China Africa Tech Initiative events aimed at building investor awareness

China Africa Tech Initiative founder Stephany Zoo (Supplied)
China Africa Tech Initiative founder Stephany Zoo (Supplied)

A year-old initiative which aims to introduce Chinese investors to African tech startups is currently focused on building awareness by running a series of events in China.

The China Africa Tech Initiative (CAT-I) was founded last year by James Da Costa and Stephany Zoo — who is the marketing head of Kenyan fintech BitPesa and Africa director at She Loves Tech.

“Currently we’re focused on community building and generating awareness through a series of events in China,” Zoo (pictured above) told Ventureburn this week.

Tomorrow (19 May) the initiative will host its inaugural China Africa Stories: A New Chapter in Youth Engagement in Beijing, she said.

The China Africa Tech Initiative is focused on community building and generating awareness through a series of events in China

The initiative has also opened applications for its inaugural China African entrepreneur-matching programme, which it will run later this year.

In addition, there are plans to bring one East African entrepreneur for a two week immersion trip to China through the She Loves Tech competition on 14 July in Nairobi, she added.

Over the past few months the initiative has also been running training workshops in Kenya and South Africa, in a bid to educate African entrepreneurs on exactly what working in China entails (see more here).

“Right now we are focusing on a lot of high-touch events, because we know that business is often about relationships on both the Chinese and African side, and we want to be the trust-makers here,” said Zoo.

She added that in November last year the initiative had helped bring 100 international delegates, with representation from 10 different African countries to Hangzhou for the Future Youth Conference.

‘Bringing Chinese, Africans together’

Zoo founded the initiative with Da Costa last year, after having worked and consulted for a number of technology companies in China, before opting to relocate to Africa for what she calls “more of a challenge”.

“I had a number of friends who were peripherally in the space between China and Africa, but they were very disparate, and I really thought there was a need to bring all these Chinese and African stakeholders together,” she said.

The initiative, she said, aims to play a “pivotal” role in facilitating not only high-level mutual understanding between China and Africa, but to also playing an equally important role in creating ties with what she calls Africa’s future — the tech community.

White paper on investment sectors

Zoo said she and her team are busy compiling a whitepaper which it expects to release near the end of this year, on what sectors Chinese investors should look at for tech investments.

Those industries that likely have the greatest potential for investment from China are solar energy, fintech, mobile, and ecommerce, she said.

“Anywhere you can find parallels between China and Africa in terms of development, Chinese investors find opportunities for application of Chinese technology. And that’s where they are most likely to invest,” she pointed out.

In terms of other initiatives in which China is involved in the continent’s tech scene there’s Alibaba’s eFounders programme. Zoo added that as part of She Loves Tech immersion programme, African entrepreneurs will also get the chance to meet with a number of Chinese investors.

When it comes to Chinese-founded tech companies operating on the continent, she lists Pace Headphones which was started by two Chinese and African founders and ecommerce portal Kilimall, which is headquartered in Nairobi and has Chinese investors.

‘Focus on grassroots’

Zoo believes that although there are plenty of big African deals in which Chinese investors are taking part, like MFS Africa’s $4.5-million Series B funding round announced last month, the focus should be on grassroots tech collaborations.

“Those kinds of deals don’t need facilitating. If someone walks into the room with $4.5-million, they can get any meeting they want. There are plenty of big deals happening on the continent, but we want to focus on smaller scale, more grassroots tech collaborations,” she says.

The initiative’s advisors include: Sino-Africa Centre of Excellence founder Isaac Kwaku Fokuo, China House, and Chinese tech consultant Annie Hu, China Africa Podcast founder Eric Olander, and ChinaAfrica Advisory representative Hannah Ryder.

Read more: How MFS Africa made history for African fintechs with $4.5m Chinese-led deal
Read more: Five things I learnt from Jack Ma and why Africa’s tech future is bright
Read more: SA logistics startup Pargo selected to join Alibaba, Unctad training initiative

Daniel Mpala


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