While he seemed destined for a glittering political career in the United States, Niang decided to return home to pursue a Senegalese dream. Thione Niang was born in Kaolak, Senegal, in a family of 28.

The man who now describes himself as a political strategist and social entrepreneur arrived in the US in 2000 with just $20 in his pockets. He started building his American dream with odd jobs. He first lived a couple of years in the Bronx, working in a restaurant, before moving to Cleveland where he stepped into the political world and volunteered for Councilman Kevin Conwell’s municipal campaign in 2005. He then became deputy campaign manager for mayoral candidate Frank Jackson. Much later, he was the campaign manager of the black congresswoman Shirley Smith who wanted to become a senator. Shirley Smith introduced him to Senator Barack Obama in 2006, in Columbus. And two years later, Thione Niang became the community organizer for President Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential elections.

He was then named national co-chair of "gen44," the 44th annual American youth fundraising initiative, for the president's 2012 re-election campaign.

With this background, the Pan-Africanist decided to return to his home country in 2014 where he initiated various impactful projects. One of them is the startup JeufZone Farms, which he founded in 2015. JeufZone Farms is an agro-business platform that focuses on the production, commercialization, distribution, and conservation of local farm products using new technologies. The startup supplies its restaurants in Senegal and has a website for delivery. It also provides tools and training to young people who want to get into the business.

"It (agriculture, ed) is not a job for poor men living in villages without water or electricity […] Agriculture is noble and matters because it is the pillar of our economic independence. It is what feeds the country," he says.

JeufZone Farms has already trained more than 200 young people in many African countries and beyond. This year, the forty-year-old plans to expand his venture to Togo. Thione Niang discussed this expansion plan last February 6 with the Togolese Prime Minister Victoire Tomégah-Dogbé. Touting his solution, the entrepreneur said “the particularity (of the offer, ed) is that we can use robots or connected tractors, or sensors that allow remote control to avoid travel on large farms in the agricultural field, for example. We will evaluate to what extent this can be done in Togo.”

Aïsha Moyouzame

Published in TECH STARS

Founded two years ago, Chari.ma reached a valuation of $100 million last January. The startup is now at the heart of several development projects, backed by big investors.

Sophia Alj (photo, left) and Ismael Belkhayat (photo, right), co-founders of Chari.ma, were crowned "Endeavor Entrepreneurs" during the international jury selection held last January 24-26. The award from Endeavor Global, a global community of high-impact entrepreneurs, is the result of the success of the two recipients' digital shopping service for local merchants. Endeavor Global says the startup has a high potential for development and the founders are willing to commit to sharing their knowledge and experience with other entrepreneurs.

Founded in January 2020, Chari.ma has achieved many successes over the past two years. As of December 2020, it has claimed nearly $2.5 million in order value per month. That same month, Chari.ma won the Middle East Africa Seed Challenge organized by Orange Ventures. The following year, in August, it acquired the mobile credit card application Karny.ma, then raised $5 million in a round led by Rocket Internet, Global Founders, and P1 Ventures in October 2021.

In January 2022, the startup successfully raised another round of funding in a deal led by Khwarizmi Ventures, Air Angels (Airbnb Alumni Investors), and Afri Mobility. Plug and Play, Combinateur Y, Village Capital / MetLife Foundation, Orange Ventures, Air Angels, SPE Capital, Pincus Private Equity, Reflect Ventures, the Chandaria family, Michael Lahyani (CEO and founder of Propertyfinder) also took part. Chari.ma will use the resources to enter the consumer credit segment and further its African expansion.

The new step by Sophia Alj and Ismael Belkhayat paves the way to achieve their ambition. The Endeavor award gives the newly selected entrepreneurs “access to comprehensive, strategic, global support services, including introductions to local and international business mentors, investors, and volunteers from Fortune 500 consulting firms who will help them address key needs,” says Endeavor Global.

This year, Sophia Alj and Ismael Belkhayat are the only two African entrepreneurs out of 12 selected by Endeavor Global in seven markets worldwide, including Vietnam, Morocco, Bulgaria, Brazil, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.

Muriel Edjo

Published in TECH STARS

Only 11% of Malawi’s population has access to a reliable electricity grid, and this hampers productivity, especially in rural areas. This is an issue that entrepreneur Martin Masiya tackles with Sollys Energy, his solar power startup.

Operating in the alternative energy sector, Sollys Energy sells lanterns and solar home systems with flexible payment terms. The firm, whose main target is people living in semi-urban and rural areas with no access to reliable and affordable electricity, has a business model that is based on installment payments.

