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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)

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

Tony O. Lawson

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Meet The Black Woman who Created The World’s Largest Tech Conference

Social Media Week Lagos is the largest and Blackest conference that you’ve probably never heard of until now.

SMW Lagos features a central stage for keynotes and panels, multiple rooms for workshops, masterclasses and presentations, and an area dedicated to co-working, networking and interactive installations.

SMW Lagos 2018 boasted an attendance of over 20,000 people in person,  an online social reach of 646 million and over 150 local and international organizations contributed to the conference.

If you’ve heard of a conference larger than that, anywhere, let us know. We’ll wait.

The Founder

Ngozi Odita is the founder of Social Media Week Lagos. She is a producer and a public speaker that works with artists and arts organizations to produce public programming that includes art exhibitions, film screenings, concerts & artist talks. She speaks to the unique opportunities that exist on the continent and “what’s next” on the horizon.

Social Media Week Lagos founder, Ngozi Odita

The Inspiration

Ngozi’s work has always centered around the intersection of art, culture and technology as it relates to Africa and the diaspora. After producing two SMW New York events, she decided that instead of telling people how dope Africa is, she would let them see for themselves by creating a platform on the Continent.

She got the license to create the conference in Nigeria and the rest is history in the making.

Challenges and Rewards

When asked about the most challenging and rewarding parts of creating this event, she stated, “It’s a challenge in general doing an event that’s this large scale. In Nigeria, there are unique challenges.

Certain resources and materials may not be readily available the way they are in the West. Getting people in Africa and abroad to see the vision has also been a challenge.

People asked why anyone would want to see a conference about using Twitter or Instagram. They told me that it just would not work.”

Ngozi says the most rewarding part of the journey has been providing new and life changing experiences for those who attend the conference.

“Last year, we had a yoga/meditation tent. Initially, people thought that wasn’t a good idea and that none would attend a yoga event first thing in the morning.

But it ended up being packed! Some of the people had never done yoga before.

I love challenging people to do new things that they never thought of doing. I enjoy providing an experience that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Why attend SMW Lagos?

“I really want Black people on the Continent and in the Diaspora to see that we are all alike. You don’t see yourself until you see yourself. Many people abroad see images of the super fly people and places in Lagos and they are like, “Whoa that’s in Nigeria? That could be Brooklyn, that could be Atlanta!”

That’s when the connection happens. We have to ask ourselves why we don’t connect, and why don’t we build more.”

She continued, “It is important for people on the continent also get a real connection with their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.

We need to figure out what we could accomplish if we all work together. People say Africa is the future and it really is!  Every western country is trying to figure out (or has figured out) what their “Africa angle” is.

If we don’t figure it out as a people, others will figure it out for us and we’ll be in the back seat. We need to connect and people in the diaspora need to come over and see how we can build together.”

SMW is a great way to connect tech minded and business minded creatives and entrepreneurs.

“I love the fact that because of social media, youtube etc, we can see all the dope artists and fashion, but we have to be more than consumers, we need to own.We need to figure out how to own our own.

All these amazing African startups are getting investment from outside the continent. They end up being owned by people who don’t look like us. Jay-z and Nas and others are investing in tech.

Now, let’s think about investing in some African startups. We need to figure out how to get involved and make money moves and not keep watching from the sidelines.”

The Future

“My dream is that this time of the year will be like a homecoming, and everyone will have February blocked out to come to Nigeria to take care of business and turn up.

African countries are doing amazing things and we celebrate this, but we’re not moving the needle. Mad youth are unemployed and the government is a mess. Other people come out here and get paid, but most of them don’t look like us.

All the resources are there and we all know it but we’re not making the moves to take advantage of what is ours. We’re not talking to ourselves in a way that matters.

In the 50’s you would have leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, discussing Pan Africanism with Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria.

They both travelled to America with the intention of building with like minds. The idea of Blackness as a whole was different then than it is now.

Now, we don’t think as much about nation building, but we need to. There’s no way to do this if we don’t do it together.”

What to Expect this year

A few of year events include:

  • Re-Imagine Africa
  • Intro to Angel Investing
  • How to scale your business with Instagram
  • Digital Media and the Music Industry
  • Potential for growth:Digital sports in Africa
  • My F*ck Up Story – Sharing Stories Of Professional Failure

Visit the SMW Lagos website for more information.


Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)


15 Things to do in Lagos for Social Media Week 2019

The last time I was at Social Media Week Lagos was in 2017. It was great to be back home, connecting with entrepreneurs, content creators and other bright minds from around the world. We shared ideas on how the Continent can use and is using social media in the areas of entertainment, business, education and activism.

On Feb 4th – 8th 2019, Social Media Week Lagos will be back, bigger and better than before. But don’t worry of you can’t make it, we’ve got our SHOPPE BLACK eyes and ears on the ground to bring the news, videos and pics to you.

If you are one of the lucky ones who WILL be in Lagos in February or plan to attend between now and next year, check out this updated version of where to go to get a taste of the culture, entertainment and history.


Black Olive

The Ice Cream factory

Danfo Bistro and Dives

Labule Restaurant

The House Cafe


Terra Kulture

Omenka Gallery 

Rele Gallery

Nike Art Gallery

Thought Pyramid Art Centre

Freedom Park


Tarkwa Beach

Ilashe Beach


Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)



The World Is Witnessing Nigeria’s Creative Golden Age

Nigerians, of course, saw it all along. The infiltration of world culture by the sounds, images, and styles of their country has been building for some time. The author and photographer Teju Cole notices Nigerian pop music when he travels—recently, in a taxi in Peru.

The journalist Bim Adewunmi remembers finding a group of white British kids in London singing “Oliver Twist,” a hit by D’Banj, down to the artist’s Nigerian accent: OH-lee-vah. “D’Banj trumped Charles Dickens in that moment,” Adewunmi says. “And that made me feel good!”

