A new African country? 🌐
With over 150 million people..
Welcome to Tech Safari!
Your tour guide on African Tech 🧭
Hello to the 588 new folks who have joined the Safari since Saturday!
If you haven't subscribed, join 4,318 smart folks curious about Tech in Africa.
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Now before we start - when I asked you what you wanted to see more of from Tech Safari, it was Ways to connect with others in African Tech.
So, we’re hosting an event with Afropolitan to explore how you can connect with African Tech communities.
Whether you're in Africa already or just curious about the continent, come along!
Alrighty! Here is the tour plan for today 🧭
- A new African country? 🌐
- Tech Roundup
- Tech Twitter
Let's get this tour started 🦍
Africa’s Secret Weapon
Africa’s diaspora numbers 150 million people. If it were a country, it would be the world’s 10th largest.
African diaspora is a catch-all term for people of African origin living outside the continent.
Whether you were born in Africa but moved for work, or if your grandparents are from Africa continent but you’ve never set foot - you’re a part of Africa’s diaspora.
In 2021, African diaspora sent $49 billion in remittances to the continent. In six African countries, this remittance flow made up over 10% of GDP.
Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Africa’s diaspora being its secret weapon - and the key to change and impact on the continent.
They play a key role in Africa’s development, but I think they would have the same feelings I do about the continent.
Because of poor governance, extractive leaders, systemic colonisation, [Insert your reason here].
This is why the idea of mobilising diaspora is so exciting.
If you could coordinate Africa’s diaspora to work on the continent’s hardest problems - what would happen?
And one step further - if they could recreate governance, financial systems and laws - kind of like a country does.. what would happen?
Today, we'll dive into this thought experiment.
The diaspora has never been fully mobilised, but there is a group of people bringing them together to create a digital country.
A real country, but like, on the internet
Meet Balaji Srinivasan - the former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Coinbase and General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz.
If you could picture ‘big brain’ as a person, Balaji would be the person you see.
And his book, The Network State, is all about how to build a country - online.
Balaji says it's possible to have a country complete with laws, social services, asset protection and a genuinely democratic system of governance in what he calls The Network State.
Here is the one-sentence explainer:
A network state is a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.
Basically, it’s an online community that:
- Has laws, set by its vision and values
- Has physical spaces (ie, real estate)
- Has its own financial systems - like monetary flow, social services and a treasury.
- Is recognised by other countries and institutions.
- And most importantly can actually do things. This last one is key, especially for Africa.
Balaji visualises a network state like this. Decentralised, with citizens from anywhere around the world and connected by a common cause.
As a concept, it makes sense.
When thinking about Africa’s reality versus its potential, it’s exciting.
And one startup is already on its way to bringing this to life.
Afropolitan wants to become a solution to Africa’s stagnation - solving bad governance and mobilising Africans through a digital nation.
Now, the idea of building a nation, complete with its own passport system, treasury and physical spaces might still sound like sci-fi.
It sounded like that to me too.
Then I met Eche, who ran me through Afropolitan’s game plan.
Afropolitan started off throwing parties and events for the African Diaspora in the United States.
Soon, this expanded to helping with Ghana’s Year of Return in 2019 - where over a million returned to the country.
Afropolitan was gearing up for an even bigger 2020, until.. you know.
So they moved online, hosting online events where over 200,000 people would tune in for discussions.
Eche and his co-founder Chika Uwazie realised something - they had a shared purpose with their community, and were connected with them on the internet.
And when Balaji’s article How to Start a New Country was released in April 2021, it seemed like the natural next step for Afropolitan.
So how do you actually start a digital country?
Afropolitan’s plans for a digital nation has four phases:
Phase 1: The Network
Building out a community and a digital nation of Africa’s best talent in every field. They do this through minting NFT ‘Passports’ which grant you citizenship.
The artwork from my @afropolitan passport just revealed!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Trying to find the rest of my tribe, do Afropolitans follow Afropolitans?
