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Africa

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Africa Focused Flutterwave Now Valued at Over $1 Billion after $170 Million Investment

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave is a payment processing company that makes it easier to do business across the Continent by allowing users to make international payments in their own currencies.

Yesterday, the San Fransico based company announced that it has secured $170 million from a group of international investors as part of a successful Series C round.

flutterwave
Flutterwave Ceo and co-founder, Olugbenga Agboola
The round was led by growth-equity firms Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management with participation from new and existing investors. The fundraise brings the total investment in Flutterwave to $225 million and values the company at $1 billion.
flutterwave
Flutterwave Co-founder, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

“We may consider the possibility of listing in New York or a possible dual listing in New York and Nigeria,” Flutterwave’s CEO and co-founder Olugbenga Agboola told Reuters on Tuesday.

This latest investment, made a year after Flutterwave announced a partnership with Visa and Worldpay, highlights the growing interest in the booming payments market in Africa.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned EdTech App Raises $10.6 Million in Two Years

A year after it raised a seed round of $3.1m, Nigerian Education Technology (Edtech) platform, uLesson announced last week that it has closed a $7.5m Series A round.

US-based Owl Ventures led the financing round. The VC fund is the largest fund focused on the world’s edtech market, with over $1.2 billion in assets under management.

uLesson, the largest and fastest-growing learning platform in West Africa, is trying to bridge educational gaps for K-7 to K-12 students in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Gambia.

The online education platform launched in March of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. However, due to school closings, students turned to online learning.  Between March and August, the company saw its number of paid subscribers quintuple.

Black Owned EdTech

“We are now witnessing an increased availability of data networks in Africa. With more affordable smartphones and the change in attitudes towards online learning accelerated by COVID-19, the foundations are now in place for an education revolution.

At uLesson, we know we have a critical role to play in this ‘new normal’ and this funding will be crucial in our drive to fill the major gaps in Africa’s education system through tech,” said Sim Shagaya, founder and CEO of uLesson.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Patrice Lumumba: His Last Words To His Wife Before His Assassination

On January 17th, 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo was assassinated.

He was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.

patrice lumumba
Patrice and Pauline Lumumba with their children.

Before his assassination, Lumumba wrote his wife a letter:


My dear wife,

I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst
certain high official of the United Nations that organization in which we placed all our trust when called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!

Patrice

 


Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Investment Firm Has Helped African Startups Raise $60M

Nichole Yembra is the Founder and Managing Director of The Chrysalis Capital, a $15M Africa and Diaspora early stage tech fund, and The Chrysalis Advisors, a strategy and investment advisory firm.

In this interview, we discuss:

1) African startups being forced to solve “African problems” vs Global problems (3:30)

2) The African Startup ecosystem (10:11)

3) Funding Bias – Foreign Black Privilege (13:00)

4) The need for government to create infrastructure and regulation that helps entrepreneurs (16:00)

5) The importance of supporting women founders (22:45)

6) Advice for founders looking for funding (25:15)

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Tony O. Lawson


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Former Athlete Moved to Rwanda to Launch a Sports Apparel Business

Allen Simms is the founder of Impano Sports, a company that provides African inspired quality sports apparel designed specifically for athletes, runners, and the active lifestyle community.

Before the big move, Allen was an award-winning athlete at the University of Southern California and a coach at Cornell University.

In this interview, we discussed why he decided to move to Rwanda and what it has been like living and operating a business in East Africa.

We also discussed the sports academy he started to identify and coach young talented athletes to elite level.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Genomics Startup Receives $19.5 Million in Funding

Black Owned Genomics Startup 54gene has closed a Series A round of $15 million, bringing the company’s total venture investment to $19.5 million after it secured $4.5 million seed funding in July.

The latest round was led by Adjuvant Capital, a New York and San Francisco-based life sciences fund backed by the International Finance Corporation, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The investment will allow the company to “scale operations in support of generating novel insights from human genetics research, which results in high-impact discoveries for improving human health through therapeutic development,” 54gene said in a press release Tuesday.

Black Owned Genomics Startup

“There is enormous potential in expanding the reach of global drug and vaccine discovery by including more diverse populations in research efforts,” said Jenny Yip, Adjuvant Managing Partner.

The startup will also work towards accelerating discovery capabilities by improving operations in genetics, bioinformatics, preclinical, clinical and commercial programs, it added. “This funding comes at a historically meaningful time, allowing us to deliver global impact through continued investment in research and strategic partnerships with leaders in the biomedical industry,”  Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong said.

54 gene Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong

54gene was launched in January 2019 with the goal of addressing the huge gap the genomics market currently poses for Africa. As of 2018, less than three percent of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies were of African ancestry and currently, less than one percent of global drug discovery occurs on the continent.

