BusinessDay

Ingressive For Good: Accelerating growth in African tech industry

After raising more than $3 billion last year, it was obvious that African startups could have an extraordinary year in 2021.

Due to a global boom in venture capital activity, Nigeria became the first African country to single-handedly cross the billion-dollar mark, with mega-investors such as Tiger Global and SoftBank choosing to invest in the country.

Five Nigerian startups operating in the technology space have raised a combined amount of $78million in the first 38 days of 2022, and Nigeria currently remains the biggest beneficiary of seed rounds and other venture capital secured in the continent.

But while Nigeria’s startup ecosystem has the highest number of startups, it ranks 6th overall in Africa. Out of over $4 billion investments that have come into Africa in the past two years, Nigeria’s 750 startups only captured $61.5 million.

Many experts in the ecosystem have attributed this to regulatory inconsistencies, infrastructural deficits, and low human capital & tech talents base.

With a population of 200 million, mostly youthful and increasingly digital-savvy, and a high unemployment rate, competition has further ramped up across many industries as big banks and blue chip corporations continue to digitize their operations and scrabble after young tech talents.

The backdrop to the talent issue is a booming sector with daily headlines in the local tech media about multimillion-dollar fund raises and unicorn valuations.

Eghosa Omoigui, managing general partner for EchoVC, described the issue as a shortage of ‘block and tackle’ management talent, including everything from general administrative roles to product managers.

“The more experienced managers at big corporations have a risk aversion to joining startups,” he said in a statement.

Read also: “The Potential of Fintech Investments is Limitless” – Dr. Yasam Ayavefe

To change this narrative and ensure that Nigerian tech startups are not just raising venture capital but also the required tech skills to drive innovation and address societal problems, Ingressive for Good is an ed-tech non-profit is equipping young Africans with tech skills by deploying micro-scholarships, technical training, and job placements.

Blessing Abeng, the co-founder and director of communications of Ingressive For Good, explains that it is overwhelming to think of building a solution and getting millions of people to adopt it.

“But if you focus on the ‘one’ person that has the problem you’re solving, you’d soon find out that one can become one million.”

Along with co-founders Maya Horgan Famodu and Sean Burrowes, the initiative has recorded significant impact in its strides to connect African talents to opportunities.

Ingressive for Good raised an $80,000 seed donation from a single donor to start their pilot program. Since then, the initiative has recorded top participation in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana and Benin.

It has trained over 82,000 African youths, awarded more than $70,000 in scholarships and placed qualified candidates in more than 1000 tech jobs. However, it wasn’t a walk in the park for her or the firm.

“When we started, we didn’t have the money, and we needed donations. Since it is a non-profit, it was difficult to get people to sponsor us, especially in the thick of COVID lockdown when there was a lot of financial uncertainty” Abeng said. This month, it announced a $250,000 donation from tech giant, Google.

“We had to create a minimum viable product – a pilot program that could convince people that we knew what we were doing.”

In that pilot program, Ingressive for Good trained over 10,000 people and partnered with Coursera, providing scholarships for 5,000 Africans to have access to the platform to learn tech skills and personal development skills all valued at over $2 million.

The initial target was to get at least half of those licences used by the public, but over 12,000 people applied for the Coursera opportunity.

“We had to screen rigorously to select beneficiaries,” Abeng said. “At that moment, it became clear that there were many more people that needed what we had to offer.”

This year, the foundation has revealed its series of partners – the African Women in Design Scholarship with the Geneza School of Design to train 1,000 women across over 80 countries; a partnership with the Zuri Training to train more than 100,000 African youths in software development and another partnership with Datacamp to train thousands of African youths in data science and analytics.

These scholarships are laudable. But it goes beyond acquiring online certificates, but transitioning young talents into positions that will allow them to apply their creativity and inspire their communities.

According to Sean Burrowes, cofounder and COO, Ingressive For Good, “We learned that training for training’s sake is neither engaging nor sustainable when people have real needs today. African youths can’t eat online course links or spend certificates.”

The foundation has an ambitious five-year plan to train 1 million youths with tech skills, disburse $1 million in micro-scholarships, and place at least 5,000 of its trained youths in jobs.

It also aims to be a go-to resource for key insights and data on human tech resources in Africa, leveraging its expansive work and research in the ecosystem.

So, while Africa continues to record steady progress in the global tech market, it also has to benefit from a winning combination of a young, tech-savvy population and the high-cost effectiveness of investing on the continent.

Consequently, the industry can become truly diverse, representative and exciting.

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