By: Carl Manlan, COO, Ecobank Foundation

Agriculture is the future of work in Africa. This may seem counter-intuitive, and, to be sure, technology will play a critical role to ensure that 12 million Africans entering the job market every year find their fulfillment along national, regional, continental and global value chains. Established technology start-ups like Alibaba, Airbnb, Amazon, and Youtube created platforms to capture economic value. Those riding the wave of these startups in Africa are disconnected from where the value lies on our continent: agriculture. 

Agriculture was the foundation that sprung into manufacturing then industrialization in North America, Europe, and Asia. That was the path taken to transform economies. In Africa, we started along that trajectory and then we got caught into development that held the promise that Africa would catch up. We did not. In the process, agriculture lost its importance. In Ghana, the average cocoa farmer is 55 years old, yet many young people are unemployed. That disconnect between the opportunities for an apprenticeship in agriculture is an example of the issue we must address. Click To TweetWhile agriculture might be perceived as a dead-end career for youth, the sector employs 60 percent of the labor force in Ghana and sustains 66 percent of the livelihoods of the population. 

Diversification along agriculture’s value chains through a host of start-ups could allow us to leapfrog through adequate storage, use of renewable energy and greater access to markets. Songhaï in Benin, Kailend in Togo, and Kheyti in India hold some of the answers that we ought to have. While farmers would not make the current Forbes 30 Under 30 lists, they could become a central part of what youth focuses on if employment and stronger ecosystems are what some tech entrepreneurs are trying to build. Without that ecosystem, most of the celebrated entrepreneurs would not have flourished because the means of production, savings and disposable income would not have been available.   

For example, the increase in bandwidth created an opportunity for Youtube to become a platform for access to content. The existence of a reliable payment system combined with a reliable property market and identification systems gave Airbnb a platform. Most importantly, Airbnb came at the height of the recession when individuals were seeking to either save on accommodation or earn cash. Alibaba and Amazon, search engines with warehouses, connecting willing and able market players. All these companies, at various stages, can capture economic value at a price that people are willing and able to pay. 

Most start-ups that are household names today took advantage of an important, but often overlooked factor; timing. It is estimated that timing accounts for 42 percent of success and failure for start-ups. But they benefited from strong agriculture, manufacturing, industrial complexes that created a generation that could accumulate wealth. We are yet to create that generation in Africa, partly because agriculture does not entice youth for the creativity to transform it. But my generation needs to make agriculture great again. To succeed, we need appropriate farm infrastructure to support large-scale farming and post-harvest activities. We also need secondary value addition and processing for small-scale operators in view of plugging into local to global value chains.

As such, one can start any menial job as a stepping stone to where one wants to be. To have limited our range of possibilities to urban tech entrepreneurship while agriculture still employs the largest share of Africans is a structural change that we ought to address. Tech start-ups need a customer base with disposable incomes beyond urban centers. A strong agricultural rural base is the foundation of economic transformation. Click To Tweet Without that foundation, we are repeating similar mistakes that gave prominence to development aid for our countries and external sources of funding for African start-ups. 

The real innovation, one that transforms community life, will come from mastering agricultural value chains for smallholder farmers. Increasing productivity and income in Africa starts with smallholder farmers. They represent 70 percent of the population. They produce 80 percent of the food consumed in Africa and are at the forefront of strategies for agricultural transformation. As such, AgroCenta, in Ghana, provides smallholder farmers with a route to market via digital platforms. In addition, its integrated solution offers logistics and transportation. It is an indication of what start-ups could do to direct resources towards strengthening the foundation. It is our moment to transform for good. Pooling our own resources to raise patient capital is the starting point for our agricultural ventures. Start-ups need to understand people and systems so that their innovation solved a real African problem. The Forbes 30 Under 30 list needs a new category: Agriculture. Corporate Africa, in the absence of direct funding, has a range of skills and capabilities that can complement the absence of funds. 

Africa has a plan. But it continues to be punched in the face by unemployment. Start-ups without deeper roots in agriculture will not take us to where we want to go. Our destination is wealth for all. Our best vehicle is agriculture. Tried and tested by others, it is time we make agriculture the start-up that matters.  