Located in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, and in the United States, 54gene aims to improve the development and availability of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population. It currently works with over 300 researchers, clinicians, and geneticists across the continent and has built an African Biobank, a biorepository that stores biological samples to provide data for academic and development research.

The company has said it will further explore partnerships and opportunities for the co-development of drug targets and therapeutics as part of its next stage of growth. It expects to partner with pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic companies for clinical programs in Africa, led by the newly-appointed Vice President of Clinical & Regulatory Affairs, Kemi Williams.

In addition to the Series A raise, 54gene has formed a Scientific Advisory Board, composed of global leaders in clinical genetics, bioinformatics, and data science. The new partnership “marks a significant evolution in the growth of our company,” said Ene-Obong. “In the coming months, we will be focusing on building a genomic resource that we hope will add significantly to global health, while also translating to the health benefits of patients in Africa.”

The investment round also included participation from Raba Capital, V8 Capital, Ingressive Capital, and follow-on investment from Y Combinator, Better Ventures, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, Aera VC and Pioneer Fund.

 

Source: Ventures Africa

 

Related: 54gene is developing the World’s First and Largest Pan-African DNA Biobank

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54gene is developing the World’s First and Largest Pan-African DNA Biobank

African genetic data may hold the key to unlock untold medical discoveries and 54gene is on a mission to improve our understanding of the human genome.

The Lagos, Nigeria based genomics company offers genetic testing for Africans providing reports on nutrition, health, fitness, and weight loss, personal traits, and Ancestry.

We spoke to the founder, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong to learn more about his business.

54gene
Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong

What inspired you to create 54Gene?

Whilst I was working as a consultant in the pharmaceuticals market, I noticed there was a huge gap in the type of genetic material used in research. Only 2% of genetic material used is African whereas nearly 90% is Caucasian, despite the fact people of African origin are more genetically diverse than all other populations combined.

With 54gene, our aim is to not only address this gap so we can equilibrate medical care for Africans but also develop treatments from our research that will benefit all populations. 

Why does your work focus solely on people of African descent?

There is a limited amount of recorded genetic material from people of African descent. As well as this, the African continent hasn’t built up this genomic capability, so genetic data is not being produced within the continent itself.

Instead, we’ve typically relied on research programs to come into the continent but usually, they’ll go into one country out of fifty four, sample one hundred people from one city, and assume they’ve collected samples from all of Africa.

That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of genetic diversity – it’s coming from one sub-group, whereas there are thousands that exist.

54 gene
Team 54 Gene 

What is your competitive advantage in this industry?

We’re actually developing the world’s first and largest pan-African DNA biobank and we’re planning for this to include 40,000 data samples, by the end of the year. It’s an ambitious project, but one now that we are well placed to achieve.

We’ll be working with health & research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare regulators to achieve this.

As well as this, we’ve also successfully piloted in three of Nigeria’s largest academic tertiary hospitals and we’ll be expanding our biobanking activities to a total of 10 hospitals soon. The model works, now we have to scale in order to capture the data required to effect change in the global pharmaceutical market. 

How can your work improve the global healthcare industry?

A big part of our work is exploring the healthcare benefits of the African genome for all populations, so we’re excited to see where our research takes us.

It’s worth noting that there have been a number of drugs developed from research from African genetic mutations such as Romosozumab (Evenity), an osteoporosis drug and Alirocumab (Praluent), a cholesterol drug.

With this in mind, we’re looking to leverage our data in a number of areas including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and metabolic diseases like diabetes. Drugs are being personalized for populations; but how can they be personalized for Africa if we don’t have the right data sets in the first place?

Where do you see 54gene in 5 years?

Over the next couple of years, 54 gene will be investing heavily in building data science capabilities to both partner with pharmaceutical companies and find our own targets. My vision is for us is to not only develop new treatments and diagnostics for people of African descent, but for all populations and become a force within the global healthcare space.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be observant. It’s critical you’re aware of the world around you so you know what problems need to be addressed. Entrepreneurs are people who look at life from a different perspective, so where some people see a problem, they see an opportunity.

More importantly, they also possess the creative thinking to take advantage of it and I think this is the foundation for developing a really strong idea that can make a difference.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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This Black Owned Educational Game Celebrates African History and Culture

As a parent it can be quite challenging to find items such as books and toys that are representative of your child’s heritage. If you are looking for a Black owned educational game, your choices are even more limited.

That’s why we’re pleased to introduce Very Puzzled, a 100 piece  jigsaw puzzle that includes a wide variety of African landmarks, monuments and attractions.

