Bantaba co-founder and CEO, Lamin Darboe (Images: Supplied)
Bantaba is a digital matchmaking platform that allows African tech start-ups to access knowledge and capital from the diaspora community. The company was founded in July 2021, by a talented group of African diaspora. The mission is to empower Africa’s startup ecosystem using resources from the diaspora.
Lamin Darboe is the co-founder and CEO. Originally from Gambia with a background in finance, consulting and venture capital. While the other executives, Fabrice Ouedraogo (CTO) and Noufay Kafando (CPO) are from Burkina Faso. Fabrice has a background in computer science and cloud computing. While Noufay has a background in Engineering and management. The startup is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. But has a global workspace with employees based in Kenya, Germany, France, Taiwan.
Alaba: For those who don’t know, how does the Bantaba platform work?
Lamin: Bantaba is community-based platform that brings African tech startups and diaspora professionals & investors together to bridge the gap between global knowledge, capital and Africa’s startup ecosystem.
On one hand, African tech startups can create a pitch of their product or services and disclose their business needs on the platform. Diaspora professionals and investors, on the other hand, can create a profile showcasing their skills, experience and as well as their interest in the African tech ecosystem.
The platform then uses the information provided to match startups with diasporas in the community that are in a position to add value to them and vice-versa. Once there is a match, Bantaba’s in-platform messaging feature can be used for communication.
As an example, a tech startup in Nigeria who is looking for someone with experience in capital raising will be matched with James, a diaspora professional in Finland who has spent years working at VC firms in Finland.
In addition to connecting Startups with diaspora, Bantaba also creates a space where startups can share their journey with the diaspora community making it possible for the startups to create awareness around their ventures and build valuable networks.
Alaba: What’s so special about Bantaba and how have you attracted users and grown the platform till date?
Lamin: What makes Bantaba special is its community. It brings African tech startups closer to capital and resources by creating a global network. That’s not all, our model democratises access to network, knowledge and capital which makes it possible for more startups to access valuable resources. On the diaspora end, the platform finally gives millions of knowledgeable and wealthy Africans living abroad the ability to help the African continent grow. They can now support disruptive startups and also diversify investments by accessing a wider pool of startup investment opportunities.
Bantaba builds a solution for Africa, by harnessing African resources. It is championing a paradigm shift from the focus on remittance to investment in productive sectors of the African continent. Currently, Bantaba has over 500 diaspora and startup users on its platform, and this number is poised to significantly grow with the deployment of a new version of the platform.
Alaba: What have been the biggest challenges and successes in building the platform till date?
Lamin: The biggest challenge has been finding the right tech talent for the team. It’s not unexpected as the demand for tech talent has been skyrocketing since the pandemic. The fact that we are a young company makes it often difficult to compete with offers from big corporations.
However, the team is growing gradually, working together to achieve our mission of empowering Africa’s startup ecosystem. Since our beta launch, we have raised about $500,000 in funding, and been selected to join SSE Business Labs. One the biggest innovation hubs in Sweden. We were also among the 10 finalists at the 2021 Shift Capital Competition, which started with over 250 Swedish tech startups.
Alaba: African startups have been attracting a lot of VC funds lately. Why do you think so many investors are taking interest in this vertical? What do you think has changed recently?
Lamin: The potential in Africa has always been there. It has extensive resources, a young and increasingly educated workforce, and huge prospects for economic growth. However, until recent years it was largely untapped. The success of startups like Jumia, Andela and most recently Paystack in the ecosystem has significantly changed the perception of investors.
Similarly, the pandemic’s role in opening businesses globally has created new opportunities in e-commerce, work, spending money, online delivery, and learning. Now, VCs are vying for a piece of the African market. No one wants to be left out, so I think African VC funding will keep rising.
Alaba: How does it feel as African innovators making an impact in the Diaspora?
Lamin: We believe in the catalytic power of the African diaspora. And the passion of young African entrepreneurs and innovators looking to change/improve their communities with innovative solutions and digital technologies for green and inclusive development. Our digital platform gives them a helping hand by bringing them together to achieve the goal of a better Africa.
Alaba: What are Bantaba’s expansion plans in terms of product, tech & markets in the next 5 years?
Lamin: In terms of market, we started with leading African countries with well-established startup ecosystems like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Ghana. However, any startup on the continent is welcome to join our community. And access the available resources.