Perhaps the breakout moment came in 2013, when Beyoncé placed a spoken passage by the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, excerpted from an essay on the social conditioning of girls, at the ­center of “Flawless,” her empowerment manifesto set to a bouncing Houston funk groove. Queen Bey’s validation turbocharged the ascent of the author of Americanah to her status as a cross-cultural (and stylish) feminist icon. And any doubt vanished once Drake turned up on the remix of “Ojuelegba,” a silken ode by the Nigerian singer Wizkid to his Lagos neighborhood, in 2015—along with Skepta, the British-Nigerian star of the London grime scene.

It’s been a seeping, decentralized thing; to call it a takeover would be hyperbole. But the assertive Nigerian global influence today cannot be denied, whether it’s in literature, music, fashion, or art, with new talents appearing at a relentless pace. Many hold court in London, which has an established Nigerian presence that spans working-class Peckham and the Knightsbridge mansions of industrialists and oil barons. Others are in the United States, where middle-class immigrants have flourished in places like Houston and Atlanta. But all of them feed off the scene in Nigeria itself—and in its megacity, Lagos, a frenetic engine of creativity.

nigerian creatives
Ogbewi, Oyéjidé, and Ayodele (from left) wear suits from Ikiré Jones. Ogbewi wears a Missoni shirt; Kathleen Whitaker earrings; Alumnae shoes. Oyéjidé wears his own jeans, glasses, jewelry, and boots. Ayodele wears Erdem shoes.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Ever since Purple Hibiscus, Adichie’s 2003 debut novel, Nigeria’s history, social issues, and the experiences of its immigrants have spread into every realm of literature. Cole, for instance, who grew up in ­Nigeria and lives in Brooklyn, trains a meditative eye on Lagos in Every Day Is for the Thief. Illinois-raised Nnedi Okorafor draws on Igbo spirituality to shape award-winning science-fiction and fantasy; Who Fears Death, her postapocalyptic allegory in which magic transcends sexual violence and civil war, is slated for an HBO series.

Acclaimed recent debuts by Ayobami Adebayo, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Tomi Adeyemiunderscore the prominence of women writers in the scene. Adebayo was born in Lagos; her Stay With Me, a deft, stirring family drama, addresses intimate ordeals of infertility and illness against middle-class pressures and aspirations in a provincial Nigerian town, and received the critic Michiko Kakutani’s final New York Times review. Minneapolis-based Arimah sets the surrealist, feminist stories in What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky in both Nigeria and the U.S. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, marked by both the Harry Potter series and the rise of Black Lives Matter, Adeyemi found her outlet in a world she called Orïsha, inspired by the divinities of Yoruba culture. Published this year, Children of Blood and Bone, the first in a series for which Adeyemi secured a huge publishing deal at the age of 23, topped the young-adult best-seller list.

Nigerian designers are giving fashion a jolt of adrenaline as well. They follow established creators such as Duro Olowu, who showed his first London collection in 2005 (and later became a Michelle Obama favorite), Lisa Folawiyo (Jewel by Lisa), and Amaka Osakwe (Maki Oh). Meanwhile, Nigerian shoppers—big spenders who regularly visit London and Dubai, and who avidly seek out foreign brands on the MallforAfrica app—support up-and-coming talents. Lagos brims with showrooms nestled behind the walls of private compounds. Alára, the entrepreneur Reni Folawiyo’s concept store in Lagos, houses both Western and Nigerian designers in a David Adjaye–designed building, as well as Nok, the store’s nouvelle-­Nigerian destination restaurant.

Ogunlesi wears clothing and boots of her own design. Ize wears signature pieces from his spring 2019 collection.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Nigerian style is all about subcultures, mash-ups, and street life. London-based Mowalola Ogunlesi, known for her sexually charged punk clothes, finds inspiration in the country’s rock underground and the aggression of Lagos street racers, bikers, and minibus drivers. ­Adebayo Oke-Lawal’s Lagos-based label, Orange Culture, short-listed for the LVMH Prize in 2014, explores androgynous undercurrents that Nigerian tradition, influenced by both Christianity and Islam, repress. London’s streetwear brand Vivendii, started in 2011 by Jimmy Ayeni, Ola Badiru, and Anthony Oye, collaborated this year with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Nike on a limited-edition jersey for the Nigeria soccer team. Meanwhile, Nike’s official gear for the team’s World Cup campaign became an instant cult item.

Ayeni wears a Vivendii top; Marni suit; Bunney choker; his own necklace and sandals. Oye wears a Vivendii shirt; Craig Green trousers; Ambush necklaces; Alexander McQueen boots; his own sunglasses. Badiru wears a Vivendii shirt; Alexander McQueen coveralls; Ambush jewelry; Bunney bracelet and signet ring; Falke socks; Marni sneakers.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Global brands are catching up to Nigeria, says the photographer Ruth Ossai, who took the pictures in these pages. “There is such a spotlight on Nigerian creatives because brands have gotten behind us and trust us,” she says. “But local talent has always been there.” Indeed, as trend spotters ogle Nigerian kids in London and reporters safari through the Lagos nightlife, many Nigerians seem amused. “People are just realizing this now?” the artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby says. “Maybe they are just slow to the scene.”

With 190 million inhabitants or more—no one knows, there hasn’t been a census in years—the country’s size alone, dwarfing its ­African neighbors, makes it a player. “You can’t ignore the nation that ­represents one in eight black human beings in the world,” says the crime novelist Leye Adenle, author of Easy Motion Tourist. In the years ­following independence, in 1960, that scale was accompanied by prestige. ­Nigeria had good universities, political influence, a booming ­commercial capital in Lagos, and a dynamic, emerging middle class. Music blossomed—highlife in Lagos and the Igbo southeast, juju from the Yoruba heartland—and albums by great bandleaders found their way across Africa and to the West.