We spoke with Patrick Adom, the founder of Very Puzzled to find out more about him and his company.

Patrick Adom

What inspired you to start Very Puzzled?

My main inspiration has been my daughter who is now 7 years old.  I have always tried to provide her with toys, books, clothing, music and films etc that are representative of her culture.
I named her after a John Coltrane song, I want her to appreciate the richness of Ghanaian, African and African Caribbean and African American culture and all African cultures through out the diaspora.

What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding thing about owning your own business? 

So far I haven’t had any major challenges. Having an actual physical product available in shops based on an idea that I had is really rewarding.
The biggest reward is having the sense that I am doing something that can be life changing for myself and my family and that there is the potential to build something significant and leave a legacy for them.
It is also rewarding to know that I’m giving my daughter the confidence and proof that she can also take her own ideas and achieve the things that she wants to.

What event occurred or action taken has had the biggest impact on your business? 

Making the commitment to start and sticking to it. The moment that I decided that I can do this and that I am actually going to do this that was really important.

How did you fund the business to get started?

I boot strapped the business with my own money. Start-up costs were quite minimal to start and I had some savings.  I have loans and credit cards that I could have used but I didn’t want to get into too much debt.
The idea was to start small test my idea and see if there was a market for what I had and then to continue to grow and develop additional products.
I have looked at business incubators and accelerators and things like crowd funding and kick-starter etc, however, where I am at the moment these initiatives take a lot of time and effort which I feel distracts me from focusing on other core business tasks that I need to do such as producing new products and getting stocked in more shops especially the big multi chain retailers in Africa.

What business skill are you good at and which would you like to develop more?

I don’t believe that what I am doing requires any specific business skills, I think common sense and a belief in yourself and the ability to keep going even when things are tough are some of the most import skills to have.

Having said that, I think that the ability to negotiate is very useful being always prepared to ask for discounts to try and get the best deal. I like to haggle and bargain with suppliers. I think am quite good at this.

What am not so good at is keeping receipts and filing records.  I also need to continue to push myself and make more of an effort to go out of my comfort zone and actually attend more events to speak to people. 

Where do you see the business in 5 years? 

The idea is to have a factory in Ghana that will produce the puzzles and provide employment.  The aim is to have a wide selection of complimentary products and a brand that people really like.
I would also like to get more involved from a manufacturing side and even start to make items for other businesses.
I would also like to support other start-up businesses and help reduce some of the barriers to start-up and help to develop the market in Africa by making things more affordable and easier to access.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)
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Meet The Founder of the Company that is Changing the African Travel Narrative

Cheraé Robinson is the founder of Tastemakers Africa, a travel company that curates and arranges local experiences in cities across the continent.

Due to a reignited interest in traveling to African countries, we caught up with her to find out what her thoughts are and how this affects her business.

Tastemakers Africa
Cheraé Robinson, Founder of Tastemakers Africa

What is the biggest misconception people have about Africa. 

I think we have sort of the stereotypes that have been well documented (poverty, war, conflict, corruption) but I honestly think the bigger issue once we get past that is that people haven’t thought about it at all. We’ve been fed that Paris is paradise or that the Caribbean is the only affordable destination for us. So ignorance is at this point the biggest issue.

You sold out your Ghana 2019 trip in 48hrs. Would you say this year will be a game changer for travel to Africa? 

I wouldn’t say the year is a game changer in and of itself but this year is a harvest so to speak. Over the last five years there has been a concerted effort by creatives, companies like my own, entrepreneurs, and others to really show people a more dynamic view of the continent.

I think we saw this hit fever pitch, particularly in Ghana with Bozoma Saint John’s Full Circle Festival bringing nearly 100 people from the entertainment world to Ghana. I think this says a lot about the impact that illustrating the ties that bind via shared culture can have on transforming perception.

Quick story, I landed back in NYC on Jan 1st this year from Ghana and had to run to T-Mobile the next day. Somehow I mentioned that I was just back from Ghana and the T mobile employees were HYPE! Meanwhile this is in EAST NEW YORK.

So these weren’t necessarily your intellectual pan africans so to speak, these were young kids from Brooklyn who wanted to go to Ghana because it looked poppin on the gram. That to me is how we can see the transformation, like this is true change.

In the past 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

Two things: the concept of “run your own race” and really understanding that most people are literally trying to win themselves, hanging on to slights, real or perceived doesn’t benefit you so it’s best to accept people as other humans trying to do the best they can with our time here. Those two things have been incredibly freeing.

How do you feel tourism is linked to Black economic empowerment on the continent and in the  Diaspora?

