AfricInvest, Antler, Attijari Invest, EchoVC, E4E Africa, Flat6Labs Cairo, Flat6Labs Tunis, Greentec Capital Partners, Grow In Africa Fund, Growth Capital Fund, Investisseurs & Partenaires, Knife Capital, Lateral Capital, Partech Partners, Proparco, Saviu Ventures, Sawari Ventures... The list of institutional investors that make up the “Africa Next” community is as long as prestigious.
More than a platform, Africa Next is a service for investment funds and accelerators on the African continent. This program, launched in July 2020, is jointly supported by Digital Africa and the public investment bank BPIFrance. AfricaGrow - a German-domiciled fund of funds that aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups in Africa - joined Africa Next as a sponsor last spring. "The Africa Next Community is a service for investors and innovators. It aims at helping the African business and technology ecosystem to develop and become a global reference," said Stéphan-Eloïse GRAS, Executive Director of Digital Africa.
One year on, Africa Next's results confirm the suitability of its format for the African market, with the initiative's organizers proposing a new model of virtual interaction between investors and African startups, in a context of health crisis conducive to digitalization. In concrete terms, Africa Next offers its community of financial players the opportunity to co-invest in innovative and growing companies, engaging in a common dynamic French- and English-speaking venture capitalists from Europe and Africa which select projects based on e-pitches.
As a result, over the past year, nearly 200 partners have been brought together around the program (33 venture capital firms and incubators from the first circle - able to pitch start-ups from their portfolio - plus a hundred or so international investors taking part in the online sessions), while 32 start-ups, active in various sectors (E-commerce, Fintech, energy, logistics, E-health, etc.), have been presented during 5 online pitch sessions.
At the heart of the Africa Next model, there is an innovative format: members of the community - whether they are investors or incubators - are selected solely by co-option. This guarantees a certain amount of trust between peers, as Arthur THUET, co-founder and managing partner of the venture capital fund Saviu Ventures, explains. He notes that "it is much more efficient to have a shareholder base with several investors who bring a variety of expertise and geographical knowledge [...]". That approach ultimately allows "maximizing the support and contribution for entrepreneurs, in addition to the money that is invested in the companies," says the financier. He adds: "We need to have extreme confidence in the entrepreneurs, but also in the existing investors, because we are at a stage of investment where the companies are not very mature, so there is very little history to analyze. We also have to rely on the teams and on the entrepreneurs ’ability to excel and to move forward.
"The Africa Next platform allows us to have more confidence in the projects we analyze and hope to eventually fund"
From this standpoint, the Africa Next platform is very useful because it allows us to have more confidence in the projects that we analyze and that we hope to eventually fund,” summarizes Arthur THUET, who also says other members of Africa Next will "join him in the shareholding of [his] portfolio companies; another great contribution from Africa Next".
For his part, Wael AMIN, co-founder and managing director of Sawari Ventures - a venture capital fund active in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco - praises the platform's "collaborative approach", "where everyone brings their expertise". For our interviewee, there are many reasons to join Africa Next, the first and most important of which is to "connect with other like-minded investors looking to invest in Africa. Another important point for Wael AMIN is the search for investment opportunities. "Thanks to Africa Next, at each session, we have access to the best start-ups in the region, but not only.
"Africa Next only features start-ups that are in the process of raising funds. This saves us a lot of time and makes the scouting process much more efficient."
A special feature of Africa Next is that it only presents startups that are in the process of raising funds. This saves us a lot of time and makes the scouting process much more efficient," says the venture capitalist who recalls that "there are not many conduits or interconnections between capital and business in Africa. Yet, for him, "Africa Next offers one of these opportunities.”
Marie NIELSEN, partner at venture capital firm Antler for East Africa, appreciates the opportunity to co-invest. "For Antler, Africa Next is a great opportunity for our founders to meet investors from around the world, especially when we invest in pre-seed. After 12 to 18 months, companies are ready to raise their seed capital. And I think that having a forum to connect with top investors, not only in Africa, but also around the world, is a great opportunity of value offered by Africa Next," says the specialist who, like many other members of the platform, likes the idea of being able to (also) promote her own startups. In particular, through the pitches, organized during bimonthly sessions, which allow to present high-growth potential firms, proposed by investors and accelerators for early-stage startups.
"It could also be quite interesting to offer a similar type of platform for start-ups that are raising smaller tickets"
Convinced of the merits of Africa Next, “a great platform for companies that are raising around a million dollars,” Marie NIELSEN also believes it “could also be quite interesting to offer a similar type platform for start-ups that are raising smaller tickets,therefore, [creating] a meeting point for investors who are interested in early-stage start-ups."
The next session of Africa Next will take place on October 8. With a now wider community, but still with the same ambition: financing innovation and African growth.