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African Companies are Global Champions



  • This session highlighted the large-scale digitization occurring across the African continent. COVID-19 has vastly accelerated digitization; digital transformations that, under pre-COVID circumstances, are typically carried out over two to three years are now being executed over a mere few months. 
  • For Aubrey Hruby, the advent of a Biden administration will signal a significant shift in U.S.-Africa relations. According to Hruby, a Biden administration will exhibit increased willingness to re-engage in multilateral fora. This will have consequential implications for African countries, which are well-represented in many multilateral institutions. While much may change, Hruby predicts continuity from a programmatic standpoint: President Trump has kept all of Obama’s Africa-related programs, and Biden is likely to do the same. In short Aubrey also noted that Africa policy in Washington has historically been very bipartisan. 

“We know that Africans, from Lagos to Nairobi to Kinshasa, spend a lot of time commuting, so maybe some of the work patterns that have changed as a result of COVID-19 will stick and we’ll get that extra productivity from not commuting,” Aubrey Hruby

  • Dr. Leke explained that the COVID-19 crisis has made African leaders realize the value of a strong, unified African voice. This realization comes in the wake of robust leadership by the African Union, which rapidly stepped up and addressed the COVID-19 crisis at the pan-African level. 
  • Despite the unprecedented success addressing COVID-19 across the continent, both Dr. Leke and Aubrey outlined challenges for Africa around COVID-19 vaccine distribution. According to Dr. Leke, the Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention aims to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population, which is estimated to cost between $10 to $12 billion. Meeting these costs, as well as figuring out the logistics of vaccinating at such an enormous scale, will prove challenging. Aubrey also emphasized the criticality of effective cold storage supply chains for a successful vaccine distribution effort. 
  • Even amidst a global pandemic, the venture space in Africa has exhibited remarkable resilience in recent months. For example, a larger number of African companies have raised over $1 million this year compared to last year. 
  • To address the continued growth while acknowledging challenges that exist in the venture capital industry, Aubrey noted that the industry is suffering from a lack of exits, while Dt. Leke noted that established African entrepreneurs need to back the next generation at a larger scale. 
  • While cryptocurrency remains in its infancy in African markets, more and more actors are seeking to enter the space. The key is to find a mass-use case.

“We need more successful African entrepreneurs to back the next generation,” Acha Leke

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Since the COVID outbreak on a global scale, we have seen African governments and health officials address this crisis with poise and effectiveness. The challenge that persists will be around vaccine distribution and the underlying cost to governing bodies attempting to implement a program for mass-vaccination.
  • There are economic and profit generating deals to be made on the continent but should not be made without long-term goals and attention to entry and exit strategies.
  • There is a hopeful outlook across the business community with the incoming Biden Administration. The expectation is that a Biden Administration will focus on multilateralism and a dedication to institutions which are represented by vast numbers of African countries.


Session Speakers