The whole week has seen an all too familiar topic and discussion creep up again in the Twittersphere and among different people in Africa's technology startup ecosystem. It is the question about racial bias as far as funding of tech startups go in Kenya, and even across Africa.
I say "creep up again" because it is an all too familiar topic over approximately the past decade. We have even covered it extensively in different forms on iAfrikan over the years. In 2014 I wrote an extensive article to understand black representation in South Africa's technology ecosystem. In 2019 Jacob Mugendi also wrote about the bias observed in Kenya leading to the conclusion that perhaps to raise money for a tech startup in Kenya, you must get a "White CEO." More recently, Ndzalo Mpangana had an in-depth interview with Aisha Pandor, Co-founder of SweepSouth, in which Aisha said that:
"But there have been challenges like trying to pitch our idea to investors who are mainly male and white, so in some cases struggled to connect with the impact potential (both ROI, economically and social) of what we’re trying to do."
There are many more articles, research, and commentary from both iAfrikan and others on the subject over the past decade. However, I can't help but think that surely at some point it becomes tiring to discuss the same thing and the same perceived results are being obtained?
Don't get me wrong, and I probably need to emphasize this, there is a bias which can be observed along racial lines. There are various reasons for this and among them, in some cases, is just racism.
However, and I am not making excuses for anyone (just an observation), in some cases, it might not be racial bias although the result might be race. To summarise, anyone who is investing doesn't just give money to anyone who asks. Not even to anyone whose business plan and business model makes sense. At some level, because we are humans and humans trade with humans, investors invest with people who "speak their language."
I am not talking language here in the sense of Sesotho, Swahili, or Yoruba, but rather a way of doing things. Unfortunately, this rears its head up as a race problem (as I said earlier, in some cases, it is just pure racism) as a result. You see this in other cases where the same investors would rather invest in an Ivy League or Oxford-educated African who has just "returned home" to start their startup.
But it is still tiring to talk about this same topic year in year out.
I dey tire ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
On one hand, it sounds like we are begging for the right to have someone invest in our startups as Africans. Fair enough, if anyone is going to reap benefits from African consumers and market conditions they should empower Africans, at some level, in the process. However, and maybe it is just how I am wired, it just feels like when raising this topic annually we are going cap-in-hand and fighting (among ourselves) about having the right to receive these investments.
On the other hand, and why the discussion becomes tiring for me, we have to at some point execute solutions to solve this. Talking won't cut it anymore because we have BEEN talking.
One of the solutions being thrown around is the possibility of government regulation. I worry when I hear this because we have many case studies of Black Economic Empowerment in South Africa. Although well-intentioned, it ended being seen as a way to "empower" those who are politically connected.
Perhaps all this doesn't matter as Michael Jackson once sang:
"It don't matter if you're black or white"
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Quote of the day
"But there have been challenges like trying to pitch our idea to investors who are mainly male and white, so in some cases struggled to connect with the impact potential" (Tweet this)
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