Chanzo Capital is an early stage micro-VC firm that provides capital and mentorship to high-tech startups in Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa (the so-called KINGS of Africa’s digital economy). Eric Osiakwan, managing partner of Chanzo, is a tech entrepreneur and angel investor with 15 years of ICT (information and communications technology) industry leadership across Africa and elsewhere. He has worked in several African countries setting up ISPs (Internet service providers) and high-tech startups. He cofounded the Angel Africa List and Angel Fair Africa, and sits on the boards of several companies. “We Africans are going to lead the 21st century through technology,” he says in this interview with [email protected], which was conducted in Ethiopia at a leadership summit organized by the Wharton alumni club of Africa.
An edited version of the conversation follows.
[email protected]: What is Chanzo Capital?
Eric Osiakwan: Chanzo is the Swahili word for “early stage,” and we chose this name because of what we stand for; we believe that Africa is going through a renaissance. We Africans are going to lead the 21st century through technology. We think that 20 years ago, Africa embarked on this journey — leapfrogging the world using mobile phones. As of 2015, we have one billion mobile users on the continent. And so, mobile has become the platform [for the renaissance].
I was a pioneer in building internet service providers (ISPs). I built 14 ISPs between 1998 and 2008. I was also involved in building submarine cables — in bringing connectivity to the continent. Now, I have started mentoring and investing my own capital in some startups.
Essentially, this is part of creating a new generation of entrepreneurs that believes in taking Africa into the creative era. Before this, Africans were just consuming Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and so on. Now, we have a new generation of millennials and digital natives who are saying: “Well, we can create the same Googles; we can create the same Facebooks solving local problems.” This generation is beginning to unleash its creativity using mobile web technology to solve market problems, pain points and bottlenecks.
What I’ve been doing is seeding some of this entrepreneurship, not only by writing a check, but also by bringing my extensive experience as somebody has built companies in the past.
“This generation is beginning to unleash its creativity using mobile web technology to solve market problems, pain points and bottlenecks.”