Image result for carl manlan

About the Author

Carl Manlan is the Chief Operating Officer of The Ecobank Foundation. He is an economist with over ten years of experience in health, finance and project implementation. Carl worked with the Economic Commission for Africa as a Mo Ibrahim Fellow and with the African Union and New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) on a private sector initiative to assist the African Union to fight Ebola in West Africa. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Join Carl and other thought leaders at the Student Entrepreneurship Week at British Council and Kempinski Hotel. You can get tickets at the event website.

Image Credits: Carl Manlan, Mink Mingle

1 Comment  Like

Whether you are building a business or a career, there are times when you need a second voice in reinforcing your ideas or echoing your claims. That’s why you need quotes.

In the words of former Swiss Volleyball player and author of 100 Inspirational Quotes, Michel F. Bolle, “inspirational quotes are important because they activate an emotional pulse point in our hearts and minds when we are in a distressing situation. The right quote can help us to see light at the end of the tunnel, and give us that extra burst of hope and courage to persevere.”

Therefore, we ferreted out 40 powerful quotes from some of the most celebrated African leaders to help you get through any day.

                     Folorunsho Alakija, Vice Chair of Famfa Oil

· I never went to a university, and I am proud to say so because I don’t think I have done too badly.

· You need to decide what you want to achieve. Get rid of naysayers — those who say to you that you can’t do it. Never allow anyone to tell you it can’t be done. In my dictionary, ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist.

· You need to believe in your dream. Don’t give up when things get tough, just hang in there, stay focused and be patient.

· We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

· It’s essential to draw up a “things to do” list on a daily basis and set priorities in executing them, making sure that any unfinished task gets posted to the next day’s list.

                                 Strive Masiyiwa, Executive Chairman & Founder of the Econet Group

· Whether you’re a farmer, builder or engineer, the opportunities are equal: Just add a little innovation.

· A vision on its own is not enough. Hard work & dedication is required to make that vision a reality.

· If you are working or you are running a business you have to set aside time and money to invest in your continued formal education and skills acquisition.

· You have to be very methodical in breaking down, the reason why something is successful. Most often it is not as simple as it looks.

· I started in business when I was 25 years old, with only $75, pooled between myself and a friend. We went around the suburbs fixing broken lights, and gates. We invested every cent, into doing bigger and bigger projects. For me, nothing has really changed in terms of those basic principles: you start with what you have, you do what you can, you invest what you get so that you can do bigger and bigger things.

   Lupita Nyong’o, Kenyan-Mexican Actress

· You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion, for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty inflamed the heart and merchants the soul.

· No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.

· What I will say is that what I have learned for myself is that I don’t have to be anybody else; and that myself is good enough; and that when I am being true to that self, then I can avail myself to extraordinary things. You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.

· You fail, and then what? Life goes on. It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things.

· We don’t get to pick the genes we want. There’s room in this world for beauty to be diverse.

                       Tony Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation & Chairman, UBA.

· Today we may appear young and people may not believe in us but we are going to compel them to believe in us through our achievement.

· Your idea can transform Africa. Let’s stop talking and let’s start doing.

· A true leader is one who remains committed to a higher purpose that most others do not yet see. I have studied great people and one common thing I found among them is Legacy.

· Let us remind ourselves of the power of individuals and what potent capacities and opportunities lie in this. No one, but us will develop Africa.

· People management is key. Learn how to motivate your people. Be painstaking in choosing the right people.

                       Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian writer, speaker, and Activist

· I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.

· Of course, I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.

· If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.

· Never ever accept ‘Because You Are A Woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.

· They themselves mocked Africa, trading stories of absurdity, of stupidity, and they felt safe to mock, because it was a mockery born of longing, and of the heartbroken desire to see a place made whole again.

    Patrick Awuah, Founder, and President of Ashesi University College

· The people who have taken oaths and made promises, to be leaders and guardians of society, instead have disgraced us. I am challenging you to be the generation that can restore Africa’s honour.

· The ability to confront complex problems, and to design solutions to those problems; the ability to create is the most empowering thing that can happen to an individual.

· I think the current and future leaders of Africa have an incredible opportunity to drive a major renaissance on the continent. I believe that Africa has reached an inflection point with the march of democracy and free market across the continent. We have reached a moment from which can emerge a great society within one generation and it will depend on inspired leadership.

· It took a little bit of naivety to get started. I did not know how hard it was going to be. I think you just have to have this incredible confidence.

