Senegal, Purgatory for Business Angels

Boubacar Diallo

Mostly male audience, suit without tie, tablet or phone grafted to one hand, looking serious and always in a hurry. The “tech” meetings follow one another in Dakar, with invariably the same aesthetic code … and the same problems of financing.

For the ten or so young business creators gathered at the headquarters of a major telecommunication group that day, the stakes are enormous because the funds are still too scarce, even if they increase.

“Innovation in Africa is often how to have the biggest impact with limited resources,” says at the Dakar stage of an international competition Fanny Dauchez, ambassador for the Swiss investment fund Seedstars.

The capital drained by 124 African startups rose from 367 million dollars (312 million euros) in 2016 to 560 million dollars (476 million euros) in 2017, a jump of 53%, notes a study of the investor Partech Ventures, which launched in January a fund dedicated to “digital champions” in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2012, these investments have even multiplied by 14, but we are still very far from the 20 billion euros in venture capital raised in 2017 by European startups.

In addition, three English-speaking countries, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, continue to gain the lion’s share (76%), while five French-speaking countries, including Senegal, have benefited from 10% of the funds raised. on the continent, according to Partech, which opened an office in Dakar. If it knows a “bloom” of startups, Senegal “remains behind compared to its English-speaking African competitors,” to larger markets and more favorable to investment, confirms Régina Mbodj, director of CTIC, an incubator launched in Dakar in 2011.

A few minutes to convince

In meetings with investors, West African entrepreneurs feverishly sell their startup, one after the other, in three, five or ten minutes each, with a text and a gesture worked.

Sédar Senghor uses the few minutes left to read his Power-Point. “My startup, Cartalink, specializes in electronic payment platforms”, software that allows digital transactions, for example used for the terminals in restaurants, he says confidently.
For the moment this “entrepreneur in the soul”, as he likes to define himself, has already seduced 16 French bowling establishments but his team of 12 people aims to convince Senegalese companies (restaurants, places of leisure …) of adopt its technology.

Unhappy candidate in the Dakar contest of Seedstars, whose grand international final on April 5, 2019 in Lausanne (Switzerland) will be endowed with $ 500,000, Olivia Ndiaye recalls having benefited from the advice of “good people” in an incubator when ‘she co-founded two years ago’ Lives’, a site promoting tourism in Africa.

In contrast, “investor side”, especially in the early stages, “there are a little more difficulties,” recognizes the young woman, looking for funds to expand abroad.

“What’s missing is investment for small projects, which may need $ 10,000, $ 50,000. The whole Business Angel part does not exist, or in any case it needs to develop a lot “, summarizes Fanny Dauchez, baseball jacket in the colors of his company.

– Myth of Silicon Valley –

“We did a storytelling with Silicon Valley, talking about geeks in a garage that started from scratch,” says Samir Abdelkrim, entrepreneur and founder of “Startup BRICS”, a news French blog on startups of emerging countries.

But “we forget to say that in parallel, the public powers have helped research and that the United States have always been a pole of attraction for talent,” he said, pointing out that in Lagos, at Nigeria, “when the first startup incubator came into existence in 2010, no investor was present”.

In Senegal, the State has laid some ground by dividing by 10 the capital required for the creation of a company, set at 100,000 CFA francs (150 euros), or by providing for the opening of a digital technology park. 2021 in the new city of Diamnadio, where university, ministries and logistic centers will be next to the new international airport.

Meanwhile, some fifteen startups have already gathered in Dakar in the French-Senegalese community “Teranga Tech”, whose first projects will be supported by the French Institute and the Goethe Institute (German).

We find the creators of a platform for victims of sexual assault or “Save Dakar”, a participatory site fighting against illegal dumps.

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