Solving Africa’s Problems, From Your Smartphone

Africa needs investors. This social-media platform finds them.

By Kirk Miller

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22 February 2018

As JFK once posited, extraordinary times present extraordinary challenges.

He was talking, of course, about space.

His solution? Create a to-do list of said challenges, then gather all the smartest people in a room to solve them.

Now there’s a simple way to do this for another frontier facing its fair share of difficulties: Africa.

Dubbed AfricaConnekt, it’s an online collaborative platform that could literally save humanity, solve (no joke) Elon Musk’s greatest fear and even make you a few bucks in the process.

Launched last year by Andy Russell (note: also the co-founder of InsideHook), AfricaConnekt was inspired by the good works and grand ideas of Russell’s stepfather, civic leader and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jack Rosenthal, along with JFK’s moonshot speech, the ambitious sustainable development goals of the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda and Russell’s own entrepreneurial spirit.  

“Go back to JFK’s speech — nothing is impossible,” says Russell. “Just give me all the challenges, break them down, and get the smartest people in one room to come together and solve them. It’s about creating a to-do list.”

Here, that to-do list lives on an intuitive platform where the world’s biggest investors and brightest minds can collaborate with budding African entrepreneurs in areas such as technology, energy, communications and the environment.  

It’s called crowdsolving, and you, InsideHook reader, should be interested: You can work as a mentor or a (for-profit!) investor in the rapidly emerging market that Africa’s 54 countries comprise.

Why this continent? As of now, there are 226 million youths ages 15-24 throughout Africa, and more than 60% of them are unemployed. “That’s a death sentence,” says Russell. “And we can’t use the Western world as a model to help, because that’s about efficiency and could lead to even greater job loss (as Elon Musk warned). We need to have a moonshot here — we need to create jobs and find new ways of doing business.”

If you use social media, AfricaConnekt is super easy to use. Potential investors, mentors and entrepreneurs who sign up can send private messages, share videos/documents, “like” ideas, get recommendations and, obviously, make connections. You can also search the site for fellow countrymen and like-minded individuals/businesses.

The real selling point? The workrooms where collaborations between all of the above actually take shape.

If the entrepreneurial ideas are good, they go through a Shark Tank-like process of vetting and upvoting to determine their viability (be inspired by the first year's winners here). These aren’t microloans or not-for-profit solutions — these are legitimate business ideas from people who “need investment from people experienced in growing profitable companies.” Help them prosper, and you may prosper — certainly emotionally, and perhaps financially.

With entrepreneurs even in the poorest of countries able to upload video and ideas via smartphones, traditional boundaries (and potential repression/censorship issues) can be cast aside.

There are already a handful of prominent fans of the site, including former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the government of Rwanda — which, despite its rather stern reputation, welcomed AfricaConnekt with open arms.

AC is already Africa’s fastest growing innovation hub: peruse the site, and you’ll see forward-thinking ideas on worm farms, affordable greenhouses and even African-based cryptocurrency exchanges. Smart stuff that could certainly help a continent ... and provide the rest of the world with some big ideas.

“This platform is my definition of freedom: the right to earn dignity and self-sustainability purely through hard work, determination and resilience,” says Russell. “If you don’t have to rely on anybody else, no one has power over you.”

And you might save some people along the way.

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