· I did have a lot of naysayers in Ghana but I didn’t have a lot of naysayers in America… when I decided to quit Microsoft people said ‘hey’ this is a great idea, this is what life is all about you have to chase your dreams and when you are ready to call us and we will see what we can do.

          Rapelang Rabana, South African Technology Entrepreneur and Founder of Rekindle Learning

· Skills and business knowledge will only take you so far, your principles, values, as well as your personal growth outside the business, matter more than just what you know.

· The more congruent the business is to who you are as an individual and what you value, the deeper your capacity to persevere and outlast.

· It is important to be close to the people and things that anchor you. For me, it’s my parents, my family, my close friends to have a laugh with. Being reminded of who you are, and regardless of the circumstances, that someone thinks you are great.

· If you don’t know why you are doing it, you will battle to make the kind of long-term commitment that will see you through the challenges.

·Not everyone realizes that by not choosing, life chooses for you and that is never the ideal outcome. Those who become great are deliberately creating their life path as opposed to allowing life to happen to them.

    Aliko Dangote, Nigerian billionaire, and owner of the Dangote Group

· Endeavor to work as hard as possible to attain a new aim with each day that comes by. Don’t go to bed until you have achieved something productive.

· I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008 but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, a tenacity of purpose is supreme.

· In whatever you do, strive to be the best at it.

· If you don’t have ambition, you shouldn’t be alive.

· Every morning when I wake up, I make up my mind to solve as many problems, before retiring home.

Have more quotes to add? Drop them in the comment. Subscribe to our mailing list to get our emails of inspiration, business, and career tips.

2 Comments  Like

The subject of social enterprise is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood business concepts around the world.

According to The Key Fund study, a new research from one of Britain’s leading community development finance institutions, more than three-quarters of the British public are supporters of social enterprise, but only around one in five know what a social enterprise actually is.

A similar inference can be drawn in Ghana. Although Ghanaian social enterprise scene has seen a spike in the last three years, a lot of people still haven’t grasped what a social enterprise is.

With this realization, we invited the Africa Regional Director of Reach for Change, Amma Lartey, at August edition of #SFANLiveChat to explore what constitutes a social enterprise and how to develop a social enterprise business model.

Below are key insights from the chat:

1. Understanding the Concept of Social Enterprise

Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” — Bill Drayton, Founder, Ashoka Changemakers.

There are many different definitions of what a social enterprise is but the one I like best is that a social enterprise is created to deliver a clear social impact, Amma explains. But beyond creating social impact, social enterprises have a sustainability model embedded in their operation.

The distinction between an N.G.O and a social enterprise is in the fact that a social enterprise does not depend on donations or grants to operate. A social enterprise has a viable business model for operation. Essentially, social enterprises are entities that apply business models(solutions) in solving social problems.

“Impact and financial sustainability is the key,” Amma says.

2. What a Business Model is and why a Social Enterprise Needs It

“A business model is how a business delivers value and makes money,” Amma highlights: “It outlines who the customers are, what they will be paying for and how the business will create and deliver it.”

“Social enterprises need sustainable business models that deliver real social impact. Understanding your business model will help a social enterprise improve it to deliver more social impact and be more profitable.”

“Every business has a business model but not every business model is good.” — Amma Lartey

According to MaRs, a good social enterprise business model has two major components:

  1. an operating strategy that includes internal organizational structure and external partnerships that are crucial for creating the organization’s intended impact; and,
  2. a resource strategy that defines where and on what terms the organization will acquire the resources (financial and human) it needs to do its work.

Your job as a diligent entrepreneur is to create a funnel for translating the inputs of the business into outputs which yield financial returns.

Source: MaRs

3. How to Create the Right Business Model for a Social Enterprise

“A social enterprise needs to understand its customer and the problem it seeks to solve for the customer.” — Amma Lartey

To create the right business model for your venture, you need diligence in understanding the customer’s pain. “This means spending lots of time with current and prospective customers; interacting, observing and analyzing”

“You need to also understand the environment the customers are living in and the environment around the problem.”

“This understanding helps you to come up with your first hypothesis of what your business model should be and then you can start testing it.”

“You can do this by coming up with a prototype or minimum viable product; a simple version of the final product.”