Our vision is to become the link between global capital and Africa’s startup ecosystem. Starting with the diaspora community, we want to enable African startups to have equal opportunity to capital. Like their peers in other parts of the world, and we want our platform to be the leading platform in the next 5 years to facilitate that active engagement. And collaboration between African startups and the diaspora community.
Alaba: Finally, what piece of advice would you give to budding African entrepreneurs both in the continent and Diaspora?
Lamin: Fear of failure doesn’t help anything grow. It is important to believe in yourself and never give up. By truly believing in what you are doing especially if it has a positive impact on your community. You can achieve a lot. That’s what will keep you going forward and during hard times. There will always be challenging times, and you can overcome them by believing in what you are doing.
Secondly, the road to startup success is not linear. Being flexible as an entrepreneur is important. When building something, you will get a lot of feedback. And they are always nice to receive, but sometimes difficult to implement. At the times when what you are doing does not reflect the market. Take a step back and readjust your strategy to fit it. That’s the only way to survive and grow.
Maelle CABARRUS: The Creator Of The A LA FOLIE
Maelle CABARRUS is a hair coach and hair youtuber since 2010. She is the founder of À La Folie, a research company on textured hair, beauty and self-esteem coaching for black and mixed-race women. Maelle started researching frizzy hair extensively pretty quickly, from the moment she became a youtuber. Her goal is to always better understand textured hair and to provide women with this texture with the tools, keys and methodologies to enhance their hair, themselves and restore the bit of self-esteem.
Her motivation didn’t just come from a desire to share and make the best videos possible. It was also, and in large part, a determination on my part to have the longest, most beautiful hair possible. Kind of like a revenge on life, or a slightly childish attempt, to repair all the anger and resentment she had built up towards my hair.
“I want black women to love their hair and think they look beautiful with it. I want wigs and weaves to be for us first and foremost a means of fantasy, not a default option every other month to “take a break”. I want our hair to be “natural” for us. That wearing them is obvious and natural, that it flows naturally, without any fuss”. says Maelle CABARRUS Founder À La Folie
À La Folie have supported more than 3,500 women in our online programs and served a clientele of more than 8,000 people through our various ebooks and coaching services.
Oumy Saran Keita: Eco-friendly African Artist
Oumy Saran Keita is a Senegalese entrepreneur with a passion for African art. In 2021, she decided to step out of her comfort zone to launch a project that was close to her heart, Kalifa design. A brand that specializes in the design of handmade art objects, with recycled materials.
Having been fortunate enough to grow up with a father who was a visual artist, she has always had a rather special relationship with art. In December 2019, tired of the cold of Paris, she decided to make her first lamp sketches, to give more warmth to the decoration of her office. A dozen sketches were made from it, carefully preserved.
3 years later, back in Senegal, she launched Kalifa Design, an eco-responsible interior design brand offering products designed mainly with recycled materials. All items are handmade and made in Senegal. The name “Kalifa”, which means heritage, symbolises his entire project. The logo features an outstretched hand towards a symbol used by the Adinkra, a West African people.
Oumy Saran Keita uses recycled materials to make papier-mâché which is the basis of all lighting fixtures and works with local artisans to create wooden plates, mirrors, storage boxes and textiles. Kalifa has allowed her to return to the things that are essential to her balance: painting, sculpture and drawing.
Lamine Ndiaye: Promoting Senegalese Art
Lamine Ndiaye, a young entrepreneur of Senegalese origin who is passionate about fashion. A costume designer in audiovisual production, Lamine is the founder of the Yelloow brand, which specializes in the design and sale of 100% African bags. A great defender of local consumption and his goal is to promote all that Senegal has to offer in the field of art and creation. Since Lamine was a child, he has been passionate about fashion. It is therefore quite natural that he chose to undertake this field, while seeking to stand out from the others. For him, entrepreneurship is a factor of development.
Yellow is a brand that offers accessories such as backpacks, travel bags, shoes, computer bags, fanny packs, handbags etc. To successfully promote local consumption, Yellow brings out the originality and quality of its products by using very stylish, colorful and rare African raw materials such as wax, woodin, or upholstery fabrics patched with leather or suede, which makes the products chic and stylish with sustainable use.
Yellow aims to be a brand committed to showcasing African potential in all its artistic variations. The know-how of an Africa that restores itself in its dignity and honour through the creativity of the African.