But the good times didn’t last. A coup and countercoup in 1966 ushered in the bloody Biafra civil war, followed by three decades of nearly uninterrupted military rule. The economy became dependent on oil exports, and corruption took hold as politics centered on controlling and distributing oil revenue. In the long, jazzy songs that made him Nigeria’s musical icon in the 1970s and ’80s, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti described a country beset with greed, decay, and the suffering of ordinary people. The nation became disreputable: Visitors returned with tales of outrageous shakedowns, and Africans from neighboring ­countries stayed away, traumatized by stories of swindles or vigilante justice. The advent of the Internet gave rise to a stubborn archetype, the Nigerian prince who wants to wire you a vast sum of money after you send him a fee—Nigerians called this scam 419, after a provision in the legal code on fraud.

Ogbewi wears a Salvatore Ferragamo dress and shoes; Versace shirtdress. Anakwe wears Balenciaga.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Today’s Nigeria reflects a drastic turnaround. “It’s gone from 419 to Lagos nights,” Adewunmi says. Elections have been held since 1999, and the country has become an energetic—if still corrupt—democracy. Every year, Nigerians living overseas stream back for the holidays, injecting millions of dollars and pounds into the economy, moving by Uber around Lagos and Abuja, the capital, and popping bottles at the ever-changing clubs. Social media is vibrant, and instead of scams, it turns out a steady flow of Nigerian memes, slang, and music.

Akunyili Crosby, who grew up in Nigeria and lives in Los Angeles, has found acclaim for her mixed-media collage works that evoke her memories of family and Nigerian daily life. “I’m really trying to show the side of Nigeria that is just people living their lives,” she says. In her wake, Alabama-raised Toyin Ojih Odutola had a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art last year, with a series of elegant large-scale drawings that depict the lives of two fictional aristocratic Nigerian families connected by the marriage of two male heirs. Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, for her part, makes works on paper in an evanescent, surrealist style that evokes unsettled identities; raised in the U.K. and living in Brooklyn, she says her approach took form during a year spent in Nigeria, where she was born. “I have a connection to the land that is deeply nuanced, perhaps even immeasurable,” she says.

Some Nigerian artists who began their career overseas have returned home, joining the Lagos scene—anchored by the respected curator Bisi Silva’s Centre for Contemporary Art and the Art X Lagos fair—or reestablishing their rural roots. The photographer and ­conceptual video artist Zina Saro-Wiwa—the daughter of Ken ­Saro-Wiwa, a national hero executed by the military regime in 1995 for his environmental activism—is based in Brooklyn but makes her work in the Niger Delta region that her father fought for. “I’m in our village a lot,” she says. “I’m trying to let the land speak through me and express the reality of that place.”

Daberechi wears Prada clothing and Manolo Blahnik boots. Davies wears his own Ozwald Boateng suit and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello sunglasses.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

An important force behind Nigeria’s cultural dynamism is its collector class, including deep-pocketed banks and corporations. Even more ­decisive, however, is the vast popular market for locally ­produced entertainment. It includes the sprawling Nollywood, but also the Hausa-language film industry, which is influential in the country’s north and gets exported to the Arab world. Nigeria’s music scene, too, allows artists to grow careers independent of foreign labels and tastemakers. “I’m able to make music locally,” says the musician Brymo, who began in mainstream pop and then moved to a more recherché singer-songwriter style. “Between downloads, streams, and gigs, people pay to see my group.”

The exponential growth of Nigerian pop music—now often called Afrobeats—tracks with the turn some 10 years ago toward a hybrid sound full of references to prior waves of Nigerian music, sung in English as well as in Yoruba, Igbo, and pidgin, a street vernacular. American, British, Caribbean, and Congolese borrowings add to the blend. It’s this music, not the more formulaic hip-hop and R&B that immediately preceded it, that has taken Africa by storm and merged with global black culture.

Nigerian pop’s royal ranks already include the megastars Wizkid and Davido, the reggae-inspired Burna Boy, and the female singers Yemi Alade and Tiwa Savage. Ubiquitous across Africa and increasingly in the mix elsewhere, pop music has become a source of prestige for Nigeria. “Growing up in the U.S., it wasn’t cool to be Nigerian,” says the rapper Jidenna, who was raised near Boston. “Now, it’s freeing.” These days, he works vintage Nigerian highlife music into his songs and finds inspiration for his ultra-dapper style on the Lagos streets.

nigerian creatives
Jidenna wears a Loro Piana cape; his own shirt, pants, and jewelry.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

But let’s be real: Nigeria is also a mess. Middle-class life involves constant battles—with corrupt cops, disorganized public services, fuel shortages, and power cuts that force reliance on noisy, polluting generators. The country recently surpassed India as the nation with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty. And violence is rife: not just the Boko Haram crisis that drags on in the northeast but resource conflicts, such as between farmers and herders, that take on ethnic hues. “People think Nigeria is incapable of imploding, but I don’t agree,” says the novelist Elnathan John, who comes from Kaduna, in the northwest, and now lives in Berlin. “It’s these little conflicts in a million places.” But others are more sanguine. “Some god is ­smiling on Nigeria,” Duro Olowu says, “considering how many things are completely ignored.”

“Nigeria succeeds in spite of itself, and that’s what’s great about it,” says the writer Lola Shoneyin. “The doggedness is always there. On nearly every street, there is a girl who is going to university but also has a sewing machine. There is a fearlessness with which ­Nigerians pursue creativity.” Shoneyin, the author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, herself has many hustles—a positive term in the ­Nigerian vernacular. A publisher and cultural entrepreneur, she founded the Aké literature festival in 2013. It is now a vibrant institution with a global draw.

Self-belief is no culture’s monopoly—but talk to Nigerian creatives and you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. In Donald Glover’s hit TV series Atlanta, the character Darius, a purveyor of goofy wisdom played by Lakeith Stanfield, is Nigerian-American. “Don’t you start that,” he tells Earn, the lead protagonist, played by Glover, at one point. “You know Nigerians don’t fail.” And as their influence grows, Nigerian creatives are nudging one another into more transgressive terrain: feminism, queerness, dissent. The hope is that the culture at large will follow.