To buttress this point, Amma gave an example of a Reach for Change entrepreneur who wanted to build a helpline for teens. His prototype was business cards with a phone and he gave out the cards to teens, with 20 of them calling back to report their reproductive health challenges.

The entrepreneur then used the results to get sponsors who wanted to market to teens to pay for the helpline and advertise on his site.

Like every aspect of the business, you must continually measure the results of your business model so you can understand and improve it if it is not working.

“It’s a messy and iterative process,” Amma noted.

Bonus: We asked Amma what investors like Reach for Change look for in a social enterprise they fund.

Amma: We look for a strong entrepreneur or team who have proven that they have the persistence and drive to grow a startup. We also look for social entrepreneurs who are trying to solve a major problem children face directly or indirectly. Finally, we look for a strong business model that is scalable, financially sustainable and can deliver a strong impact.


You’ve probably heard it said that business is a marathon and not a sprint. Hence, start with what you know best but be willing to change. “Don’t fall in love with your first idea. Be willing to change as customers and the market gives feedback. The people who are willing to pay for your product may not always be the beneficiaries,” Amma concludes.

A step-by-step guide to building for the next billion

You’ve probably heard that 90% of all internet startups fail within the first 120 days.

For May edition of #SFANLiveChat, we invited two entrepreneurs who have built remarkable online companies to share their insights on how to actually get it right.

Kojo Dougan is the Director of Interpay Africa, an electronic payment platform that makes transactions and e-commerce simpler, secure, and seamless, while Melissa McCoy is the Founder and CEO/CTO of ConnectMed, a South Africa and Kenya-based online Medicare company that helps patients access quality and faster/efficient healthcare.

The combination of their expertise served our agenda very much. Below are some of the thoughts from the chat that stood out to us:

1. Find a need and provide an epic solution

“You have to solve a problem that people actually have. But it’s not always a problem that they know they have, so that’s tricky.” — Joshua Schachter (creator of Del.ici.ous)

A lot of people who are beginning their entrepreneurial journey often focus on building a product or service before finding a market. Unfortunately, this is one major reason for the failure of many startups. But to improve your chances of success, Kojo says, identify a need and aim to provide a relevant solution to that need.

In most instances, you’ll need to do some research to understand where there are gaps in the market: listen to your frustration or those of people around you. Find out what people are complaining about.

When you have identified the market gap, then you’re set to dig a bit deeper:

  1. Why is the issue persistent?
  2. How do people currently solve this problem?
  3. What can you do better than the players on the ground?

The result of this research will help you create a solution that pays off. ‘”Paying off’ to me means that we’re positively affecting our patients’ lives — every time we do that, it’s worth it,” Melissa says.

2. Build your tribe

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?” — Jehookah Jarmon, Gorvenstof, Ukraine.

You may have equally heard the clichéd phrase “build it and they won’t come.”Guess what, it’s true! Just because you’ve built something cool does not mean that customers will come to you by auto-pilot. To find people who are interested in what you’re offering, Melissa says, you need to do the legwork of identifying an already established market or a new one.

Depending on what your business is, the first thing to do in finding your users is to create a clear picture of who this hypothetical customer is. “We create user personas — young professionals, new parents, university students, and shift workers — that we developed through surveying.”

Position yourself as a customer, Kojo says, would you revisit several times? Would you be interested in making several purchases? Use the product again? “Observe, listen, monitor, personalize the solution; user experience is key.”

The art of copywriting

Whether you’re creating a new product for existing market like Apple or creating a new market like M-Pesa, you need to master the art of copywriting. “We use HubSpot to do A/B testing on emails to decide on the best copy,” Melissa says: We also create our own A/B tests with Facebook Ads to see what’s best.”

If you choose to create your own copy, this article by Henneke Duistermaat has valuable insights on how to nail it like Apple.

A great copy helps you highlight your value proposition and find your tribe.


3. Create a monetization strategy

“The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer.” — Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to A Successful Startup by Bill Aulet (2013)

Now that you’ve acquired an audience, you need a strategy to turn them into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.

To be able to convert your website visits into sales, it “must be informative, interactive, simplified and allows visitors to sign up or understand how to use your product/service,” Kojo advice.

At ConnectMed, Melissa and her team leverage analytics to understand their users and how to deliver better services. “We have a funnel (site visits > signup > consult) and use event track to quantify where users fall off and session record to qualify why.” She says: Basically, pick one metric (for us it’s consults booked) and then understand the funnel to get there and keep optimizing.

