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- Discover Angola’s Emerging Startup Ecosystem: Opportunities and Challenges
Discover Angola’s Emerging Startup Ecosystem: Opportunities and Challenges
“Entrepreneurs should not fear failure, but rather view it as a part of the journey towards success.”
Haymée Perez Cogle
Ecosystem Builder, Founder Institute Luanda
Angola, a country known for its rich oil reserves, is gradually diversifying its economy by developing its startup ecosystem. The local startup scene is still in its early stages but is starting to flourish in various sectors, including e-commerce and Fintech. In early 2023, Startup Genome assessed the ecosystem to determine its stage of development, benchmark it against comparable global ecosystems, and identify gaps and opportunities. Here are some of the key findings.
The Emergence of a Community of Innovators and Entrepreneurs
Since 2013, Angola's startup ecosystem has seen significant growth, spurred by the creation of a Facebook group dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. The social innovation hub Mwika Impactista, launched by Lúcia Fernandes Stanislas, has also made a significant impact on the ecosystem since this time, focusing on promoting social entrepreneurship, diversity, equity, and inclusion in entrepreneurship. The hub provides mentorship, training programs, and opportunities for collaboration with various ecosystem players.
Kianda Hub, a coworking space in Angola's capital city of Luanda established by young entrepreneurs in 2015, has been instrumental in promoting local digital entrepreneurs. Seedstars World, an international startup initiative launched in Angola the same year, further highlights the potential of startups in the country.
The ABC of the Entrepreneur, a web portal created by Emilia Dias and Ronaldo Pitta Grós, has also provided valuable support and guidance to entrepreneurs in better planning and organizing their businesses. Menos Fios is an information service that has been an integral media partner in the promotion of startups since the early days of the technology ecosystem. In 2016, Unitel, the country's largest telecom company, launched its own startup initiative, Unitel Go Challenge (previously Unitel Apps), which generated increased public attention for startups.
Startup-support studio Bantu Makers was established in 2017 and gave rise to successful ventures including Deya, the first Angolan crowdfunding platform; Salo, a micro-jobs platform; and Lwei, a microfinance platform. Bantu Makers also engaged large companies including Millennium Atlantico Bank, BAI Bank, Standard Bank, and NCR to support local entrepreneurs. In addition, it launched a podcast and organized community-building events such as Startup BBQ — a pitch event created in partnership with Jobartis — and Startup Weekend, as well as supported skill-building initiatives such as Coding Dojo Angola.
Acelera Angola played a key role in promoting the first Global Entrepreneurship Week in Luanda. The organization also partnered with Portuguese Beta-i and BNA (Central Bank) to establish LISPA (Laboratório de Inovação do Sistema de Pagamentos), an initiative that includes various support programs for entrepreneurs. Acelera Angola further collaborated with Mozambican IdeaLab and the United States Embassy on programs such as "Who wants to be an entrepreneur?" to encourage entrepreneurship in Angola.
The Growth of a Strong Startup Scene
In 2018, Orange Corners Angola, a training and program initiative created in the Netherlands, was launched here, as well as the local chapter of the Founder Institute. As the world's largest accelerator for pre-seed startups, FI Luanda is playing a prominent role in the local startup scene, supporting early-stage entrepreneurs and positioning itself as the reference acceleration program in technology-based entrepreneurship. It offers founders access to 50 local mentors and a global network spread across 210 cities.
From 2019 to 2022, FI Luanda ran four cohorts with more than 90 enrolled entrepreneurs, of which 37 completed the program. Currently, 36 startups comprise the portfolio, with 16 in the MVP stage, five in the go-to-market stage, and three making regular sales. In total, 34 new jobs have been created to date. To transform startups into bankable businesses, FI Luanda collaborates with the IFC-International Financial Corporation to incubate the most promising startups and prepare them for fundraising.
