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Why African Tech Startups Fail and How to Mitigate Risk

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Tech Startups

By Otori Emmanuel

Technological start-ups in Africa are innovative about providing solutions to challenges that exist in Africa. However, with these solutions come several bottlenecks which eventually create a barrier to the survival and sustainability of the business.

There are several factors that contribute to the failure of start-ups in Africa and the ability to learn from these failures would support a new way of thinking to help mitigate these risks.

In this publication, I would be sharing risk factors from working with not less than 100 companies in the technological, FMCG, retail, agro, fashion, events, confectionary and manufacturing in providing consultancy services and some of the patterns I found led to the business failure.

  1. Huge Injection of Capital Without Traction

Generating and implementing an idea has to go through several stages of design thinking to ascertain the viability of such a product before it is released into the marketplace based on the feedback from prospective end users.

Due to the fact that some early-stage entrepreneurs have already built a name in the ecosystem can easily make them access funding even when an idea is still just an idea that has not been properly researched but because entrepreneurs sometimes are also very emotionally attached to an idea sometimes, they can make several assumptions without considering the facts and then begin to seek capital inflow to kick-start this idea.

Traction is important because it signifies growth and growth could be seen in the form of demand which eventually leads to cash flow. Investing in an idea is too risky and even riskier for an early-stage entrepreneur with limited experience and exposure.

In order to ensure an idea would scale, it is important to employ design thinking to limit assumptions.

  1. Not Working With the Right Team

Not Working with the right team has huge consequences in itself. A start-up should have one core, and it is in the ability to execute with the team. Because most start-ups bootstrap at their early stage, they tend to work with whoever is available and not necessarily the skilled and competent professionals who would hit the ground running and deliver the required expectations.

I remember working in a pharmaceutical start-up where mislabeling of medications occurred because the professional involved was not aware of the procedures as a pharmacist would. This could have been a huge mistake if it was unnoticed until it reached the retailer who did checks and found out.

The right time would limit the time a task is expected to be done. Start-ups should never play down on experience, proficiency and competence. In fact, it is necessary to develop specific in-house procedures for hiring that suits the company’s culture.

  1. Lack of Product-Market Fit

A product could be a fantastic one, but if the market is not ready, then its sustainability is questionable. A very innovative start-up that came with the idea of solving the challenges of travel is GoMyWay, this Start-up was launched in Nigeria but did not thrive.

Was the product fit for the market in terms of providing the needed solution to the already existing challenges, I would say yes, however, factors such as kidnapping, assault, killings have created trust in the mind of travellers and so this travelling application that was supposed to connect a traveller with a car with another traveller going in the same direction could not survive because the safety of travellers was in question.

  1. Government Regulations

Several administrations of government have worked tirelessly to make the business environment conducive, however, there are still gaps to ensure that the start-ups do not get gagged as their benefits are very key to economic development.

The recent move to create a start-up bill to ensure that the interest of start-ups can be protected is one to secure sustainability and increase interactions with regulators in such a way that regulations understand the peculiarities of these businesses and work around policies that would not see capital investments go down the ground with just a regulation.

I believe the start-up bill would create stakeholders in the overall value-chain and then ease how business is done.

There are other factors that contribute to business failure and the listed are some common ones that affect businesses based in Africa.

I however believe that as there is an ongoing conversation to create a roundtable for stakeholder’s interaction, there would soon exist synergy in the ecosystem.

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Interswitch Champions ePayments Ecosystem Growth

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ePayments Ecosystem

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Interswitch has thrown its full weight behind the 2021 Annual Committee of e-Business Industry Heads (CeBIH) retreat as part of its commitment to champion the epayments ecosystem growth.

This is the fifth consecutive year the leading integrated payments and digital commerce company is sponsoring the programme, which is a platform through which the committee examines key innovations in the payment industry over the past year and discuss insights and trend for the coming year.

This year’s retreat is slated to hold on December 2 and 3, 2021, in Abeokuta, Ogun State and would be attended by various stakeholders in the sector.