One of Sollys’s products is WOWSolar 60, a lighting system whose main feature is a scalable upgrade capability that allows the same controller and bulbs to be used to power multiple devices. Sollys Energy also sells "Pay-As-You-Go" solar lights. These differ from standard solar lanterns which are typically sold for cash or loan and require sales agents to physically collect payments from customers.

Martin Masiya, 21, is the founder of Sollys Energy. One of Africa's youngest renewable energy entrepreneurs, he has attended several global events, including the first-ever Youth Forum organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi in January 2020. Masiya is very involved in foreign development organizations and recommends energy policies to various platforms like the EU-Africa group, the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub, and the Global Centre for Adaptation.

In rural and semi-urban Malawi, a large majority of households, schools, businesses, and health facilities do not have access to reliable electricity, and most of them have no electricity at all. National statistics show that only 11% of Malawians have access to the local power grid. This means that nearly 15 million people are deprived of economic opportunities that could improve their living standards and get them out of poverty.

Indeed, research shows that lack of access to electricity is a huge barrier to productivity. Therefore, providing low-income households and communities with affordable solar devices would help boost their productivity so they can produce more and generate additional income. Sollys Energy's mission is to end energy poverty in Malawi.

To date, Sollys Energy has a dozen outlets in the country. It has already served about 1,000 people and created 13 jobs. In the future, Martin Masiya's ambition is to make his start-up the largest distributor of pay-as-you-go solar devices in Southern Africa, covering agriculture, health, education, and solar energy for productive use.

Aïsha Moyouzame

Published in TECH STARS

In a few years only, this Sudanese lawyer built a flourishing startup, Alsoug, in a country that was under an international embargo for many years. Now, insatiable, she yearns to expand across the rest of Africa.

After staying abroad for some years, for studies and work, Tarneem Saeed probably never imagined returning to her country, Sudan, whose economy was shaken for about 30 years by conflicts and placed under an international embargo. Yet, she is now one of the most powerful businesswomen in the country. The entrepreneur founded Alsoug, Sudan’s largest online marketplace, offering e-payment and logistics services.

Saeed left Sudan for Canada at age 14, to further her education. After graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), she worked as a corporate lawyer at Allen and Overy, a law firm with operations in over 60 countries.

In 2014, while in Sudan on personal business, she noticed how disconnected the country was from the digital economy. "People and businesses weren’t harnessing the full power of the internet. Coming from London, Sudan just felt empty. One of the things that irked me the most was how difficult it was to find out the price of anything. You had to ask someone to get the price of a car, house, or even cattle,” Saeed said.

She launched the Alsoug project in 2015 to tackle the situation. Initially, it was a brokerage platform where consumers could check the prices of goods and services, and where sellers and buyers could chat. In 2016, despite the poor internet access in the country, she expanded the platform by introducing classified ads. Over the years, Alsoug’s business model evolved and the platform came to integrate online sales and other tools including an e-payment solution called Cashi.

In six years only, Tarneem Saeed made Alsoug the country’s leading e-commerce startup, notably by raising a lot of money from venture capitalists. Very recently, in October, the company announced the close of a $5 million fund, raised from Egypt's Fawry and other investment structures – the first operation of this kind after the lifting of economic sanctions against the country in 2020.

Despite the persistent challenges female entrepreneurs face in Sudan, Tarneem Saeed is determined to go much further in developing Alsoug. She is getting ready to break into the fintech market with a national payment system that will allow for quick, easy, and secure transactions for all Sudanese.

Aïsha Moyouzame

Published in TECH STARS

After coming up with the idea for his app while being treated in France, he went on to win RFI’s Africa 2020 App Challenge with the project. The platform, already available in Mali and Guinea, is set for expansion across the continent.

On January 18, 2022, Amara Diawara (photo) announced a partnership with Synapse Medicine, a French health software company. This partnership, Diawara said, will allow Afriqcare, the startup he founded with Mariam Coulibaly, to improve the quality of its services.

With his platform, the techpreneur and holder of a Ph.D. in Medicine (from Gamal Abdel Nasser University in Conakry) hopes to revolutionize access to health care in his country, Guinea, and the rest of Africa.

Afriqcare offers online appointment booking, teleconsultation, and tele-expertise services. It also enables doctors to access their patients’ medical records via a health booklet and an e-vaccination record. With approximately 37 medical specialties currently listed on its platform, Afriqcare is already available in Conakry (Guinea) and Bamako (Mali).

The idea for the app emerged in Amara Diawara's mind while he was undergoing treatment for a lung tumor in France, where he had flown to in 2015 to pursue a master's degree in public health. Before that, he was working at the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of the response to the Ebola epidemic that hit Guinea. During his treatment, he discovered the use of digital tools for healthcare monitoring and wanted to apply them in Africa.

