With funding updates popping up frequently in the African tech ecosystem, it’s easy to assume that the community is doing fine. But there are gaps in securing diaspora knowledge and capital for African tech startups.
Africa secured $5 billion in venture capital funding last year. However, there’s still relatively limited capital available to early-stage startups on the continent. Bantaba is changing the narrative by connecting founders with the diaspora wealth through its digital infrastructure. For context, remittance inflows to Sub-Saharan Africa reached $45 billion in 2021, according to World Bank data, most of which were spent on consumption purposes.
Bantaba is changing all of that.
Since launching as a beta platform in July 2021, Bantaba has consistently put in work to fill these gaps and drive growth for startups on the African continent. The question is: why is the work of the community-driven platform and business important?
Bantaba: The origins
The business derives its origin from Bantaba, an ancient Manding word. According to CEO Lamin Darboe, the word describes a big tree under which elders of an African village gather to make important decisions.
Darboe says the business is a digital meeting place that brings African tech startups and the diaspora together, with the sole aim of attracting diaspora knowledge and capital. How has Bantaba fared on this path?
Minting value from goodwill
While Bantaba is still relatively new, the impact pulled by the matchmaking platform in the last few months is impressive. The business has successfully onboarded over 150 African tech startups from at least 20 African countries and over 300 diaspora experts and investors.
Goodwill coming from the diaspora has helped to make all of that possible, according to Darboe.
”The potential of the African startups is huge and the continent is growing fast. I don’t think analysts are wrong to suggest that Africa’s startup ecosystem will be the next to boom following the steps of China and India.”
After more than 10 months with Bantaba, the most important learning has been that there is a lot of goodwill on the side of the diaspora to be part of building a new Africa by collaborating with founders that are leveraging technology to build the future for Africa.
Lamin Darboe, CEO Bantaba
With a growing, yet efficient platform, Bantaba has been converting diaspora goodwill into tangible actions. It’s captured in the solutions created by the platform, from helping founders get access to professional support to capital for startups with viable business models struggling to raise funding at the early stage.
Because of the matchmaking approach Bantaba deploys, you might be tempted into thinking the platform isn’t so different from the popular dating app Tinder. Notwithstanding, Bantaba is all about building the African business – it’s got nothing to do with love and feelings.
Also, Bantaba isn’t a crowdsourcing platform. Darboe is quick to dismiss all of that, offering that stakeholders are well informed not to fall into these traps.
”I think stakeholders, in general, do have a good understanding of the value that Bantaba offers and this is thanks to the fantastic work that our communication team has done”, he explained.
”We have always reiterated that we are a community platform that enables startups to seamlessly connect with professionals and investors in the African diaspora who have an interest to work with African tech startups in one form or shape. This makes Bantaba very different from a crowdfunding platform which functions more on a transactional basis”, he adds.
Readiness of the market
Darboe believes startups on the continent have made significant progress, particularly in the last five years. More than 600 tech companies with the majority of their operations and users in Africa raised $5.2 billion from venture capitalists in 2021, according to a report from Partech, a VC firm that tracks annual data.
But, there are struggles with understanding and engaging African tech startups. Hence, a ready market is there for the taking.
“In the last 5 years, there has been great progress by startups in terms of marketing, using events and the media to network and increase their visibility to the diaspora. Despite this growing interest, many diasporans struggle to understand how they can discover and engage with African tech startups. For example, most funding rounds are not disclosed until they are closed and problems startups face are closely guarded secrets.”
Barely 10 months into matching startups with the African diaspora, there’s so much to show for the efforts.
So what’s the secret? Darboe points to the huge potential in the African tech ecosystem.
”There’s no big secret, the number of promising startups in the African tech ecosystem is huge and the lack of resources is evident. This makes it easy for the diaspora to be attracted easily to our platform where startups are clear with the kind of support they need. On the other hand, the willingness and motivation of Africans living abroad in terms of giving back to the continent are huge. Our diaspora community is always enthusiastic to hear big wins by startups within the continent.”
Despite having a shared passion for building a new Africa, the diaspora-startup community faced challenges with collaboration in the past. Bantaba has helped to address these problems to a significant extent.
”I think the biggest constraint to startup-diaspora collaboration until now has been the lack of dedicated space that brings together these two stakeholders and makes it possible for them to not just seamlessly connect with each other but also interact with each other. This is precisely what Bantaba provides, a diaspora-startup community with a shared passion for building a new Africa.”
Bantaba now offers a place for the diaspora to discover startups looking for funding and expertise while giving African tech startups a space to share their stories with the African diaspora community in addition to connecting with diaspora investors and professionals.
Lamin Darboe, CEO Bantaba
In five years, Bantaba’s goal is to become the key link between global knowledge & capital and Africa’s startup ecosystem. CEO Darboe says the business is working towards facilitating a significant amount of international capital inflow into the African tech startup ecosystem during the period.
With Bantaba setting such exciting goals, the African tech ecosystem is on course for growth.