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Exploring the Investment Opportunity in Africa with Venture Lift Africa

Updated: Jun 26




Fundr sits down with Dr. Wilmot Allen, the visionary of Venture Lift Africa, to discuss the exciting emerging investment landscape in Africa. Learn more about VLA’s approach to collaborative capitalism, economic empowerment and why now is the best time to start investing in startups in Africa.


Lauren Washington: Thanks for joining us to talk more about your work! Let’s start with an overview of Venturelift Africa and its mission.


Dr. Wilmot Allen: Venturelift Africa was established with a clear purpose – to fill a void in the global marketplace of catalytic investment capital and trade between Africa and her Diaspora with allies. This mission was inspired by a culmination of personal and professional experiences. During my tenure as a VC investor in Massachusetts, I invested in tech firms led by talented women and entrepreneurs of color to help close the gap they faced in access to capital. As a tech M&A investment banker in San Francisco, also earlier in my career, I was privileged to be exposed to some of the pioneers of the digital economy whose IP enabled cross-border commerce and knowledge transfer. Additionally, my involvement with hosting a global trade summit throught the National Urban League Young Professionals in Los Angeles and seeing the tremendous response from a broad network of diaspora and African businesses helped me realize the significant business case for strenghtening this collaboration. 


Furthermore, my academic research as a political economist, particularly focusing on diaspora economic engagement, underscored the transformative potential of such initiatives. Across various regions and countries, including Israel, China, Ireland, and India, the diaspora played a pivotal role in driving economic growth and fostering social development. However, despite Africa's vast potential, I observed a significant gap in structured diaspora engagement, particularly beyond remittances. This gap presented a unique opportunity to leverage trade, investment, knowledge transfer, and skill exchange for mutual benefit. Thus, Venturelift Africa emerged as a platform to bridge this divide and harness the collective potential of the diaspora to drive sustainable development and prosperity across the continent.



That's fascinating. Talk more about the opportunity in Africa. Why Africa, and why now?


Africa represents a beacon of opportunity amidst global economic shifts. With its youthful population and burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, the continent is poised for exponential growth. However, this growth is not without its challenges. From infrastructure deficiencies to stifling sovereign debt to social welfare gaps, Africa faces numerous obstacles on its path to economic prosperity. Yet, it is precisely these challenges that present opportunities for investment and innovation. By channeling resources and expertise towards Africa's development, we can drive sustainable economic growth and empower communities across the continent.


Moreover, Africa's strategic importance in the global economy cannot be overstated. With its abundance of natural resources, burgeoning consumer markets, and untapped potential, the continent holds immense promise for investors and entrepreneurs alike. Africa's economic trajectory is increasingly intertwined with global trends, making it a compelling destination for international investment. By seizing the opportunity to engage with Africa now, investors can not only realize attractive returns over the long term, but also contribute to the continent's long-term development and prosperity.



That sounds exciting for anyone looking for a blue ocean opportunity. As you’re on the ground, can you paint a picture of the startup ecosystem in Africa?


Certainly. The startup scene in Africa is undergoing a rapid evolution, characterized by a diversity of approaches and models. Initially, there was a tendency to replicate Western paradigms, particularly Silicon Valley's success stories. However, this approach has given way to a more nuanced understanding of local realities and adaptation of localized innovation. We are witnessing a shift towards indigenous models that leverage Africa's unique strengths and address its specific challenges. In terms of sectors, tech and tech-enabled ventures, particularly in fintech, have garnered significant attention and investment. These startups are leveraging technology to disrupt traditional business models and drive innovation across various industries.


The creative sector, including fashion, music, and entertainment, is also emerging as a hotbed of entrepreneurship and innovation. Afrobeats, in particular, has captured global attention and serves as a testament to Africa's cultural influence. However, challenges remain for spawning local manufacturing, especially in sectors like agriculture, textiles and industrial which are critical for job creation and economic development. While tech startups are flourishing, there is a need for greater investment and support for traditional industries to unlock their full potential. Additionally, there is a growing focus on intra-Africa trade and supply chain intermediation, signaling a shift towards more sustainable and inclusive economic growth models.


Let’s dive deeper into the angel investor network you’re launching with Fundr. What specific companies is DAIN targeting for investment?


DAIN, or the Diaspora Angel Investor Network, aims to support a diverse portfolio of companies with a focus on tech-enabled ventures, particularly in fintech, climate, health/medtech, supply chains, consumer goods, and the creative sector. We are committed to empowering African-led businesses to scale and expand into throughout the continet to strengthen intra-Africa commerce. Additionally, we seek to facilitate partnerships between diaspora investors and African entrepreneurs, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. Our goal is to advance a vibrant ecosystem where innovative ideas thrive and contribute to Africa's economic transformation.


DAIN is also keen on opportunities to invest in diaspora companies looking to enter the African market, as well as African companies seeking to expand globally, particularly into the U.S. By leveraging the expertise and resources of the diaspora, we aim to drive sustainable growth and create value for both investors and entrepreneurs. Lastly, DAIN is actively involved in capacity building and mentorship initiatives to support the growth and development of portfolio companies. Through strategic partnerships and collaborative efforts, we believe DAIN can play a pivotal role in unlocking Africa's entrepreneurial potential and driving inclusive economic growth across the continent. 


Beyond financial returns, what outcomes are you aiming for?


Our overarching goal is to catalyze sustainable economic development and empower communities across Africa and the U.S. That’s right, we want to do this work in a way that shows that capitalism isn’t zero sum and that U.S.-Africa economic engagement can facilitate non-redistributive wealth creation for the Diaspora in the U.S. Of course, the wealth-creation priority is on Africa. In addition to generating attractive returns for investors, we are committed to creating jobs, empowering women and youth, driving innovation and climate solutions, and promoting inclusive growth.


We also seek to promote diversity and inclusion within the business ecosystem, ensuring that women and marginalized communities have equal access to opportunities and resources. Ultimately, our success will be measured not only by financial returns but also by the positive social, economic and climate outcomes we achieve for the continent and its people.


How can individuals get involved with Venturelift Africa?


There are several ways for individuals to get involved in our initiatives. For those interested in investment opportunities, we encourage them to reach out to DAIN to learn more about becoming an angel investor or investee company. For those seeking to trade, we are experienced trade specialist and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) experts. In 2023, we were implementation partners with Prosper Africa for training AGOA advisor in Africa and the U.S. Both prior to this engagement and currently we facilitate two-way trade deals. Through the VLA Venture Studio, we help U.S. companies expand into Africa and support African enterprises scale and expand into the U.S. Finally, we are always interested in enlisting top talent for roles with our companies. 


We welcome partnerships and collaborations with organizations and institutions that share our vision and values. 


Thank you for sharing your insights and vision with us.


It's been my pleasure. Let's continue working together to build a more prosperous and inclusive Africa and Diaspora businesses in the U.S.


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Join DAIN in its exciting mission by connecting with Dr. Wilmot Allen at wilmot@vlafrica.com and signing up for Fundr today.




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