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jose-carlos-dos-santos

Startup Grind to host first event in Angola

Angolan entrepreneurs will get access to regular entrepreneurship talks and information when global entrepreneurship meetup group Startup Grind kicks off its first event in Luanda next month.

The event, which will be held on 5 July at the Belas conference centre in Luanda, will feature agribusiness specialist Marcia Gomes, who will talk on soil quality and the tech behind agriculture.

Founder of entrepreneurship news site Acelera Angola and the head of Startup Grind Luanda Jose Carlos dos Santos told Ventureburn that he expects about 50 people to attend the first event.

In November last year Santos helped organise the first official events Angola has held under the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Dos Santos said since 2015 the country has seen a significant increase in initiatives and events focused on entrepreneurship. “Not only in quantity, but with a much more concrete output and greater exposure to various market players,” he added.

Compared to countries such as South Africa, Portugal or Brazil he said entrepreneurship in Angola is still at a nascent stage, with the government only really beginning to focus on entrepreneurship in the last decade.

Angolan entrepreneurs face various challenges such as a shortage of skills and training, significant red tape, the closed market and high corruption.

Dos Santos said the civil war between 1975 and 2002 destroyed the country’s infrastructures, left tens of thousands dead and lead to a large part of the population emigrating.

“We can say that our emergence as a powerhouse has only now begun and a lot has to be done in regulating all the missed opportunities and the market that is emerging for several areas,” he said.

‘Our emergence as a powerhouse has only now begun, and a lot has to be done in regulating all missed opportunities’

He credited the government in investing heavily in higher education of certain Angolans who had the opportunity to receive scholarships in countries such as the US, South Africa, Cuba, Portugal and England, adding that those who had access to such opportunities have been the initial “catalysts of change”.

He said the startup scene is concentrated only in the capital Luanda. Presently the scene consists of one business accelerator and four venture capital funds (including the state-owned Facra). He added however that the country is expected to soon get its first business angel association.

Angola currently has just 12,000 registered small businesses, he said according to sources, assigned to the National Institute of Support to Small and Medium Enterprises (Inapem).

He mentioned some local startups that have shown some promise of late. These, he said, include:

  • Habitec — a startup which made it into the final of Chivas Regal’s The Venture and uses eucalyptus trees to produce desks, chairs and other wooden fittings for schools.
  • Wi-Connect — which provides free WiFi and was last year the winner of the local country’s Seedstars World competition.
  • Three Angolan entrepreneurs selected by Total in their Total Year Startupper challenge. These are: Mtume de Lemos of Projecto SoftTechnologies, Lopo Santos of Twendy Project (a national tourism company) and Eugenio Soares of Project Arrived at My Turn.

 

The Angolan economy has slowed in recent years. It grew at just 1.1% in 2016, according to the Africa Economic Outlook’s recent forecast. In January the World Bank forecast growth of 1.2% in 2017, this after experiencing years of rapid growth, touching 6.8% in 2013.

But Dos Santos said he sees a lot of opportunities and adds that a lot of startups have started in recent years. While the country for years has depended on imports and oil to drive the economy, he believes things are changing, with more SMEs seeking to develop local services and deliveries.

He said Angola Cables is set to this year launch the country’s first submarine cable and unveil one of the largest data centres in the region. In addition the country’s first satellite — Angosat — is expected to be completed next month. It will make Angola only the fourth country in Africa to launch its own satellite, he added.