The trans author Akwaeke Emezi, who is half Igbo, half Tamil, and grew up in southern Nigeria, identifies specifically as ogbanje—a gender-ambiguous spirit that arrives from outside the lineage and inhabits the body. Freshwater, Emezi’s debut, unfolds from an ogbanje’s perspective, narrated in the first-person plural. The acclaimed novel, which earned Emezi a two-book follow-up deal, was published in the U.S. this past February and recently in Nigeria. “Several Nigerian readers have written me to say, ‘Thank you for this,’ ” says the author. “ ‘This is the first time in my life that I haven’t felt crazy.’ ”

Oke-Lawal, of Orange Culture, observes that his androgynous label is generating interest abroad and at home, with a growing number of customers from conventional professions, such as lawyers, now purchasing his clothes. New York–based Chike Frankie Edozien, author of the acclaimed memoir Lives of Great Men, is among a handful of gay Nigerians who are writing and speaking openly, often at personal risk.

Iweala wears a Paul Smith suit; Brioni shirt; Falke socks; his own shoes. Saro-Wiwa wears Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. earrings; her own clothes. Cole wears an Hermès suit; Brioni sweater; his own glasses, pin, and shoes.

“People are creating progressive culture in real time,” Teju Cole says. Known for his own artistic experiments with social media, he sees the Internet as a catalyst for Nigerian culture to gradually shed its inhibitions. “There are people who are very liberal in their views, and there are people who are not so much, but you can see them thinking it through.” For all its difficulties, Nigeria is going through a creative blossoming and sharing the results with the rest of the world, at a time when many societies seem to be looking inward. Perhaps that’s the secret to its appeal. “It feels like a coming to fruition,” Cole says. “We really got hot, and that feels right.”


Source: W Magazine


Nichole Yembra: Managing Partner of One of The Largest FinTech VC Firms in Africa

One of my goals is to invest in many startups here and on the continent. The African Fintech (Financial technology) sector is one that’s always been interesting to me because of its potential to solve many social and economic issues.

According to a recent report from Disrupt Africa, the overall startup funding from venture capitalists jumped by 51 percent to $195 million from 2016 to 2017, with fintech funding accounting for one-third of the funds.

One company that specializes in financial technology is GreenHouse Capital. This Lagos based VC firm is assembling the largest portfolio of FinTech companies in Africa.

Nichole Yembra, MP – GreenHouse Capital

We spoke with Nichole Yembra, Managing Partner at GreenHouse Capital for more insight. Nichole is the local partner for foreign investors eager to transform African technology startups.

How would you describe the startup scene in Nigeria?

Over 40% of Nigerians identify as entrepreneurs; whether that is a one-woman store selling sweets and household items to series B tech companies getting international buzz. This spirit of hustle and solving every day Nigerian problems runs at the core of who we are.

While there are plenty stories of those who have started, we don’t yet have enough tales of exits which holds the Nigerian startup scene back compared to Kenya and South Africa. For the first time in 2017, Nigeria raised the most money on the continent and H1 2018 is already ahead of that trend.

Both domestic and international investors are backing really brilliant ideas, and this is setting up the ecosystem for much needed success stories.

What do you look for when deciding to invest in a company?

At GHC, we actually have a 10 item criteria, but the most important is the team. We need to know that they are resilient, flexible enough to pivot, technologically sound, and have the right set of morals.

Nichole Yembra

A great team will weather all the challenges thrown at them from both the macro and micro level and we honestly want to invest in people that we simply enjoy being around! We only invest in post revenue companies, so someone out there has to be willing to pay for your product.

Other areas including having at least one technical co-founder, assessing whether the timing is right for this product to enter the market, and modeling scalability.

Currently, your portfolio consists of mostly Fintech startups. What makes this such an attractive sector?

Fintech as we define it is the solution for so many issues on our continent. The most important thing we are looking for is data and a whole lot of it! Data allows everyone to make better decisions and innovate much faster.

For all the hundreds of payment companies, we still simply find it hard to move money across Africa and targeting the large percentage of the unbanked. Let me take one small aspect of fintech—inbound international remittances. In 2017, Nigerians (or others) in the diaspora sent $22 Billion dollars to friends and family in Nigeria. Nigeria’s entire 2017 oil revenues were $20 Billion.

Bunmi Akinyemiju, MP/CEO of Green House Capital

That’s right; inbound remittances were larger than all of Nigeria’s oil revenue. Furthermore, the average fee on those transactions is 10% meaning $2.2B for fintech companies moving foreign currency into the country.

Fintech’s are prominent throughout every fiber of society; from getting accurate patient records to track illnesses and medications to understanding why African aviation runs at a loss compared to its global counterparts.

Fintechs provide increased transparency and improve predictability. Any business that wants to make money needs to be plugged into a payment system, therefore permanently increasing the need for innovative fintechs.

Kunmi Demuren – Founding Partner, Greenhouse Capital

Congratulations on the launch of Vibranium Valley. What is the mission and vision behind it?

We’ve actually only completed phase 1 of Vibranium Valley now which houses Venture Garden Group’s 7 companies and the HQ for our investment arm GreenHouse Capital’s 14 companies.

Vibranium Valley launch day with Nigerian Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo (center)

We will also hold the 8-12 companies we are choosing for GreenHouse Lab, our all female tech accelerator. Once the full project is completed, we will have space for not just long term resident companies, but also those with budding ideas.

The mission is to enhance the tech ecosystem by fostering collaboration. Let’s say one company is trying to provide banking solutions to a state government and their primary system requires microfinance or commercial bank accounts, but the state wants to also incorporate the unbanked.

Vibranium Valley

That company can reach out to other fintechs that help cooperatives or have agency networks to partner with eachother rather than building that aspect of the solution from scratch. Vibranium Valley also serves as a central point for international investors and companies looking to better/more quickly understand the Nigerian investment landscape.

Vibranium Valley

If you have a question about a tech company in Nigeria, someone on our team most likely knows the answer or can easily direct you to someone who does. Being this ecosystem connector and helping shine the light on tech successes in Nigeria are the reasons why Vibranium Valley had to exist.

In your opinion, why is it important to support Nigerian and African startups in general?