A word on pricing

In a previous chat, we looked at how you can price your product or service. Although the focus is on a different audience, it has valuable insights you can apply.

At Melissa’s ConnectMed, they started with a higher price point to ensure their product is perceived as quality and then offer a discount on the first one to try.

But at Interpay, Kojo says their strategy is influenced by market forces. “As we have progressed, we have passed on economies of scale to our merchants.”

4. Review and Refine

“Ideas don’t come out fully formed.” — Mark Zuckerberg

When you have implemented your model, always review what works and what doesn’t, Melissa says. “Try to listen to the committed users that love you for determining best-added features. Our product development has been iterative — we started with base telehealth platform and added features based on user feedback”

Kojo reiterates that as much as you want to acquire new clients, you must also pay attention to your existing clients. “Learn, learn, learn; know what’s trending and stay ahead of curve.”

Above the bottom line

You have some structure and process, then you’re ready to play in the big league.

It’s time to launch and scale your impact.

How to launch your product or service

  • Firstly, decide on the type of launch you want — either a stakeholder launch or a media launch.
  • Then you need to figure out your timelines, it’s always great to have enough time for pre-launch PR. Do not neglect the impact of influencer marketing; try to make your product available to key influencers in your industry for some great reviews/publicity.
  • If you don’t have an elaborate budget to do a massive stunt, get on with what you can do and start marketing. The launch date is for you to tell your audience that a new kid is in town!
  • Understand that it’s your job to create your press release; a lot of bloggers won’t have the time to edit or review it unless you’re paying for that service. Also, know when is a good time to submit your article to enhance the chance of it getting published. Aim for the local bloggers first as they’re the easiest to reach.
  • You’re the PR girl/boy of your brand; keep releasing fresh insights, products, and announcements to remain visible to your audience.

When you have something great going on, the city needs to hear about it, so make as much noise as you can about your work.

Achieving scale…

Once you’ve launched your product or service, it’s time to scale your work. Depending on what you’re offering, look for strategic partnerships that create better leverage. Partner with banks, MNOs, MTOs, FSPs, to provide a solution to end user, Kojo advice, “our business will not be where it is today without our partners. We have two categories: partners and merchants.”

Unleash the power of email marketing.

Experts have confirmed that email is the crown jewel of online marketing strategy.

According to McKinsey, Email marketing generates 40 times more revenue than Facebook and Twitter — combined! Actually, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an Email than from a tweet. Furthermore, Email marketing can generate an ROI of 3800% and $38 for every $1 spent.

To grow your mailing list, work with partners who you can incentivize to share their lists (e.g. every booked consult from a user on their list gets X KES), Melissa says. Also, you can table at events to get participants to subscribe to your list. “Finally, a pop-up CTA on the site that asks for email in return for the discount has worked well for us.”

The bottom line

Building a successful online business takes time and skill.

But like every skill, it can be learned. As we’ve established above, if you build it, they won’t come. So, your best bet is to: a). Find a need and provide a viable solution to it; b.) Build your market — find the people that need your offer; c.) Ensure you have a monetization plan; d.) Ensure your product development is iterative; e.) Launch and Scale

“Stay focused, don’t go alone; work with your team, get your team motivated, believe in your dream, believe in your team, be mentored, don’t wait for a perfect moment- just create it,” Kojo concludes.

We’re interested to know what you think about this subject and what has worked for you, please leave your thoughts in the comment. To stay in the loop on what’s going on at SFAN, subscribe here.


By prioritizing the need for a skilled and advancing labor force.

A Changing Tide

Traditionally, Sub-Saharan Africa has been characterized as land and resource abundant, but labor scarce. For decades, the region’s development agenda has been mired in the belief and burden of the resource curse.

But recent projections show that from 2000 to 2050, Africa’s population will rise by 160%, turning most countries in the region into labor-abundant economies. This demographic change has new and important implications for the region’s development dynamics and comparative advantage.

With the rising human population, advancing human capital is fundamental to the continent’s economic advancement. The confluence of rapid technological change and globalization means skill development is imperative for countries seeking to close the development gap and become economically competitive (OECD).

