Last week’s essay was our most popular yet – thanks so all who have read and shared. The Flip has been a beneficiary of the Big Chief Growth Hack™️. Simply launch a podcast, ask Victor Asemota to do an interview, write about some insights he shared, and compel him to tweet about it. Boom.
So, I want to take this opportunity to welcome our new subscribers – there’s a lot of you this week, and for that I’m grateful – and to take a moment to reflect on what we’re trying to achieve here with The Flip.
The name The Flip comes from our desire to “flip the script” – to explore more contextually relevant and non-derivative insights from across the continent and to challenge the ubiquity and applicability of Silicon Valley thought leadership. There’s a lot of misconceptions and, in my view, a lot better stories to tell.
But I don’t mean to purport that I’m the one to tell better stories. I started The Flip simply because my Western lens did not suit me well in a new environment, and I needed to learn. Very un-American for me to admit that I don’t know how to fix Africa, I know.
Crucially, I wanted to learn from the experts themselves, those who are doing the work, and who are changing the status quo in Africa. And I believed that in aggregating and disseminating these insights, the lessons I was learning may be of value to others in the ecosystem, as well.
After over a year of work – 80+ podcast interviews, tens of thousands of words written, and a real-life audience that’s actually listening to and reading what we’re sharing, I’m feeling pensive. Are we achieving what we set out to achieve?
I’m inspired, in part, by The Flip interviewee and friend of the pod Osarumen Osamuyi, whose publication The Subtext laid the foundation for guys like me to learn in public. Upon launching, Osarumen published The Subtext Manifesto, where he wrote,
It has become fashionable to say that African markets are ‘special’, and that ideas imported from Silicon Valley or other more developed tech ecosystems cannot work here. Is that really true? If it is, then what ideas work instead?
Two years later, that is still the question.
While many questions about the ecosystem, I presume, will remain open for quite some time, I think it’s useful – both for me, the content creator, and for you, the reader – for us, The Flip, to put forth our hypotheses and our worldview (albeit biased) that guides the question we ask and the content we create.
Victor, in our recent interview for an upcoming episode of The Flip podcast, told me a quote, “Ambiguity is always interpreted negatively”. So, here’s what we believe at this point in time. We hope to leave no ambiguity.
As you read through, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Agree? Disagree? What did we leave out? Let’s discuss on Twitter!
Here are our assertions. We expect this to be an ever-evolving worldview, continuing to shift as we speak to and learn from more entrepreneurs with insights that will compel us to adapt our mental models.
- Every company will become a fintech company. We believe that the biggest opportunity for financial inclusion on the continent is through embedded finance – that is, startups operating in non-financial sectors leveraging their data and customer relationships to offer financial services above and beyond their core value proposition.
- The pre-occupation with mobile connectivity and price, while relevant, is overstated. In sub-Saharan Africa, 46% of those that are covered by the Internet do not use it. While price is surely a factor, people will pay for what is useful.
- We should be learning more from other emerging markets – China, South Asia and Latin America – and less from Silicon Valley. The conditions in the aforementioned markets are more similar to and relevant for African markets. With that being said and for the same reason, we also believe that we will see more South Asian and Latin American startups looking to Africa for expansion in the next few years, as we’ve increasingly seen with Paga and Migo expanding to Mexico and Brazil, respectively.
- At the same time, we’re also grossly underselling the opportunity and applicability of innovations built in Africa. Japanese investors, for example, have been explicit in how they look at the continent for innovations to bring back to Japanese corporates and are putting their money where their mouths are.
- We are anti-the fundraising PR hype machine. The funding story shouldn’t merely be about funding. On this topic, we’re more interested in other fundraising models that may work well, or even better, for this ecosystem – things like talent investing, revenue-based financing, LP subscription models, and more.
- We need to figure out how to convert intrigue from outside of the ecosystem into meaningful activity. But this requires painting a realistic picture of the ecosystem. The pan-African narrative and the 1.2 billion population number, while intriguing, does not accurately represent the realities on the ground.
- We’re not impartial – we have an agenda. My Executive Producer and b-mic Sayo feels particularly strong about this one – “Our agenda is not around favor and patronage but to drive a narrative owned by practitioners and revolving around them. We are committed to high-quality production and editorial with the express intent of creating a dynamic archive of and for the ecosystem lest we be “discovered” after the fact.”
We’ll continue to update our worldview as we learn more from those doing the work around the continent, and as you, our readers and listeners, hold us accountable to what we believe. Thanks in advance for doing so!