"I told myself that we needed to give African patients and healthcare professionals the means to interact with digital tools. When I saw my patients, once they were out of the hospital, I no longer had any information about their journey. That had to change," he explained and so Afriqcare was born in 2020.

Amara Diawara won RFI's Africa 2020 Challenge App award and consequently €15,000 in funding. In February 2021, during the award ceremony, he said he would use the money to develop a new and improved version of the Afriqcare app.

"We will make the application easier to use so that it can be accessed even with low internet speed. The new version will also be more reliable and secure," Diawara declared at the time. He also revealed his ambition to dominate the digital health sector in French-speaking Africa, by 2025.

Aïsha Moyouzame

Published in TECH STARS

Very attached to his culture and African traditions in general, Central African entrepreneur Teddy Kossoko founded Masseka Game Studio in 2017 to showcase African culture.

With this initiative, Teddy Kossoko, 27, who has been living in France since 2012, has made himself a place among those who work to promote Africa in the world. The idea came to him while he was finishing a degree in computer science at the University of Blagnac in 2014. He noticed that people who play a lot of video games acquire knowledge about foreign cultures. He then started working on his very first game, Kissoro Tribal Game, which is inspired by Kissoro, a board game very popular in Central Africa and across the continent. The game was released in 2018. For this first project, Teddy received the support of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). He was granted access to the institution’s documentary resources.

In only 2 months, Kissoro Tribal Game has been downloaded more than 13,000 times in about 20 countries around the world. It is available in 5 languages (French, English, Japanese, Russian, Spanish), and has integrated features such as stories to discover, challenges, tutorials, quests, and winning contests, among others.

With Masseka Game Studio, Teddy Kossoko has won many international awards including the "Pitch Your Game" of the Geek Touch in Lyon in 2017, the Tongolo Awards organized the same year by the Sewati Tongolo association. The entrepreneur has also signed many partnerships with international structures, including mobile payment solution Intouch, the CNRS, the Embassy of the Central African Republic in France, and BPIFrance.

These multiple awards and partnerships allow Teddy Kossoko to prepare more ambitious projects and enter new markets. With his team, he is working on the development of new products including a racing game called Cours Didier, Georges d'or -a 3D soccer game featuring a poor young man who wants to become a golden ball, and Imani Imanu and the legend of the Sonni- a 2D adventure game.

"We first need to address the problems of Internet access and train young creators so that they can offer games that meet international standards. African creators are still lagging despite their innovative initiatives,” Teddy said.

Beyond his creations, the game developer is now seeking to boost the initiatives of other African video game studios. He created the African Gaming Networks platform in 2019 to address the obstacles specific to the sector, including its organization, the difficulties of training and monetization of video games. In addition to referencing creators, the network also offers a mapping of the African ecosystem and helps identify talents who need financial support.

Aïsha Moyouzame

Published in TECH STARS

Emmanuel Babalola, Africa’s Director at Binance, unveiled plans to make cryptocurrency a mainstream product on the continent. Although the context is quite complex with people's mistrust of crypto, the 27-year-old manager seems determined to achieve his goal.

The former MD of Binance Nigeria, who became head of the company's African division in 2021, plans to increase awareness campaigns and training on the usefulness of virtual currencies. He has already contributed to several education initiatives, including Binance Academy and Binance Masterclass. These programs aim to teach Africans the fundamentals of cryptocurrencies, as well as how to identify scams and seize real opportunities.

“Our top priority is user safety, and therefore we kicked off our education initiative – to teach crypto fundamentals, explain everyday use cases and ensure users know how to avoid scams. We also kicked off a campaign called My Crypto Life, an initiative that spotlights incredible crypto stories from people around the world, showing how crypto can be used by everyday people,” Emmanuel Babalola said.

In Africa, the volume traded by African users on the Binance platform has increased by 589%, the manager claimed. He sees this promising figure as a way to convince skeptics, who are concerned about fraud, capital flight, and environmental damage associated with bitcoin.

The Binance Masterclass estimates that more than 350,000 Africans have benefited from educational resources by 2021. Emmanuel Babalola says Binance is creating the educational infrastructure that Africans need to be financially free and informed. To attract more users, the global digital asset platform is stepping up efforts on the continent, officially becoming a sponsor of the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations.

Since 2020, Binance's various programs have benefited more than 541,000 Africans. The new partnership with AfCON, which is one of the most publicized events on the continent, offers an opportunity for Emmanuel Babalola to reach 160 countries and an audience of nearly 300 million people. “Greater blockchain adoption is opening the gateway to more opportunities for many businesses to develop even more blockchain-based applications and create more job opportunities,” he said.

Aïsha Moyouzame

Published in TECH STARS
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