A Working Africa: The shared hope of Yale Africa Startup Review
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
“Is your belief in Africa’s future unshakable?” This question was asked in many different forms by Samuel Kitara ’20 MBA when he placed a phone call to each one of Yale Africa Startup Review’s seven co-founders.
From Germany, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa, each one of us had faith in the remarkable stories of African entrepreneurs journeying to mold a working Africa. It was this faith that was lit up by Samuel’s question, and one by one, we said, “Let’s do this!”
That day, the Yale Africa Startup Review (YASR) was born.
YASR is an annual Yale-wide African student-led feature of startups shaping the future of innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. The Review was born out of the shared desire of my colleagues and I to ensure the narrative of Africa’s innovation and entrepreneurship is included in the global startup ecosystem. In addition to me, Samuel turned to his classmates and fellow Yalies Lina Kacyem ’21 MBA, Caroline van der Merwe ’20 MAM, Sharon Mwale ’16 MPH, Lukas Bosch ’22 MBA, Mabs Okusaga ’20 MAM to create YASR, thanks in part to the relationships formed during our time at Yale School of Management (SOM) – a time that presented us with many opportunities for interaction, and with it, the opportunity to dream big. From open discussions held in class, chance meetings at closing bells, and even adjoined lunch tables at Charley’s, we always found a platform to consider how our different cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, and knowledge could integrate and overlap.
We have each had the pleasure to be in one class or the other with each other, and we had identified the commonness and differences in how we live, experience, and communicate the African story. From our many different backgrounds, we chose to come together as one to stand for the tens of thousands of African entrepreneurs yearning to tell their stories.
We have each had the pleasure to be in one class or the other with each other, and we had identified the commonness and differences in how we live, experience, and communicate the African story. Kwame Amoako ’20 MAM
“I was born in Germany, worked in East Africa, and appreciated entrepreneurship in the continent,” said Lukas. “But I always wanted to go beyond that and add the perspective of a non-African to the untold narrative. YASR presented this opportunity. And working with the rest of the team has been nothing short of refreshing insights from various industries from other regions in Africa.”
Together, we are creating stronger links between African founders, global investors, and stakeholders. We use a holistic methodology to find the most promising startups across the African continent, beyond the flashy news headlines. The best information comes from the ground up – from those in the trenches building companies in Africa, ideating with entrepreneurs day to day and financing them.
“Through our methodology, we heard of Inseco, a company founded in South Africa, with a perfect balance of engineering, entomology and bio-beneficiation,” recalled Lina. “They’re charting a system to move the emission-intensive agricultural value chain toward carbon neutrality while providing safe, affordable, and quality animal feed, and we’re proud to tell their story to the world.”
The African startup ecosystem is unique in its challenges and opportunities and therefore needs to be evaluated on its own merits. We are working to reveal the entrepreneurial power of the African continent and connect it to stakeholders across the globe.
To do so, YASR engages with countless entities in the African entrepreneurship ecosystem in our search for the best startups. These include venture capital firms, incubators, labs, thought leaders, and the entrepreneurs themselves. The nominees are evaluated according to five broad categories, through 25 distinct metrics.
We are working to reveal the entrepreneurial power of the African continent and connect it to stakeholders across the globe. Kwame Amoako ’20 MAM
To date, we’ve received 200-plus nominations from 350-plus investors, hubs, labs, and accelerators from more than 30 countries in Africa, and we’re in the process of reviewing them alongside a dynamic team of Africa-based or Africa-focused judges.
“There’s no telling how far we’ll go,” said Samuel. “The future of YASR is as bright as the minds of the African entrepreneurs we work with. I’m excited to see how we can continue to grow.”