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Africa is the next big thing – at least that’s what a lot of people think. (Pardon the generalization about the world’s second-biggest continent and its most genetically diverse.) But to most Western investors and cultural observers, Africa remains a mystery. Tell someone in the US that 95% of Kenyans use mobile money, and their jaws drop: “they have phones in Africa?”
But the outside world is slowly starting to tune in–even if they don’t always know what they’re doing. A generation of “social entrepreneurs” are rushing in to solve big problems while making money – although who really knows what a “social enterprise” is anyway. Investors are looking more closely at putting serious money into non-extractive industries – but many seem unprepared for Africa, and may overlook the most interesting opportunities. Societies are evolving at breakneck speed in a bubbling soup of creation, as places that were structured according to village life just 100 years ago clash with a modernity of technology, democracy, and capital; not only are most of our Western political ideas about how to influence Africa totally misguided, there’s also a ton we can learn about our own politics from this place that’s in such an interesting stage of development.
This site aims to provide the interested outsider with an on-the-ground perspective on business and politics in Africa: how things really happen, what’s really important, and who the interesting players are. And if you’re not that interested in Africa itself, there’s still a lot to learn about how to make our own countries better based on what we see in Africa. (Hillary Clinton’s emails, for instance)
Some good articles to start with:
I moved to Uganda 4 years ago from Washington DC and have been here ever since, working to help solar energy “leapfrog” a fossil fuel-powered grid in Africa, just like cell phones leapfrogged landlines. I’ve worked with three solar companies in that span: first ToughStuff (a sad story), then SmallSolutions (distributors of Greenlight Planet & Fosera), and currently BBOXX, where we install solar systems in rural villages for $6-10 per month. It’s been an eye-opening experience as I’ve set up retail networks in capital cities and remote rural villages, trained staff, developed solar loan products, surveyed refugees in South Sudan, found upcountry distributors, and played in a band for a bit, and I can’t think of a more interesting or disruptive market to be working in.
Before that I spent 4 years as a Senior Analyst with CEB in Northern Virginia/Washington, DC, mostly researching best practices in sales, marketing, and training, after graduating Harvard class of 2007.
Originally I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, which I find to have a lot in common with Africa: open spaces, nice people, and a love of cows.
– Andrew Kent