It is for this reason that the work of capacity builders in Africa is of dire importance to the continent’s economic and social advancement. The work that pioneering capacity builders, such as Stars From All Nations (SFAN) in Ghana, do, is essential to achieving all development outcomes in the country because, without ready and available skilled labor, companies and organizations cannot grow and deliver on their missions and goals.

Quantum Leap Career Fair Panel
Quantum Leap Career Fair 2017 Panel

Quantum Leap Career Fair 2017

Stars From All Nations (SFAN) is a social enterprise on a mission to provide education to employment/entrepreneurship pipeline opportunities for youths in Ghana and beyond.

One of its hallmark events is its yearly Quantum Leap Career Fair where the company brings together business leaders, HR experts, entrepreneurs, and hundreds of candidates to discuss the next phase of work and skill development on the continent.

At this year’s Quantum Leap Career Fair, held at the British Council Ghana, business leaders such as Lucy Quist, Chief Executive Officer at Airtel Ghana, joined about 300 participants in thinking through the future of work on the continent.

The event, aptly named Technology and the Future of Work in Africa, hosted a panel session with Yasmin Kumi, Founder at Africa Foresight Group; Paul Payne, Manager at the British Council Skills Hub; Josiah Kwesi-Eyison, Co-founder at iSpace; Amma Baffoe, Recruitment Manager at MEST, Genevieve Puni, Founder at Rectrain Limited; and Jemila Abdulai, Founder at Circumspecte. The panel session was followed by a one-on-one mentoring session where candidates had the opportunity to talk to resource personnel about their resumes, career interests, enterprise ideas, and job opportunities.

Presentation of gifts to Quantum Leap Career Fair panelists
Presentation of gifts to Quantum Leap Career Fair panelists

How To Quantum Leap

Conversations during the day revealed that Africans do not only have a responsibility but a unique opportunity to solve both local and global problems. In fact, Africans today are in a unique and unprecedented position: with modern advances in technology and access to the global market (the proliferation of mobile phones, social media, tech tools), there has never been a better time to join the global movement and ride the proverbial technological wave. Finally, the veil of fear and ignorance that has long separated the continent from the rest of the world is lifting, as worlds and people connect through various social platforms.

But while technology brings new opportunities to connect and new employment and business opportunities, young Africans must also build and work for businesses that address local issues that have long plagued and continue to plague our communities and dim progress: high illiteracy, poverty, low health outcomes, food insecurity, and inequality.

 A cross-section of Quantum Leap Career Fair Audience
A cross-section of Quantum Leap Career Fair Audience

The good news?

History shows that in the long term, “investing in skills development is far less costly than paying the price for poorer health, lower incomes, unemployment, and social exclusion — all which are closely tied to lower skills” (OECD). Meaning, skills development allows us to make the quantum leap to a more prosperous Africa because it inherently addresses many of the issues that the continent faces.

The future of Africa is finally here! Both labor and resource-rich, generations of future Africans can enjoy a better quality of life if institutions, capacity builders, and businesses work together to bring more skilled and knowledgeable founders and workers who will address the issues of today and tomorrow to the market.

To stay in the loop about subsequent SFAN events, subscribe to our mailing list here. Thanks!

This article was written by Bridget Boakye.

SFAN (Stars From All Nations) has partnered with Brave Venture Labs to help about 300 entry-level job seekers improve their employability chances at Quantum Leap Career Fair 2017.

Date: April 12, 2017

Venue: British Council, Accra

Time: 09:00 am to 04:00pm GMT

Quantum Leap Career Fair is SFAN’s pioneering annual career fair organized to connect the hiring needs of employers with the employment needs of job-seekers. This edition will create a space for some of the best and brightest industry leaders and recruiters in Ghana to share deep insights on the impact of technology on the future of work in Africa.

It is estimated that some 65% of children entering primary schools today will likely work in roles that don’t currently exist. According to a McKinsey study, many activities that workers carry out today could be automated.

What to expect:

  • Meet with employers in an informal setting and learn more about jobs and internship opportunities offered by their companies
  • Participate in one-on-one mentoring & C.V review sessions
  • Take industry generated employability skills assessment
  • Walk away with actionable game plan to upgrade your skills for the work of the future

According to Tom-Chris Emewulu, the Founder & President of SFAN:

“When we started SFAN, it was a move to provide the almost non-existent education to employment/entrepreneurship pipeline and help young people live to their full potentials. That is the purpose the Quantum Leap Career Fair seeks to satisfy. This year’s edition is of vital importance because we’d be introducing, a web platform that will help firms access the top 10% of Ghanaian young workforce and help aspiring entrepreneurs unlock their entrepreneurial potentials. Our goal is to equip 1M youths with skills for ‘work of the future’ and entrepreneurship by 2020”.