Founding Citizen #4
— Ibraheem🧵 (@ibraheemleone)
Dec 16, 2022
Phase 2: Government-as-a-Service
Creating an app that gives citizens tools to engage with Afropolitan and Africa as a whole. Think e-residency in African countries, visa services, buying goods and services and payments.
Phase 3: Minimum Viable State
Becoming recognised as a country - by other countries, and by institutions like the United Nations.
Phase 4: Foundation
The final phase is where Afropolitan ties it all up, and acquires land across the world to create a physical presence. Think of these like an embassy or a ‘Chinatown’ in each major city and country - which you get access to.
So to summarise, being an Afropolitan will let you:
- Navigate the world with the Afropolitan passport
- Make payments for goods and services using the Afropolitan Super app
- Get physical entry into other Afropolitan spaces around the world
And last year Afropolitan raised $2.1 million, bringing in the right people to make this a reality - like Big Brain Balaji himself, Shola (Co-Founder of Paystack) and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (Future Africa).
We are excited to announce our community-led raise of $2.1m in pre-seed capital. @Echecrates@ChikaUwazie
— Afropolitan 🅰️🌶 (@afropolitan)
Jun 20, 2022
So, the question we’re all asking:
Will Afropolitan become a Digital Wakanda or stay a Discord Server?
Afropolitan’s vision might still sound unreal to you. And a lot of people feel that way.
Today, Afropolitan is a digital community with in-person events for Africans and diaspora.
The difference between them staying a Discord Server or becoming a ‘Digital Wakanda’ will be execution and buy-in.
Can Eche and Afropolotan convince Africans that a digital country can work and solve Africa’s biggest problems?
And can they get buy-in from nations around the world?
It’s going to be f*cking hard.
But I think Africa’s diaspora is the continent’s secret weapon. And there is huge potential in mobilising them.
In 2020, Nigeria’s Federal Government blocked funding for the anti-police brutality protests (EndSARS) that rocked the country.
Protest organisers adopted cryptocurrency as a way to sidestep the traditional banks. In Eche’s words ‘the only thing they (Nigerian Government) couldn’t shut down was bitcoin.’
This kept the momentum of the protests going, with major figures such as Jack Dorsey and Beyonce speaking up in support of the movement.
A digital African country could tap into Africa’s brightest minds, biggest voices and their resources to help solve problems like this.
And it’s not something a government can shut down for their own motives.
That’s why I love Afropolitan’s mission.
What do you think of Afropolitan’s vision? Do you think they can bring this to life? Let me know here.
P.S. - Next week we're hosting our Twitter Spaces event with Afropolitan, featuring Eche himself. Join us!
- Flutterwave (Nigerian payments giant) has received payment licenses to operate in Egypt.
- Africa’s share of the entire world’s gas supply could increase by over 11% by 2050 and account for 30% of the continent’s energy supply.
- Bamboo - a Nigerian online stock trading app - receives a broker license to operate in Nigeria’s capital markets.
African startups forget this one lever to scale:
The story that team members, customers & investors buy into can be one of the most productive levers to scale.
Andela did this well in the early days.
Which African startups today are telling a compelling story?
— Jasiel Martin-Odoom (@Jasielinvests)
Feb 11, 2023
1/ Today, almost all prescriptions & med. insurance claims in Egypt are paper-based
So what, you ask?
Well it means long lines at pharmacies, errors w/ prescriptions, long processing times & other issues
There's a lot of friction in pharma for 🇪🇬 patients today
Read on 👇🏽
— Emeka Ajene ✍🏽 (@eajene)
Feb 13, 2023
Congratulations to Tems on her #GRAMMYs Award win for "Best Melodic Rap Performance” category
She becomes the first Nigerian female act to win a Grammy.🕊️🇳🇬💗
— T.U.E (@TheUpperEnt)
Feb 5, 2023
Not tech but shout out to Tems for winning her first Grammy! - and Nigeria's first female act at that.
And that's a wrap!
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Catch you soon!