Only God Can Judge Me

*Tupac voice*

Mark Karake
Aug 28 · 3 min read

Africa’s startup ecosystem has a diversity problem. Believe it or not this is a snapshot of the entrepreneurs getting funded in Africa.

Image sourced from a tweet sent by an individual who happens to be a white male, living in London whose salaried job is to, believe it or not, judge African startups for grant funding. The tweet was adoringly accented by one of those blond haired emoji’s behind a laptop. I mean how tone deaf can a supposed educated human being be?

What does this mean? Is Africa utterly incapable of producing homegrown entrepreneurs capable of co-founding investable startups? Well, in case you are wondering here are a few. You can listen to their stories on the Chini ya Maji podcast

While Silicon Valley fights her diversity wars, we in Africa’s tech ecosystem are facing similar challenges but much less equipped to fight back. African’s have been socialized to be deathly afraid of voicing anything that challenges white might and right.

Capital in Africa favours white founders. This has been studied and documented by many diverse voices including:

Why this matters?

Over the next 10 years whoever gets to build and own Africa’s tech companies will be ascribed a leadership mantle and be expected to influence the continents civic and political future.

It is crucial that this be individuals with real skin in the game in the continent’s future and not those with a back door to a comfortable sub-urban life if and when it suites their fancy, which is already happening for some folks in said image.

For those who can grasp what is happening startups in Africa are not just a career enhancing move or individual self enrichment opportunity. They are vehicles of transformation across key dimensions and we simply cannot afford to let history repeat itself.

African’s are the ones who will build Africa. No one else will because it is simply not in their interest to do so.

What are we doing about it?

I founded Impact Africa Network as an ecosystem catalytic startup studio whose mission is to ensure young local talent in Nairobi can access the digital transformation opportunity in Africa as creators and owners and not just as consumers. We are structured as a non-profit registered in Kenya and the US.

Personal Skin in The Game

I have personally invested over $500K and two years of my life into this mission. Divesting of real estate and land to redirect those proceeds to funding this, moves that most people would consider insane. But I know somethings most people don’t know.

After a 15 year career in Silicon Valley I am under no illusions as to the urgency and importance of acting now and doing so decisively. I have had a front row seat to observe the speed and power of tech as well as the exclusionary bias that seems to come as part if the package with the industry.

Power concentrates and pattern recognition dynamics are difficult detect and unravel. This is why ALL Bay Area companies are right now scrambling to fill newly minted Diversity & Inclusion positions with the obligatory minority female.

Today is the only opportunity we have to influence and shape the future we want to see. Tomorrow will be too late. Tech moves too fast.

And please do not send us congratulatory comments on how important the work we are doing is. If I had a shekel for every time someone offered such a comment we would be well on our way to our fundraising targets. If you are sincere about it you can make a contribution here.

But, if you are really bout it bout it you could join our peer to peer fundraising campaign to drive awareness and raise some funds through your network. Share what care about with the people you know.

Gloves is OFF! I am dying on this hill.

Impact Africa Network, Inc., a US 501(c)3 public charity, EIN 83–2020331

Mark Karake

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