Participation is free, but you must be pre-booked as available spaces are limited. Make your registrations by clicking here. The Keynote and Panel sessions will be streamed live on SFAN Facebook page.

As a business owner, this is a huge opportunity to get access to the right type audience, sorted to fill your company’s needs. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, securing a booth stand or have questions, concerns or comments, please e-mail SFAN.

About SFAN:

SFAN is a high impact social enterprise that bridges the gap between education and work. The organization was established with a precise vision to raise the next generation of African leaders through the accomplishment of the following goals:

  • Help young people have a smooth transition from education to work through mentorship, capacity development, and job/internship placement
  • Offer opportunities for youths to turn their passion into a business or career by creating platforms for networking, incubation, and funding
  • Build a community of change agents and doers.

Through innovative projects, products and programs, SFAN provide the missing links for youth development, education and entrepreneurship thereby contributing to building a self-sustained Africa.

What we did recently:

SFAN has been accepted into the prestigious Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) 2017. Hint: Last name under country, Ghana.

On the heels of Facebook CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to Africa, some young African leaders and I sat to consider the question Zuckerberg is looking to answer: what can technology do in Africa?

On September 31st, 2016, I had the privilege of moderating a panel on technology in Africa for over a hundred young African leaders. Stars From All Nations, a by-and-for youth social enterprise, organized the second edition of Quantum Leap Career Fair for President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), West Africa. The event brought together 20+ companies in sectors such as education, technology, fashion, agribusiness, real estate and so on.

The goal: explore how these leaders can harness technology, specifically digital and mobile technology, to deepen the impact of their work on the continent.

To note: the YALI cohort is the cream of the crop of their peers. They have been selected from over 10,000+ applicants from 9 West African countries. In the 5-week program held in Accra, these young leaders learn the skills and tools to be effective change-makers in their communities.

On the panel:

  1. Racquel Wilson: Communications and Branding Expert helping innovative companies and leaders tell compelling stories about their work
  2. Moussa Moumouni: Regional IT Manager for Unilever West Africa, one of the largest producers/retailers of consumer goods in Africa
  3. Louis Mensah: Director of Private-public partnerships at VOTO mobile, a mobile platform which connects organizations to their under-heard constituents
  4. Alloysius Attah: CEO and Cofounder of Farmerline, a technology company empowering farmers in Africa

Having been raised in the U.S. and returning to Ghana 8 months ago, I had the opportunity to consider this conversation in light of both experiences, comparing and contrasting realities in both places. These are the insights that stood out to me:

1. We need to urgently encourage young Africans to develop technology-enabled capacities and businesses

As the panelists expressed, if we believe that the future of technology in Africa is NOW, then we must embrace and adopt technology with urgency and intention. We must do a better job of engaging in conversations and developing strategies and capacities that will allow young people to learn of and understand the inherent benefits of technology so that they instinctively want to develop these skills.


There were way too many young leaders in the audience working on a number of projects for which they did not have an active presence online — neither a website or social media account. A young woman came up to me at the end of the panel to share that she does hair and sews African clothing but is not online and wants to learn how to get there. I was excited about the possibility of showing off her skills and creations to a world now eager for African clothes and fashion.

It occurred to me: this woman’s absence online is a huge loss for the continent; a loss magnified by the sheer number of Africans in her position.

In fact, a question we must all ask ourselves is this: what is the world missing from Africa because we do not have access to the ideas and talents of these young people?

2. The tools for business in Africa may and will look different than that elsewhere

I asked our panel to list the technologies they use in their work. They all mentioned Google drive and email for their effectiveness in sharing and collaboration. I intimately know and understand that many young Africans, including those in some top-tier universities around the continent, are not using the cloud software (Google Drive), but are rather, still sharing, copying, and re-composing their projects. It is quite costly to stay online and do work.

But, what young Africans do have and use: WhatsApp.