Tourism is a significant percentage of GDP in many countries and it’s often undercounted due to the blurry lines between tourism related dining, retail, and transport.

When you think about tourism and black people, it serves the BEE agenda on a few fronts:

  1. Intercultural monetary exchange (black travelers with USD supporting black businesses on the continent)
  2. Longer term economic plays, tourism is an entry point to understanding investment and business opportunities in new markets, this is even more true for the African market. A trip is often the best way to spot opportunities and make valuable connections which are required to do business in a country. If we can leap forward from this point and marry capital, skills, knowledge and access in a two way mechanism, that is transformational at a generational level.

Where do you see the company 5 years from now?

I see Tastemakers as sort of an AirBnB x Vice Magazine hybrid providing end to end inspiration and connection points to millions of people across Africa and its diaspora around the world.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

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W. E. B. Du Bois and The Year of Return for African Diaspora

In the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital, just a few meters from the United States embassy, lie the tombs of W. E. B. Du Bois, a great African-American civil rights leader, and his wife, Shirley.

The founder of the US-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People moved to Accra in 1961, settling in the city’s serene residential area of Labone and living there until his death in August 1963.

President Kwame Nkrumah along with WEB Dubois and Shirley Graham Dubois in Ghana, 1960.

Du Bois’s journey to Ghana may have signaled the emergence of a profound desire among Africans in the diaspora to retrace their roots and return to the continent. Ghana was a major hub for the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture

In Washington, D.C., in September 2018, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for Africans in the Diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.

At that event, President Akufo-Addo said, “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year—400 years later—we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices.”

W. E. B. Du Bois during the ceremony in which he received an honorary degree from the University of Ghana on his 95th birthday, February 23, 1963. Credit: Digital Commonwealth


200 years since the abolition of slavery

US Congress members Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, diplomats and leading figures from the African-American community, attended the event.

Representative Jackson Lee linked the Ghanaian government’s initiative with the passage in Congress in 2017 of the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.

Provisions in the act include the setting up of a history commission to carry out and provide funding for activities marking the 400th anniversary of the “arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”

Since independence in 1957, successive Ghanaian leaders have initiated policies to attract Africans abroad back to Ghana.

In his maiden independence address, then–Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah sought to frame Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world coming back to Africa.

“Nkrumah saw the American Negro as the vanguard of the African people,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, who first traveled to Ghana when he was 20 and fresh out of Harvard, afire with Nkrumah’s spirit.

“He wanted to be able to utilize the services and skills of African-Americans as Ghana made the transition from colonialism to independence.”

Ghana’s parliament passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they so desire.

That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”

Du Bois (center) at his 95th birthday party in 1963 in Ghana, with President of the Republic of Ghana Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (right) and First Lady Fathia Nkrumah.

The Joseph Project

In 2007, in its 50th year of independence, the government initiated the Joseph Project to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery and to encourage Africans abroad to return.

Similar to Israel’s policy of reaching out to Jews across Europe and beyond following the Holocaust, the Joseph Project is named for the Biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt but would later reunite with his family and rule Egypt.

The African-American community is excited about President Akufo-Addo’s latest initiative. In social media posts, many expressed interest in visiting Africa for the first time.

Among them is Amber Walker, a media practitioner who says that 2019 is the time to visit her ancestral home.

“The paradox of being an African-American is that we occupy spaces where we are not being considered as citizens. So I love the idea of Ghana taking the lead to kind of help African-Americans claim their ancestral space,” she told Africa Renewal. “It is a step in the right direction.

“It is definitely comforting because that kind of red carpet has not been rolled out by our oppressors in the Western world,” she added.

The W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture

In making the announcement, President Akufo-Addo said: “Together on both sides of the Atlantic, we’ll work to make sure that never again will we allow a handful of people with superior technology to walk into Africa, seize their people and sell them into slavery. That must be our resolution, that never again, never again!”

But Walker took issue with Akufo-Addo for appearing to downplay the actions of some Africans in the slave trade.

“In the president’s [Akufo-Addo’s] statement, he sounds like the entire blame is placed on white people coming in with weapons and taking black people away, but that’s not necessarily the history. So I think that needs to be acknowledged,” she said.

She suggested a form of reconciliation such as took place in post-apartheid South Africa—a truth and reconciliation process that will satisfy the millions of Africans whose forefathers were sold into slavery.

 

In 2013 the United Nations declared 2015–2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent to “promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent.”

The theme for the ten-year celebration is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” will coincide with the biennial Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest), which is held in Cape Coast, home of Cape Coast Castle and neighbouring Elmina Castle—two notable edifices recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as World Heritage Sites of the slave era.

 

Source: IPS News

Cover image: by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast
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