Because nobody else can solve our problems for us. Developed countries like Japan, the US, and Germany have median ages between 46.9 and 37.9 years old; whereas the median age for the African continent is 19.5 years old with Nigeria averaging 18.3! Africans are not just the future, we are the now!

Garden Women’s Network

These young minds are growing up intrinsically connected with technology and innovation around the world and still hungry and imaginative enough to create both enabling and disruptive solutions to our nations’ problems.

We have already begun outsourcing our brain power to Silicon Valley companies with entities like Andela and countries looking to increase their global foothold can only come here for expansion. Given the large number of infrastructure and systemic issues around power, education, etc., there is not a shortage of problems to solve and the impact can be more immediate and widespread.

What is your advice for a foreigner investors that are interested in investing in Nigerian startups?

Come on over, we’re waiting for you. The beauty of investing here is that it naturally has a societal impact and given the perceived high risk, much higher returns.

I’d advise that you do your homework by engaging someone like us at VGG and always have a local investor in your round that can keep an eye on things on ground.

The biggest point of advice though is don’t come here trying to structure a silicon valley type deal; bring in global best practices, but be willing to localize and always search for context.

GHC CEO, Bunmi Akinyemiju, Managing Partner, Nichole Yembra, and Executive Director, Kunmi Demuren

Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?

Hopefully as a billion dollar company! For the new age unicorn definition, no African company has yet reached this milestone and we hope to be amongst the first.

We have deployed our fintech solutions across aviation, power, education, banking, and social investment while investing in companies addressing financial inclusion, renewable energy, healthcare, and so on.

With this connected ecosystem, we hope to increase not just our net worth but create a new class of tech millionaires and billionaires who are impacting millions of lives across the continent.


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)


10 Lagos Fashion & Design Week Designers To Watch Out For

Lagos Fashion and Design Week (October 25th- 28th) is a leading fashion event on the African fashion calendar.

The multi-day fashion event aims to bring together buyers, consumers and the media to view the current collections of African designers in the fashion capital of Lagos, Nigeria.

We’ve listed a few of the designers you should get into.

Lagos Fashion and Design Week

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson / IG: @thebusyafrican


10 Of Our Favorite Fela Kuti Quotes

Music legend and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti would have been 79 years also today. In honor of his life and his mission to use his music to liberate his people, we have compiled a few of our favorite Fela quotes. Happy Birthday Fela!

Fela Kuti at the Senator Hotel, London, UK on 11 November 1983

To be spiritual is not by praying and going to church. Spiritualism is the understanding of the universe so that it can be a better place to live in.

My people are scared of the air around them, they always have an excuse not to fight for freedom.

I don’t treat women as objects to be used. I just don’t agree to possess a woman.

The music of Africa is big sound: it’s the sound of a community.

To think how many Africans suffer in oblivion. That makes me sad… Despite my sadness, I create joyful rhythms… I am an artist… I want people to be happy and I can do it by playing happy music. And through happy music I tell them about the sadness of others… So really I am using my music as a weapon.

I want peace. Happiness. Not only for myself. For everybody.

99.9% of the information you get about Africa is wrong.

Music is a weapon of the future / music is the weapon of the progressives / music is the weapon of the givers of life.

I don’t mind criticism, I can handle it, but most people can’t.

Yellow Fever, you dey bleach o, you dey bleach, ugly thing. Who say you fine? Na lie.

My people dey ‘shuffering’ and ‘smiling’, everyday na the same thing. Suffer, suffer for world, enjoy for heaven.




I Moved From the U.S. to Nigeria and Launched a Fashion Brand

Leilani Lawani was born in New York, lived in Cameroon for several years before returning to the U.S. for college.  She eventually moved to Lagos, Nigeria, and founded her fashion brand, Koélé.

Leilani Lawani

What inspired you to start your business?

I have a multicultural background in that I have lived in different countries throughout my childhood and adult life.

I have therefore been exposed to a number of ways of expressing ones self through fashion – personal style that combines different textures, patterns and colors.

These factors inspire us to design the bags and sandals that we create. I have always enjoyed fashion and felt that many of the designers were always being safe with their designs and color scheme.

There are times I would walk in a store and say to myself “If only we could change the strap, or use a different color combination, or make it a little larger.” One day I decided to try my hands at designing the bags and it took off from there.

How has living in multiple countries influenced you as a person and as a business owner?

Living in multiple countries has molded me into the person that I am today. I am very open minded and easily relate to people from different backgrounds and cultures.

I believe this helps me create styles that may cater to more than one group of people – i.e., people from different countries, interests, and across age groups.

Living in American for many years has helped me as a business owner because I learned about customer service being the one important tool to having a successful business.

I have a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The customer is always right and I will bend over backwards until the client is satisfied.

 When you moved to Nigeria, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make?

There are many. But the one that stands out the most is the traffic! I have no patience for it and have now learned to run most of my errands in the mornings before 2pm.

How do you balance being a wife, mother and entrepreneur?

There is never a balance. You just try and prioritize the best you can. I am never going to be the perfect wife, best mother or the most successful entrepreneur.

I wake up in the morning and just pray that I can get through the day without any major challenges. So far so good. I feel blessed to be the mother of my two gorgeous kids and a wife to a very supportive husband.

What are your thoughts on the importance of Nigerians supporting Nigerian brands?

I think it is extremely important to for us to support Nigerian brands. There are many talented people in Nigeria who have businesses that are of good quality but unfortunately we prefer to buy the big designer brands from abroad.

The economy is suffering and it can be improved if we keep the money within Nigeria and support each other. Its incomprehensible that such a country with so much wealth and talent is where it is today.

Slowly though it seems that more and more Africans are realizing that we need to invest in our countries and a major part of the problem is that we would rather take our money and spend it in the western world.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Never give up! If you have a dream, do not let anyone tell you that it will not be successful.

You never know until you try. Being an entrepreneur in Nigeria is probably more challenging than most other places in the world. You need patience, determination, perseverance and lots of faith.

If you have all those you are half way there. It’s very rewarding to own your business and see it grow, no matter how small it currently is. You get out what you put in.