Although most startup activities in Angola are still based in Luanda, there is increased opportunity for entrepreneurs elsewhere in the nation with the emergence of new programs. The government has started to recognize the importance of startups and is working to create an environment that enables them to thrive. For example, discussions of a new startup bill are underway.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation efforts in Angola’s public infrastructure, making it possible to start the process of creating a company online for the first time. The National Institute for Small and Medium Businesses (INAPEM) hosted a session dedicated to the startup ecosystem, and entrepreneurship is now a subject in the school curriculum, a move that could help foster an entrepreneurial mindset in future generations throughout the country.
A Culture of Bootstrapping in Angola's Tech Startups
While some Angolan startups have secured funding from angel investors and VC firms, most have bootstrapped their way to success. There is no formal structure for funding rounds in Angola. However, support organizations have played a significant role in helping founders generate revenue and expand their businesses.
Successful local startups include Soba-store, Socia, and BayQi, all e-commerce platforms selling traditional handmade items from Angola. Other startups that have seen growth in recent years include mobility startups Kubinga and T'leva, food delivery platform Tupuca, healthtech platform AppySaúde, and WiConnect, which offers Wi-Fi solutions for marketing and advertising.
Support organizations have helped startups generate revenue and expand, including Narisrec, a Cleantech platform, FoodCare, which connects local food producers and consumers, and Nawabus, a mobile application for public transport schedules.
Haymée Perez Cogle, an angel investor and ecosystem builder at FI Luanda, explains, "In Angola, we are entrepreneurial by nature, particularly the young women. There is a necessity to be so. We also have a young population, one that is ambitious and wants to be a part of the solution." This is reflected in the data: The average founder is 34 years old, slightly below the global average of 37, and 25% of startups in Angola are founded by women, compared to a global average of 16%.
Recently, the CMC-Capital Market Commission has approved the first private VC funds to specifically back high-risk startups in Angola. There is also growing interest in impact investing, as well as increased access to capital from national banks. These developments are helping to grow the Angolan startup ecosystem and catalyze innovation.
The Importance of Collaboration for Startup Success
Collaboration is a crucial factor in the success of startups, especially in Angola, where cultural challenges still persist despite a growing pool of tech talent.
According to Haymée Perez Cogle, many startups fail to progress due to the fear of sharing ideas, successes, and failures. This lack of transparency and communication prevents founders from sharing equity and collaborating with each other, resulting in missed opportunities for growth. To address this, various support initiatives are working towards boosting the ecosystem of digital innovation, promoting collaboration, communication, and sharing of experiences.
Startup Genome data highlights the importance of Local Connectedness in successful startup ecosystems. In Angola, entrepreneurs should view fellow entrepreneurs as part of a community rather than competition, and there is a need for leaders to emphasize the value of collaborators and mentors.
Haymée stresses the need for consistent and transparent support for tech-based entrepreneurship to bring structure to the ecosystem, develop business skills, and build the entrepreneurial culture. The creation of the Angolan Association of Startups and Digital Entrepreneurship (AASED) is a step towards achieving this objective by bringing in investors and promoting collaboration, communication and knowledge exchange.
To succeed, Haymée says that early-stage Angolan startups must embrace the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which emphasizes the importance of togetherness and growth. “Entrepreneurs should not fear failure, but rather view it as a part of the journey towards success. With more data-driven insights, encouragement to share knowledge, and a collaborative mindset, the startup ecosystem in Angola can thrive in the long run,” she says.
Industries Positioned for Success
Angola has several industries poised for success, offering potential for growth and development. The oil and gas sector is a significant opportunity for investment in exploration, production, refining, and distribution, and the country has also shown a substantial focus on renewable energy. Additionally, the education and health sectors are ripe for innovation and technological advancements.
Investment in the agricultural sector is another promising opportunity, with ample arable land and prospects for increased production and exports. Angola's tourism sector also offers expansive growth potential with its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and diverse wildlife. With investment in infrastructure and marketing, the country could attract more tourists, generating job opportunities and economic growth.
Although Angola's startup ecosystem is still in its early stages, it shows great promise for the future. The ecosystem is gaining momentum, attracting international interest, and has the potential to become a significant player in the African tech scene. Collaboration with local stakeholders and support organizations can help entrepreneurs and investors create a vibrant and sustainable ecosystem, benefiting both Angola and the global startup community.