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Participants at the annual Afrolynk Berlin Conference, 2018. The flagship event of Afrolynk brings together start-ups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors, corporates and all stakeholders in the EU-African tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem/Photo: Afrolynk

Interview: How Afrolynk addresses Africa’s development challenges with technology

Afrolynk is a Berlin-based company that promotes increased African-European business relationship with a focus on technology as the chief driver of integration.

The social enterprise, which is present in 8 African countries – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, supports young entrepreneurs with free online courses for the development of their skills.

The company, which organises the annual Afrolynk Berlin Conference, also builds supporting networks for young entrepreneurs, linking them with potential investors.

Afrolynk has trained more than 3,500 young men and women across Africa and facilitated the creation of more than 300 jobs since May 2019.

In an exclusive interview with The African Courier, Kumbirai Chipadza, the Ecosystem Manager of the company, talks about how Afrolynk is addressing the continent’s development challenges.

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The African Courier: What is Afrolynk about?

Kumbirai Chipadza: Afrolynk was started as an initiative under ACME Consultancy as a way to give expert support and advice to young African entrepreneurs and community. It started in 2016 but was officially registered in Germany in 2018 to support and bring together start-ups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors, corporates and all stakeholders in the EU-African tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Kumbirai Chipadza, the Ecosystem Manager of Afrolynk/Photo: Afrolynk

 

How’s the journey been so far?

Like any journey it is tough and slow, but we keep pushing. While from the onset we were more focused or known for the Afrolynk Berlin Conference, in the last couple of years we have broadened our scope and are now more visible on the ground in Africa with ongoing projects and collaborations with other organisations.

Afrolynk links the African diaspora and Africa to build a start-up ecosystem. How do you achieve this lofty objective?

Afrolynk has three key pillars, which are Innovate, Connect and Accelerate.

  • Through Innovate we link Africa and the EU by knowledge and skills transfer as well as a mentorship programme which we are launching in March 2020; it will have both North-South Mentorship and South-South Mentorship components. North-South will see Africans across the globe volunteering to mentor entrepreneurs on the African continent via an online tool. We are partnering with established mentors for this. South-South will see mentors on the continent mentoring in their localities and having face-to-face meetings.
  • Through Connect we bring all the actors together via the Afrolynk Berlin Conference where all stakeholders attend the weeklong event. We also do matchmaking of founders and tech developers as well as run the online marketplace (Afroplatz) where they can transact.
  • Through Accelerate we are involved in getting Africans in Europe to partner with businesses and entrepreneurs on the African continent

How in practical terms does technology tackle the main challenges to development in Africa?

Technology bridges the gap but does not tackle all problems. Afrolynk provides tools for entrepreneurs that enable communication – platform (app) to engage local and international clients that might not be in direct reach of an entrepreneur. We deliver education, knowledge and skills via online that would have taken years from a physical space as well as healthcare-knowledge and information providing preventative measures. Some of our alumni are doing great work in the health sector in Uganda, for example.

Moses Acquah, founder and CEO of Afrolynk (right), and Nigerian banker and entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, founder of Tony Elemelu Foundation, at an international investment event/Photo: : Afrolynk

 

What is the transformative potential of digital economy in Africa and what do you see happening in the near and long terms?

72% of African businesses is informal so digitalisation plays an important role in finding work and customers. The advent of apps makes communication easier despite infrastructure deficiencies, it breaks traditional customs and fosters ease of doing business. 

Apps also drive efficiencies especially in agriculture which is the backbone of African economies and societies. We have all seen the massive impact of digital money transfer which has revolutionised the African economy. Investors are seeing massive opportunities in Africa with African tech start-ups which is why they’re investing millions in the continent.

In terms of short-term impact,  the adoption and provision of new innovative financial, agricultural, educational and health services based on mobile telephone and the Internet: “mobile-money”, “mobile-banking”, “mobile-health”, agricultural decision-making support by phone has greatly helped the continent. Long term, hopefully, Africa can become more united as a continent in order to remove barriers such as border controls and tariffs which hinder trade on the continent. 

Another important issue is youth entrepreneurship. How is Afrolynk helping young Africans realise their entrepreneurial potential?

Afrolynk is helping young African entrepreneurs through our three key pillars namely Innovate, Connect and Accelerate.

  • Innovate – this is knowledge and skills sharing; an example being our Factory24 (www.factory24.org) online learning platform whereby young students from across Africa can learn different courses such as Entrepreneurship, Career Development and Emerging technologies. We have trained over 3,000 students in 8 countries since May 2019 in Entrepreneurship which is a 12-module course from ideation to investor readiness.
  • Connect – Getting young entrepreneurs together with the business ecosystem and creating networks through quarterly Meet-Ups in our various communities across the globe as well as bringing the whole ecosystem together through our Annual Afrolynk Conference. In 2020 we are launching a mentorship programme for our entrepreneurs which will involve both North-South and South-South mentorship.
  • Accelerate – Helping entrepreneurs scale up through infrastructure, technology and financial acceleration through our online marketplace (www.afroplatz.com) as well as through funding opportunities such as the EEP Fund.

What needs to happen so that the power of private business to improve lives can be enhanced in Africa?

  • Access to finance
  • Innovative ways to change perception
  • Bridging infrastructure deficit, which requires that investors come on board

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More information about Afrolynk at: https://afrolynk.com/

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