The 2021 Annual CeBIH Retreat tagged Innovative Digital Banking will focus on issues around the growth of digital payments in Nigeria and how technological innovations such as digital currencies, blockchain, 5G network, contactless payments, among others, will dominate the payment industry in the coming years.

Interswitch as a key industry stakeholder will be instrumental in spearheading these discussions, especially with its recent efforts around blockchain technology and other solutions around contactless payments.

The digital payment company has been an ardent supporter of the committee and its objectives, underpinned by a shared objective of enabling further development of the digital payments ecosystem in Nigeria.

This sponsorship highlights its interest in fostering deeper collaboration between banks and fintechs within the industry ecosystem.

Speaking on the forthcoming retreat, Mr Akeem Lawal, Managing Director for Transaction Switching & Payment Processing at Interswitch reiterated the importance of Interswitch’s participation in industry events such as the CeBIH Retreat, where critical issues, trends and analysis around the payment ecosystem are discussed.

He described the retreat as a necessity for industry players to assess the current state of things and make calculable projections for the future, with the aim to improve and deepen Nigeria’s payment system.

“This retreat remains important for stakeholders in the payment industry and offers an opportunity for Interswitch to be introspective about the steps taken to improve the payment system in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole,” Mr Lawal said.

“We at Interswitch remain committed to supporting and participating at platforms that share our vision to drive greater financial inclusion and prosperity across Nigeria and the Africa continent.

“Platforms such as the CeBIH annual retreat provide Interswitch and other industry players the impetus to engage with key stakeholders and collaborators from the banking system with a view towards improving our offerings to our customers viz-a-viz market demands, global trends and insights from the operating environment,” he added.

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Cyber Threats in Nigeria Drop 7.5% in 2021—Kaspersky

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Cyber Threats

By Adedapo Adesanya

Cyber threats in Nigeria in 2021 depreciated by 7.5 per cent, according to the latest research by Kaspersky.

This dramatic change in the threat landscape is coming at a time regular and self-propagating malware is decreasing dramatically, as it is no longer effective and cannot fly under security radars.

Security researchers at Kaspersky noticed that Kenya recorded the highest decline with an unprecedented 28.6 per cent, while South Africa saw a 12 per cent decrease.

The reason for such a change was the introduction and popularisation of new cybercrime models in the region, with cybercrime tools becoming more targeted along with a long-running trend where malware creators rely not on the technical advantage of their technologies over security protection, but on the human factor.

The cybersecurity firm noted that this has stimulated the evolution of phishing schemes in 2021. In particular, the region saw a wave of ‘Anomalous’ spyware attacks.

The usual phishing spyware attack begins when attackers infect a victim by sending them an e-mail with a malicious attachment or a link to a compromised website and ends when the spyware is downloaded and activated on the victim’s device.

Having gathered all necessary data, the operator usually ends the operation by attempting to leave the infected system unnoticed. In anomalous attacks, however, the victim’s device becomes not only a source of data but also a tool for spyware distribution.

Having access to the victim’s email server, the malware operators use it to send phishing emails from a legitimate company’s email address. In this case, anomalous spyware attacks an organisation’s server for collecting stolen data from another organisation and sending further phishing emails.

Speaking on this, Maria Garnaeva, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky ICS CERT team, “The Anomalous spyware attacks have a huge potential for growth in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria in 2022, because unlike regular spyware the entry-level for attackers who wish to employ this tactic is significantly lower – since instead of paying for their own infrastructure, they abuse and employ the victims’ resources.

“We see that cheaper attack methods have always been on the rise in the region and cybercriminals quickly pick up on new tactics. Kaspersky, therefore, suggests that in the nearest future, these countries should be prepared for such attacks.”

She explained that the mass scale attacks are not disappearing, but rather transforming with the scheme usually following a style where a user searches for a free version of an extremely popular legitimate spyware and the cybercriminals offer them a fake installer using ‘black SEO technic’ – the abuse of the legitimate search engines, resulting in the offering of the fraudulent websites first.