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson


#SHOPPE NAIJA: The Black and Bourgie Shoppe Black Experience in Lagos

I’ve wanted to attend Social Media Week Lagos for the last five years, ever since my girl Ngozi Odita founded it with a group of fellow Nigerians.

The largest innovation and technology convening on the Continent, SMW Lagos is definitely a Nigerian hot spot for the cool girls and guys representing innovation in Africa across industries.

The Busy African and I decided to introduce Shoppe Black to the masses on the other side of the Atlantic, while checking out some of the best of what the Continent has to offer.

Opening Day of Social Media Week Lagos.

Although this would not be my first trip to Nigeria – it’s been a minute. Tony hasn’t been back for a few years either so it would be a homecoming of sorts for him, especially since he’d have his new Iyawo [read: bride] in tow.

Considering the fact that Nigeria is home to 174 million people, with many more of her children located throughout the globe, we were both looking to Shoppe Black when we went “back home.”

What we didn’t know was how many businesses were not owned by Nigerians. We just naturally assumed everything was for us, by us. Not so. While there are countless Nigerian owned businesses, the country also has its share of businesses owned and operated by Lebanese, Chinese and other Asians.

Nobody’s here for the xenophobia that countries like South Africa are sadly exhibiting. However, in our quest to support our own, we went on a mission to experience the best Naija-owned businesses we could find.

Imagine our delight when we happened upon the #buyNigerian movement that includes businesses with great concepts and excellent customer service.

Who knew just how fun and cosmopolitan our Black and Bourgie in Lagos experience would be? Certainly not us. The two weeks we spent Shopping Naija inspired us beyond imagination.

From nail bars and rooftops to organic juice brands and museums, Lagos has a little bit of everything with lots of room left to start something new.

Hanging out with my in-loves post brunch.

So whether you’re in Nigeria for business, going home to visit the family or relocating to this bustling country, check out our personal faves from in and around Lagos.

This is only a sample that reflects our quick trip but we’re looking forward to diving into the Buy Nigerian movement as we continue to build our own brand. And watch out, #shoppenaija may be coming to the innanets near you.

Shantrelle P. Lewis


La Maison Fahrenheit Hotel
While Tony and I didn’t stay at Fahrenheit, we certainly hung out there with friends on a few occasions. The rooftop is undoubtedly one of the best places for drinks and stimulating conversations in the city.

The boutique hotel has the coolest vibe and decor. The rooms are sexy and spacious. I’ve heard great things about the food at the in-house restaurant as well. We’re definitely staying here the next time we’re in town, if only for a few days.

Protea Hotel Lagos at Kuramo Waters

During Social Media Week, we opted for Protea Hotel Lagos Kuramo Waters. It’s a smaller garden style hotel owned and operated by Marriott on Victoria Island, located a few minutes away from Landmark Center.

The rooms were modern and comfortable. We stayed on a lower floor one night and in a suite on an upper floor the remainder of the trip, which was better because of the small balcony and natural sunlight.

The food at the restaurant was pretty decent. The staff was beyond accommodating and friendly. P.S. Don’t let the website fool you. The hotel is situated on a beach but not the the kind of beach you’ll have access to or where you’d probably opt to lounge.



Nok by Alara
Named after one of the world’s oldest civilizations that flourished during the Iron Age in present-day Nigeria, Nok’s ancient terra-cotta sculptures, jewelry and artifacts are preserved today in museums around the world. The contemporary Nok is a well designed concept restaurant that features a delicious modern take on traditional Nigerian and Diasporan dishes.

It’s cute for a date night or gathering with a group of friends, with both indoor and outdoor seating options, although the menus vary depending on where you choose to dine. On one occasion I had the jerk chicken and the grilled beef filet on another.

The Red Alert was my adult beverage of choice. I ate there at least on three separate occasions and they did not disappoint on any. It’s on the pricier side but well worth it. And if you wonder why the aesthetics are so supreme, that’s partially because the building was designed by internationally renowned architect David Adjaye.

Samantha’s Bistro and Grill

There’s no denying the fact that I’m a picky eater. Not only that, I’m the self-identifying Burger Queen. My love for hamburgers has nothing to do with the fact that I’m American but everything to do with the fact that I have always, always loved hamburgers.

So put me in any city or country and I’ll find the best burgers there. In Lagos, Samantha’s might be it. Also, their grill had some of the BEST tilapia I’ve tasted in my life. And I’ve had some great tilapia. I couldn’t stop talking about this tilapia though. It was grilled to perfection. You should also check out their brunch. IG: @samanthasbistro

Hans & René
With locations at the Radisson Blu hotel in Ikoyi, Palms Shopping Center and Ikeja City Mall., Hans & René is a very cute, Black-owned bakery and gelataria.

They serve traditional flavors of gelatos and sorbets that you’d find anywhere in the world but also a variety of local concoctions that were quite delicious. My personal favorite was the Agbalumo – a sorbet made from a popular indigenous fruit affectionately called “African cherries.”

Hans & René also offers a selection of other sweets and baked goods. This is not the place to go if you’ve kicked your sugar habit but most certainly the place to visit if you have a sweet tooth.

Craft Gourmet by Lou Baker
This may be bit of a faux pas, considering we are all Black everything but I be remiss if I didn’t recommend Kraft Gourmet located on the upper floor at Mega Plaza. Why? Because although not Black, they are of color and their customer service was EVERYTHING.

Plus the food is good. I dined there for a late brunch twice. The chicken and waffles were tasty. The $10 mimosa came in a carafe that allowed you to squeeze out at least three mimosas, which meant I was pretty tipsy both times but I didn’t complain.

The owner’s husband was very sweet and extremely accommodating. I believe they’re Indian, which in this case, is good enough (brown enough) for me. Great service goes a long way. IG: @craftgourmet

So Fresh
One afternoon after quite a hot and dramatic visit to the National Museum, Tony and I were looking for a quick bite en route to our next appointment.

I saw the signage from the road on our way to the museum and asked the driver to pull into the parking lot for So Fresh. We were pleasantly surprised by the neat juice bar that also had a variety of salads, wraps and smoothies.

