the Take Back the Mic app empowers artists and creators.
  • How the pandemic influenced a key feature of the app, benefiting users.

Don’t forget to LIKE the video and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel!

Watch all 5 episodes of “The Mic: Africa” Season 1 and download the Take Back the Mic app at www.takebackthemic.com.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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4 mins read

Black Inventors Create First Bio-Robotic Arm Operated by Brain Signals

A bio-robotic arm created by two Black inventors looks like it’s straight out of a science-fiction movie, but it’s actually not from the future.

David Gathu and Moses Kinyua, inventors from Nairobi, Kenya, have created a bio-robotic prosthetic arm that could change the lives of disabled Kenyans and the future of prosthetics entirely.

Their newest invention doesn’t break a world record; it sets it. Most prosthetic technology is powered by a person’s muscles. Equipped with sensors to detect the flexing of appropriate muscles, the bionic limb will act accordingly. Gathu and Kinyua’s prosthetic works differently. Instead of listening for muscle signals, it listens for brain signals and is the first in the world to do so.

When the brain tells the prosthetic to do something, those signals are converted into an electric current by a NeuroNode biopotential headset receiver, a technology originally invented to assist individuals suffering from paralysis and speech loss. The electrical current is then redirected into the arm’s circuitry, giving the arm both mobility and direction.

The idea for the bio-robotic arm came to the inventors amid the pandemic when they began thinking of how to help their country deal with the devastating virus.

“When the virus hit our country, we decided to create a machine that could help us decontaminate surfaces. It can also be used in schools, restaurants, hospitals,” Kinyua explains, from his workshop in the city of Kikuyu, north of Nairobi.

Though Kenya’s response to the virus has been better than most, it’s easy for hospitals to get overwhelmed rather quickly and a bio-robotic arm can help speed up the disinfectant process, allowing the treating of patients to speed up simultaneously.

The sanitizing device within the arm, though still a prototype, oxidizes oxygen molecules to convert into ozone to be used as a disinfectant. Ozone has been proven to be highly effective in killing bacteria and inactivating viruses on surfaces and remains 50 times more effective and acts 3000 times faster than chlorine, which remains the most popular disinfectant.

Remarkably, the creation of this innovative device comes from humble beginnings. The bio- robotic arm was designed entirely from second-hand parts salvaged from any old, discarded electronics David Gathu and Moses Kinyua could find.

“At the moment, we use raw materials from other discarded appliances because we do not have neither the place nor the resources to obtain the necessary materials to mass-produce,” Kinyua remarks.

Though the two inventors don’t work in a state-of-the-art facility, the work they manage to do with salvaged material is indicative of how possible it is to change the lives of many without an expensive lab or tools.

Though the bio-robotic arm was initially created to help COVID-19 sanitization efforts, the young inventors’ technology can influence how prosthetics for the disabled are produced. The number of applications this technology could have is innumerable and can change how medical technology works in the future.

Tony O. Lawson


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