As a result of software installer execution, a few dozen malware samples are downloaded and installed with the goal of turning the infected devices into a part of the Glupteba botnet.

The whole fake installers campaign and botnet have been extremely active in South Africa in 2021 and continue to evolve, yet it is scarcely researched.

“While the Glupteba botnet seems to be a threat for consumers, we are still researching it and keeping an eye on its behaviour, since some distributed malware resembles APT-related samples like Lazarus APT groups and were recently used in the largest DDoS attack in Russia. It is too early to say it with a high level of confidence, but these factors may suggest that we are now entering the era where APT actors start to use existing malware distribution platforms which makes attribution of such attacks harder and opens a new vector similar to supply chain attacks,” added Ms Garnaeva.

Recommendations from Kaspersky

In order to stay protected from such new cybercrime models and threats, Kaspersky recommends the following:

– Pay close attention to and don’t open any suspicious files or attachments received from unknown sources.

– Do not download and install applications from untrusted sources.

– Do not click on any links received from unknown sources and suspicious online advertisements.

– Create strong passwords and don’t forget to change them regularly.

– Always install updates. Some of them may contain critical security issues fixes.

– Ignore messages asking to disable security systems for office software or antivirus software.

– Use a robust security solution appropriate to your system type and devices, such as Kaspersky Internet Security.

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Zeepay, KudiGo, mPharma, Others Win at Ghana Fintech Awards 2021

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Ghana Fintech Awards 2021

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

It was a memorable day a few days ago when the key stakeholders in the financial technology (fintech) sector in Ghana gathered in Accra for the Ghana Fintech Awards 2021.

At the event, organised by Arkel Consult and Management Services Limited in partnership with Abjel Communications, Zeepay Ghana Limited went home as the Fintech Company of the year, while Andrew Takyi-Appiah was announced as fintech personality of the year in the male category, with the female category was Dede Afriyie Quarshie.

The Start-up Fintech of the year was Paybox, the Fintech & Bank partnership of the year was Ghana Interbank payment & settlement systems, while the Fintech & Non-Bank partnership was clinched by KudiGo Incorporated.

Business Post reports that the Agritech of the year was Kwidex, the Healthtech of the year was mPharma, the Edutech of the year was Blossom Academy, the Insurtech of the year was Insurerity Digital, while the IT/Tech of the year was Clydestone Ghana LTD.

The organisers also announced BPC Banking Technologies as the Leading Payments Technologies Service Provider 2021, while Panamax Incorporated was announced as the Leading Fintech Solutions Provider 2021.

Speaking at the maiden awards held at the Best Western Premier Hotel in Accra, the President of the African Fintech Network (AFN), Mr Segun Aina, disclosed that the “Ghana Fintech Awards has come at a time when the Bank of Ghana has observed that there are over 70 Fintech companies and startups operating in the country.”

“It is highly appropriate to say Arkel Consult and Abjel Communications have identified the economic contribution of the fintech startups and companies and decided to recognize their efforts by hosting this event. My hearty congratulations to these organisers for the foresight in putting up this event,” he added.

He assured that “AFN will look forward to inaugurating the Ghana Fintech Association and will be happy to support the sustenance of the Ghana Fintech Outlook Conference and Awards as an annual ecosystem event in partnership with the Ghana Fintech Association.”

Mr Martin Kwame Awagah, Director of Arkel Consult and Management Services Limited, expressed appreciation to Panamax Inc. Zeepay Ghana Limited, BPC Banking Technologies, Brassica Pay, EziPay, DreamOval, MTN Mobile Money Limited, Pavelon.com, People’s Pension Trust and Tarragon Edge who were the official sponsors of the ceremony.

He congratulated the shortlisted nominees and the winners for their efforts in promoting the growth of the fintech space in the country.

The Ghana Fintech Awards 2021 was created to recognise and acknowledge the achievements of individuals and companies who are contributing to the growth of Ghana’s financial and technology ecosystem.

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