It’s not only nutritious and but is an an ideal haven for Nigerian veggie lovers. We love their branding and customer service as well!

Simply Green
So Fresh isn’t the only health conscious brand in Lagos. Once again, my girl Tayo put me on to several great Nigerian businesses in the area. She and her husband are huge supporters of the #buynigerian movement.

During a visit to her home, she offered me a refreshing and nutritious Simply Green cold pressed juice. I was in love! The owners of Simply Green have mastered the art of branding. Additionally, their products come from a Nigerian owned farm where they grow their fruits and veggies.

Their juices can be found at various stores throughout the country as well as at their own location in V.I. If you’re really committed to cleansing and giving your system a break after stuffing it with fufu and pounded yam, you can order a cleanse which ranges from 3 to 6 days.

The Simply Green staff delivers your fresh juices directly to your door. How cool is that?



Scratch and Social

It’s no secret that I have a picky palate. I’m even pickier when it comes to my pedicures. I decided to check out Scratch and Social at the end of SMW when it was time for my nails to get touched up.

Someone told me that the uber cute nail shop also had a bar so I figured it was the perfect answer to cure our need for happy hour and tackling my manicure at the same time. The vibe is super chic.

The place is owned by a millennial from Texas who returned home to try her hand at Nigeria’s booming start up sector. I absolutely loved the place. I loved the service. What I didn’t love was the four hours it took to get my nails done. (Neither did Tony or Yaba).

I think it had more to do with the fact that it was a Friday night and that it takes at least an hour for each service and there was at least one person ahead of me. In MY opinion, it might be better if the owner just makes everything by appointment only to alleviate the wait unless she hires more staff to meet her growing demand.

Also a free drink for the wait would have been a nice gesture. All in all, she was very sweet and I’d still go back because you can’t beat the vibes.

House of Tara
There was a House of Tara booth during SMW and I picked up two lipsticks. I loved the colors! So after I discovered that it was in the neighborhood when we drove by one day on the way back to my in-laws, I stopped in to pick up a few more lipsticks and a few things for my mother-in-love.

House of Tara has a full line of cosmetics. You can book appointments to have your makeup done as well.  Since I purchased my colorful hues, I’ve been wearing them almost daily.

They’re not very big tubes so I’m not sure how long they’ll last in comparison to larger brands but I love the way the purple and bright pink shades highlight my complexion.



Located in Victoria Island, Alara is very chic, very modern, very ultra-dope concept store boasting of luxury brands from around the globe. The four – five story  locale has anything and everything a couture loving fashionista/o would ever need in their wardrobe or home.

I don’t do red bottom shoes (my ankles and size 10s/41s were not set up for stilt walking unfortunately) but they had plenty pairs of Christian Louboutins if that’s your thing. The store also functions as a gallery that is curated by my good friend Temitayo Ogunbiyi.

After working up an appetite spending hard earned money at Alaro, you can go its sister restaurant in the back for some good bites. IG:@alaralagos

Grey Velvet
I have to credit my play cousin-in-love for turning me on to Grey Velvet. Kemi’s an it girl who comes home frequently. Because she highly values more modern twists on traditional wear versus Western name brands, she shops at Grey Velvet.

We checked it out before flying back to the States. Kemi was right! I wanted to buy half the store but only left with an Ankara Agbada, a few tops and a pair of shades.

It’s a cute boutique located in the Lekki shopping center and has a variety of colorful dresses, blouses, pants, skirts, accessories including the local made high end Femi handbags.


Lekki Market
I posted a status on facebook about my experiences in Balogun Market hunting for fabric. I handled it like the O.G. professional Diasporic haggler that I am.

But battling the sheer excited chaos and heat that is Lagos’ largest street market is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. So if you want to purchase some small items for the home or friends, go to Lekki Market.

In addition to sculptures, masks and jewelry, there are also vendors with nice traditional paintings. You still can bargain, don’t just take someone’s last price. But even if you do, you’ll still come out with some good finds. Find out more about Lekki Market here.


In my head, Fela was my uncle. Which means, Seun is my play cousin. Hanging out with my boy, the Crown Prince of Afrobeat.

Kalakuta Republic Museum
For years Kalakuta Republic was a place that lived in my imagination. The actual home of one of my patron saints, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Kalakuta Republic was the socio-political and ideological headquarters and living quarters for the late great father of Afrobeat and contemporary Pan-Africanism.

In 2012, the home was converted into a museum, to preserve not only his remains but Fela’s legacy and serve as the family’s headquarters for Felabration. Today, it also plays host to the rehearsal spot for Fela’s youngest son and my good friend, Seun Kuti.

Seun and Egypt 80 practice there weekly for hours. Upstairs is a local hangout spot and bar for neighborhood youth. We had the opportunity to hang out with Seun and crew and got a tour of his dad’s home turned-museum.

The museum is in Ikeja, in the heartland of Lagos City, about an hour’s drive from the island. Click here to learn more about the museum.

CCA Lagos
Another place I’ve been wanting to visit is the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos. Founded by curator Bisi Silva in 2007, the center preserves, exhibits, and discusses contemporary Nigerian art and visual culture.

In addition to its gallery space, the center houses one of the largest visual art libraries in Africa. When my friend Tayo took me there, she introduced me to brilliant young artist Kelani Abass, whose exhibition If I Could Save Time was on view in CCA’s galleries.

Bisi is as brilliant as she is sweet and CCA is a much needed institution. CCA is located on the mainland in Yaba.


Lekki Conservation
If you google what to do in Lagos, one of the top tourist attractions is Lekki Conservation. Since the in-loves lived in Lekki, I naturally assumed that it was right down the road (that’s also how far away our driver described the distance). It was a little further than down the road but it was worth the trip.

Growing up a five minutes drive away from the swamp, I’ve always been enamored with nature and botanical landscapes. The conversation is a quiet walk into local fauna, an oasis away from the urban hustle and bustle that is Lagos.