Whereas Whatsapp is scarcely used in the U.S., in Africa and elsewhere in the “developing world”, Whatsapp is a prominent feature of our daily lives. “Whatsapp for Business” is a reality. Panelist Alloysius Attah shared the importance of the app for collaboration between his team and their partners at Farmerline.

With dispersed teams and customers (ex. some members in Accra & Kumasi, Ghana & the U.S. at VOTO mobile) and data inefficiencies across the continent, Whatsapp stands out as a cheaper alternative to perhaps other more effective tools for team management and productivity. In fact, the same can be said of mobile money — a tool initially designed to increase access to banking for the informal sector — with a growing presence in the formal sector.

3. Technology is still expensive, both directly and indirectly for businesses, entrepreneurs, and leaders in Africa

Even as the internet continues to penetrate further into the continent, staying connected is expensive. Young African leaders face extraordinary costs for data, and constant service interruption, power outages, and slow delivery makes staying productive online a huge battle.

Panelist Moussa Moumouni explained that one-way Unilever West Africa deals with connectivity issues is by having 2–3 providers. While a great solution for a fortune 500 company operating in Africa, it is an impossible solution for the young coder or marketer, and the implications of this reality must be considered as we forge ahead.

4. The consumer market for technology products and services is not ready for the innovative products being developed

VOTO Mobile and Farmerline are two companies whose mission would suggest a direct consumer strategy. VOTO mobile connects the under-heard through cheap two-way communications. Farmerline gets relevant information to farmers to improve productivity and yield.

But it is incredibly difficult to get a farmer or a person off-grid to first know about, then buy into and finally start using a new technology at a rate that will allow a startup to scale effectively.

One strategy that works is this: “sell upstream” or business-to-business. As panelist Alloysius Attah shared, Farmerline later decided to connect with organizations working with farmers rather than farmers themselves.

A consumer segment that is not ready for your product is no reason to give up. Rather, re-engage and explore what other parties and consistencies in your market are connected to your direct consumer and can make use of your product or service.

5. Young African leaders are willing to train and engage their generation and those coming after

Perhaps the best question that came from the audience was this: “What packages do you or your company have for young Africans who want to develop their skills and build their businesses?”.

While the panelists said they did not have “packages” available (to which we all laughed), they all offered to provide opportunities for YALI fellows to engage and learn from them. Many even said they would open up internship opportunities for this cohort and others willing to learn.

This is the great news! Though challenges abound in developing a technology-enabled Africa, sharing resources, talent, and tools is one way to leverage each other for maximum impact.

This recap was written by Bridget Boakye.

Date: Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Time: 16:00PM to 17:30PM

Venue: GIMPA Executive Conference Room

YALI Quantum Leap Career and Investment Fair is organized to create a business networking and investment platform for Cohort 4 of YALI RLC participants.

The West Africa learning center is one the four regional learning centers of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. The center was established in 2015 and has trained 405 young leaders so far. By the end of 2016, about 755 participants would have been trained.

This cohort is made up of 122 young leaders selected out of 10,000+ applicants from 9 West African countries i.e Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Togo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.

The career and investment fair will host 20+ companies and institutions from different sectors and it’s organized on the theme “Harnessing the Power of Tech to Create Exponential Impact”.

Participation is free but you must be pre-booked as available spaces are limited. Register to attend here. To secure a booth space, please get in touch with Paulina at +233 200 927 1118.

See you around 🙂

One hundred start-up founders from 18 African countries came together on a beach resort in Accra, Ghana in July 2016 for SpeedUPAfrica — a four-day day growth and investment boot camp aimed at ‘transforming start-ups into speedups’.

SpeedUPAfrica was created by Toro Orero, Managing Partner of DraperDarkFlow; a Silicon Valley VC Fund backed by legendary Investor Tim Draper, who was also in attendance. Tim has raised over $4 billion in funds, invested in over 1000 companies (including Skype and Hotmail), with 24 exits at over $1 billion.

Read More


We’re excited to announce that SFAN has been named among 24 startups to look out for by SpeedUPAfrica and nominated to participate in Singularity University’s Impact Fellowship Program.

Earlier this month, SpeedUp Africa had 100 founders from 18 African Countries, complete with hands-on workshops and mentors sessions from 500 Startups, Google, Facebook, Singularity University, Tim Draper, Gina Kloes, Felix Lin at the most epic 4-day boot camp which culminated into a 1:1 deal day.

Read the details here.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.