Samir Abdelkrim, a Marseille-based tech reporter and entrepreneur, spent close to five years interviewing founders, developers, government officials and pretty much all the main players in the African tech scene. Here is how his book Startup Lions came to be published.
Congratulations on completing the book, why did you decide to write up the book Startup Lions?
It’s a long story but for the last 10 years I worked a lot on innovation and with startups in North Africa and I was working on how to boost the ecosystems in Morocco, but I was always frustrated because I wanted to know how it was going in Senegal, how it was going in Kenya, how it was going in South Africa. So I left my job and started my own company Startup BRICS which is a consultancy company about innovation and the changing markets in Africa. I had an idea to go on an expedition for 2 to 3 months to visit 4 to 5 countries and it ended up being 3 years in over 25 different countries. During that time I started to write for newspapers. That was in 2014 and in 2015 I was still there, 2016 I was still there, 2017 I was still there, in the end I had written over 500 articles and blogs about African startups and I was meeting new startups and entrepreneurs everyday and so I decided to write this book because there is a new story going on in Africa. It used to be completely hidden and everything you would hear in the French media would be about terrorism or problems in Africa and I’m not saying that doesn’t happen anymore, I’m just saying there is a new Africa emerging and this is the reason I started the book so people could hear the real stories of the startup ecosystem insiders. I have over 2000 hours of audio recordings, interviews with entrepreneurs and I wrote this book in 14 months.
What is the most innovative country in Africa according to you?
There is not one. There are many of course, the cliché thing would be to say Kenya where mobile banking was born and it is a very innovative country but you have Ghana. Ghana is one of the most innovative countries ever, probably the first country experiencing blockchain for the registration for their land. People will say Rwanda, which is the country of honour in this year’s VivaTech. Rwanda is a very innovative country and its innovation comes from the top, the Government, and they are looking at drones built by the state to help in delivering services to people and saving lives. But you have very poor countries like Liberia who made the last election using blockchains and we’re not even there in Europe! So we have many. It’s not just one country, we have many everywhere.
What do you see as the next big trend in technology in Africa?
I think that the next big thing in Africa which will be compared to Europe, will not be mobile banking. I think the next big thing will be the digitalisation of the informal sector, which in today’s society represents 1 trillion dollars and so I suppose that the next efforts that will attract investors to the continent will unlock huge opportunities for many sectors and informal businesses.