For whatever reason, I encouraged my brother-in-love to trek up the six suspension bridges that took us on a journey into the sky above the trees. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, perhaps testament that I’m slowly overcoming my fear of heights.

We saw some local wildlife including peacocks and had a meditative, peaceful good time.


Jazzhole was yet another socially hip place that we got put onto by friends. This time, it was a suggestion by Afrobeat queen Wunmi. A group of us headed there after treating ourselves to post-brunch sorbet at Hans & Rene.

The place was fantastic! There were all kinds of classic vinyl albums from all over the continent. There were also loads of books, magazines and cds.

Between browsing and listening, you will probably engage in profound conversations with the founders or one of the Jazzhole’s intellectual patrons.

There’s also a cozy cafe situated in the back that carries assorted teas and small bites. Check out this Black Fabulousity post about Jazzhole and its owners here.

The New Afrika Shrine
The first time I went to the Shrine was in 2007. It felt more like a dream than something that actually happened in real life.

Femi performed, I probably had my share of African cabbage and cried. LOL. I was so overwhelmed at the idea that I was at Fela’s shrine. Granted, it wasn’t the original edifice, but the spirit of Fela lives there.

We missed Seun’s show, which is the last Sunday of each month but we were able to catch Femi live. The show was nice and laid back.

I’m undoubtedly a bigger fan of Seun’s than Femi but it’s well worth the trip. The Shrine is in Ikeja. It’s a must do for any true Fela disciple.


Meet Bukky Karibi-Whyte, CEO of Nigeria’s Top Public Relations Firm

Bukky Karibi-Whyte is the CEO and founder of Robert Taylor Media, one of the premiere communications agencies in Nigeria, an agency which houses Communications Firms Invicta Africa and Bobby Taylor Company as well as three other brands.

Her company represents brands like BROOMFIELD Law, SPAR, Dom Perignon, Cyber Xchange, Henessy, Belvedere, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and various events and personalities.

While in Lagos for Social Media Week, I dropped by her office to chat about the business scene in Lagos and to get a better idea of what she does. 

SB: What inspired you to leave Canada and move your business to Nigeria?

BKW: In Nigeria, you need to be physically present to be relevant. While running the firm in Canada, I would get a lot of emails saying my name kept coming up for PR gigs in Nigeria but noone wanted to hire me because I wasn’t “on ground”.

Eventually, one person took a risk and flew me in. We did a great job and I got paid the equivalent of a years salary where I worked in Canada. I moved back finally in 2009. 

Once I arrived in Lagos, It wasn’t hard to find my feet. There were few PR agencies in the lifestyle and luxury market and I saw this as an opportunity to fill that gap. 

 SB: Many people say the adjustment to moving back is hard. What was your experience?

BKW: It IS hard! I know people that moved back and left a few months after. Its almost like pledging a sorority or fraternity. Nigeria will test your endurance. I just wasn’t taking no for an answer. I came with the attitude of “I’m the best and you guys need this.”

Naija is great but you’ll be frustrated all the time. Do you know how many times a press release was supposed to go out at noon and at 11:58am electricity goes out and the internet has gone off? Next thing you know, the client is calling frantically for their release. 

Or imagine you’ve been invited to pitch a client in Ikeja with a massive budget and there’s traffic on third mainland bridge isn’t moving and you miss the meeting and they don’t wanna hear why.

SB: Describe the ideal client?

BKW: All of my clients are ideal. I say that because for me, business is very personal. I only work with brands that I personally buy into and use their goods or services. I’m confident enough to go to any tv station or magazine publication and say these guys are the best.

It isn’t just about business to me. If it was, i’d be a whole lot richer (Laughs). I actually turn down business if i don’t believe in the brand or don’t think its a good fit. If I don’t buy it i’m not selling it.


SB: How does an international or even a Nigerian brand survive in this market?

BKW: One, they have to understand that the same formula that works abroad won’t work here. We are very fickle and lose interest very quickly. That’s why you hear a huge buzz about a certain brand one day and three months later, there’s nothing.

That’s because you have to engage people. The brands that last are the ones that keep changing and evolving and keeping up with trends.

You need a plan to continually engage.You can’t hire an agency to introduce you and then end the agency relationship once the introduction has been made. The work only really begins after the introduction. Now the brand has to show the public that they are who they say they are.


SB: You studied African American History in college. How did that change your mindset as an African and what are your thoughts on how to improve relations between Africans and African Americans?

BKW: I continue to say that with Africans and African Americans all we need is major DIALOGUE and SUPPORT of one another. I see it slowly happening. On major holidays i see a few African Americans come to Nigeria and Nigerians are always in the U.S.

Even in regards to African American Greek Lettered Organization, you find a lot of Nigerians getting involved. I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

Every year I fly to the states for conferences and to spend time with my second family (my Sorors). We do however need more work. I am proud to have studied African American History in college. 

SB: Is there a growing movement to support made in Nigeria products and Nigerian owned businesses?

BKW: Yes there is a growing movement. There are people that are not in support of our current Government but I personally feel that our present Government  has forced us to look inward. A lot of people are becoming entrepreneurs. A lot of people are turning their hobbies into businesses.

There’s a massive opportunity for Nigerian brands to excel in these present times.

Bukky showed me a picture in her office that was taken by photographer Seun O who previously covered weddings and special events. Now he recently launched a series called “Ladipo: Gods of Machines” and just had an exhibition where she bought his work. “Everyone is getting creative and its amazing.” she said.

Bukky Karibi-Whyte

“Don’t get me wrong, people are still very financially buoyant but we are now looking locally to support our quality local brands. There is a huge demand for QUALITY products and services. Give us quality and we will buy.”

 SB: Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years?

BKW: I want to remain boutique. I also want to teach at the universities and create mini publications that are useful to PR and communications professionals. I get a lot of PR interns and after seeing their course works I can tell that there’s a lot of fundamentals being taught but nothing practical. I am very interested in the educational and advisory space. 

 SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

BKW: Bring something unique to the market. Everything is already here. Be tenacious and don’t take no for an answer.


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson