Southern Africa Venture Partnership
Building and entrepreneurship eco-system in Southern Africa: Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Bongohive history and impact over 6 years.
Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)
Our project combines three existing business incubators in Southern Africa and a US-African mentorship group to form a new entity that will stimulate start-ups in Southern Africa. The incubators are struggling to survive due to lack of financing. Further, companies are focused only on their local markets. By pulling the incubators together, we can create critical mass in the region, synergies among companies, and a stronger value proposition to funders. Out of this idea was born Southern Africa Venture Partnership (SVP).
We are raising $100k to help support the support the incubators ($40k), launch a local venture competition ($40k), sponsor a trip in December for select incubator members to visit and fundraise in the USA ($20k).
We are working with the most established incubators in the region. Established in 2011, Bongohive (www.bongohive.co.zm) is the main HQ for SVP located in Lusaka, Zambia. The other incubators have also been operating since 2010 including Mhub in Malawi (mhubmw.com) and TechVillage (http://www.techvillage.org.zw/) in Bulawayo.
The incubators need capital to support operations. Operations are costly and we estimate that operations for the 3 incubators are at the minimal $150k/year.
We plan to host a venture competition among the 3 incubators where companies present and receive feedback from overseas mentors. We hope to fund 6 companies $5k and use $10k for operating cost of the program.
To further our fundraising efforts, we are planning a trip in December to sponsor members of the incubators to visit the USA. This is essential for expanding partnerships and receiving money. We estimate this cost to be $25k.
Successfully building an ecosystem in this region will stimulate fast growth. Furthermore, companies will create larger economies of scale by working in 3-4 countries, rather than only inside their own. Last, Zimbabwe has many economic issues and we can help these companies expand or move out of Zimbabwe through our incubators.
Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)
Our beneficiaries are the business accelerators and eventually start-up founders. By empowering founders to create companies and employ people, many will benefit. Our founders are not just males either. About 60 percent of Bongohive founders are females, and 14 out of Techvillage’s 30 companies are founded by females. It is very difficult for females to raise capital in these countries and we will ensure 50% of fundraising goes to them.
Great video about mHub's impact and vision in Malawi.
Results of the entrepreneurs who attended Bongohive.
In Zambia and Zimbabwe, three quarters have a university degree while in Malawi only a third have a degree. Their annual incomes average $6k before starting the business.
These people have the passion to create change in their countries. And these countries need strong entrepreneurs to create job growth in the region. There is no question that Zambia is ready for such economic growth. The legal and investment environment is ready. That is why we have chosen Bongohive as the HQ.
How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)
Most incubators in Africa run independently without collaboration from other firms. Meltwater.org is the one growing, pan-Africa incubator that has been around 10 years and receives about $1M / yr in funding. They do a good job bringing in teachers and mentors (even from Facebook) to work with students. They don’t have any presence in Southern Africa.
Our idea is unique in that we will collaborate with groups and set-up a mentorship model between US-SVP. Our advantages are that we have the largest incubator in each country. We have a fantastic team of people leading the incubators who have spent time in the USA with Mandela Fellowship or otherwise. Last, we have a US based team who can help with mentors.
To be successful, we need to raise money and show progress with our companies. Many investors/donors were not interested in a one country incubator in Africa. By pulling together 3 countries and expanding to others soon, we can create a more attractive platform for donors/investors.
Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)
Full Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.
Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)
SVP is an umbrella organization that sits above the three incubators. Our main course of business is to facilitate the financing, knowledge/curriculum, mentorship for incubators in the region. Note, in development. https://mwilajchikobe.wixsite.com/savp/about
Organization Filing Status
Yes, we are a registered company.
In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.
In 2017, I was traveling around Africa teaching at business incubators in the region. The US State Department sponsored my trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe to teach. I then went to Malawi, and spent ample time at mHub. After working with them, I saw great potential to empower these select entrepreneurs and wonderful people. I also understood the financing and growth challenges they faced. I wanted to help, pitched them the idea, and we started SVP.
Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).
We bridge prosperity. In order to build more prosperity, these countries must create opportunities within the country. To do this, they need a business creation and support eco-system. This does not exist today. But we are also promoting peace, especially in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a lot of challenges with their political regime. There are not a lot of jobs and a big black market economy. They need help. As an example, the State Department invests in economic empowerment programs to help keep peace as well. We also keep peace among the countries. A way to open up Zimbabwe is to show them companies can work across the region - especially Zambia and Malawi. By showing the governments there can be cross-country collaboration, it can help in the long term. Much of work is political lobbying and connections so that we have the right legal and investment climate. Our team members are key leaders in their countries.
Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)
We work alongside many organizations including US State Department, American Chamber of Commerce, local governments, and more. We also work with local Universities to show students what we do and how we work together. In the US, we are speaking to Universities like Santa Clara and Stanford to help share startup curriculum. We are also seeking other incubators to partner with to share knowledge and find mentors to help our entrepreneurs. We have partnered with TechStars in Malawi and had discussions with others. But we have yet to close a meaningful partnership. We think that OPENIDEO can help us with more introductions and get us visibility that we need.
Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)
Our community has university graduates but lacking jobs. Our graduates have a wide range of skill sets including design, textiles, engineering, computer science, marketing, and finance. They are hungry for knowledge and eager to learn. The platforms we are working with have existed for almost a decade. Now we want to put the gas in the engine and let them succeed.
Southern Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and after Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique Uganda (East)
How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)
For the initial investment of $100k, we can execute in 12 months with substantial results by funding a few companies, hosting a venture competition, and leading a charge for more funding.
Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)