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.
Darlyn Okojie on entrepreneurship and building Memo Africa
Darlyn Okojie is a serial entrepreneur and business expansion expert. As the Co-Founder & COO of Memo Africa, Darlyn is responsible for the day to day operation process while building a team to create a Tech solution to People Management. She founded Memo Africa with Ademola Koledoye to create memorable moments across the world. Darlyn Okojie has a past experience of building a business spanning three countries, raising capital and ensuring that the word about the service reaches the right audience. Her First Business, Rugs and Floors Africa, currently operates in three countries, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Darlyn speaks on her entrepreneurship journey and vision is to make Memo Africa the go-to automated system for People Manager: “Future of Memo Africa”. Excerpts.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about your background?
Darlyn: I spent the early part of my childhood up till my youth in Benin City. I attended all levels of education down to university where I studied Accounting at the University of Benin. My upbringing has made me extremely loyal to my city. After I completed my higher education in 2014, I got my first ever job at Lamudi (Popularly Known as Jumia House) in 2015. While at Lamudi, I worked as a key account manager in an online marketplace firm. A year later, I moved to Cars45 to spearhead the company’s efforts in building and maintaining relationships with strategic partners. Throughout my career, I have been involved in various aspects of people management, even through running Rugs and Floors from January 2020. At the moment, I’m focused on building Memo Africa.
Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and the problems you plan to solve?
Darlyn: An impactful model to me is my father. I didn’t realise he had that effect on my entrepreneurship life until I looked back on how much I have been able to achieve career-wise. He showed me the only way to gain success is through hard work and dedication. His tenacity and energy in delivering is extraordinary. There have been countless times where I’ve found myself wondering how he gets the energy to go even through obstacles. A quote from a book by Shakespeare, Macbeth, pops into my head whenever I think about my dad. “I am tied to a stake I cannot fly, but bear-like I must fight the cause.”
The life of an entrepreneur is quite fast-paced, there’s no time for breaks and no option to quit, you just have to keep going. It reminds me of something my mum always says, “Person, nor dey Live life go back”. Good or bad we need to keep moving forward in life or in business. I believe my motivation stems from the ability to keep going and building.
Alaba: Memo Africa is one of the startups you co-founded, what sparked the interest? How does the platform work and who are your target audience?
Darlyn: Memo Africa was birthed by various challenges both my co-founder and I faced throughout our work life. From my first job to my current ventures, I have seen how people managers handle welfare related issues in organizations and it inspired me to create a solution that makes their work seamless. We notice that people struggle to remember important dates when it comes to the lives of their employees and it is key because it makes the employees feel valued and appreciated. But dates like birthdays, onboarding and orientation processes, sendforths, and many others dates are lost in transition.
Memo Africa is a simple solution that people managers can use to automate welfare packages to be delivered to both remote and on-site teams across the world. We believe this technology solution will boost business productivity as the team members feel motivated and cared for while saving people managers time to focus on more critical issues.
Alaba: Since you launched, what are the challenges and successes?
Darlyn: It would be best if we start with the positive aspect of the business, the success. At the moment, we have acquired clients both from Nigeria and Ghana, and signed three companies into our system. We have achieved these while facing various economical challenges like Inflation, exchange rate and cross-border payments issues.
I also noticed that small business owners and other entrepreneurs face these challenges which is why I recently started recording my journey on my Medium account.
Alaba: What’s the future of people management? Do you see Memo Africa as part of the future?
Darlyn: The future is Tech! The world is evolving to become digital and automated. It is important to ensure that regardless of where people work from, they are treated with the same respect and dignity as they would be if they were working from a traditional office space. Memo Africa is the technology solution born to connect the people in an organization through our automated management system of celebrating them. Staying connected to and creating memorable moments for your team is the best way to keep them motivated while working.
Alaba: Where do you see Memo Africa in the next 5 years in terms of market and expansion?
Darlyn: We have a large vision set for Memo Africa and are ready to take the action to grow and scale up the Tech StartUp. Currently, our most viable product which is our website is up and running. We are planning on developing the Mobile App version to increase the accessibility and personalisation of the system. We expect to become the go-to platform for all people’s welfare across Africa and in the world. Our tentacles are set to expand into many African countries. We are open to acquiring more clients, partners and Investors.
Alaba: What fuels your passion and how do you relax?
Darlyn: Aside from the rush of the non-stop cycle of developing businesses, I find myself passionate about finding and implementing solutions to create value in people’s lives. You can find me locked on Netflix to unwind after a busy day or exploring the different countries in the world.
Alaba: Lastly, your advice to young women who want to launch into entrepreneurship?
Darlyn: My number one advice to young women who are launching or building their business is that your key to success lies within you. Everything you need to succeed is in you, your thoughts and action shapes your future. As long as you can think it, you can absolutely do it. You need to study and understand your potential, strength, weaknesses and limits. I believe self awareness is the most powerful tool to achieve anything in the world.
I would also say you shouldn’t believe you can only grow & scale up alone, it’s okay to have mentors and role models. These people have walked the mile. All you need to do is find someone who has successfully crossed the path you are hoping to pass. You would be surprised by the number of people ready to guide you or refer you to the next life challenger.
Eno Eka: Creating Her Dream Life in Canada
Eno Eka is a business analyst and consultant based in Calgary, Alberta. An award-winning career coach and keynote speaker who has been recognized for helping more than 100,000 professionals in 90+ countries kick start their professional careers. She is a business analysis content developer and course instructor at the University of Manitoba. Eno is the CEO of Eny Consulting Inc. and the Founder of Business Analysis School.
In 4 years of arriving in Canada, Eno has touched the lives of thousands of immigrants in Canada. She has curated mentorship and coaching programs for immigrants to Canada which have sought her recognition and awards globally. Eno is an embodiment of service as she volunteers with several non-profit organizations to help immigrants to Canada integrate successfully and become gainfully employed.
Eno volunteers as a mentor with Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) and sits on the Board of the IIBA Calgary Chapter as Director of Education. She also volunteers at the Calgary Drop-in Centre and Calgary Dream Centre. She is a Giving Back Sponsor for the Women in Need Society (WINS). Eno Eka is the host of the Livestream Podcast, Fireside Chat With Eno where she shares valuable insights on job search tips and strategies for new immigrants.
Her awards and achievements include:
- Forbes 30 under 30 nominees 2020, Education Category.
- Alberta Top 30 under 30 recipients 2021.
- Calgary Top 40 under 40 nominees 2019 and 2020.
- Universal Women’s Network, Winner 2019 Award for Mentorship.
- RBC Women of Influence 2020 Award Recipient.
- Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada 2020 Award Recipient.
- Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 award Nominee 2020 and 2022.
- RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards Nominee 2020.
- Alberta Women Entrepreneurs Nominee 2021.
- Immigrants of Distinction Awards Nominee Finalist 2021.
- 2020 Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Prize Nominee.
- Top 8 Female Business Analysis Influencers To Watch in 2021-Globally Recognized & Featured by the IIBA.
- Women of Impact Awards Nominee 2022.
- Women Empowerment Awards Nominee 2022.
- Campaign Ambassador for the United Nations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
- Host of the Global Business Analyst Online Meetup.
- IIBA Global Corporate Member.
- IIBA Endorsed Education Provider for all IIBA certifications.
- Authorized Training Partner for Agile & Scrum through ScrumStudy
Oumnia Boualam is helping African and Arab Women “do business better”
Moroccan Oumnia Boualam is an experienced Business Growth Expert and the Managing Director at Brussels Global Review (BGR). She helps Arab and African female entrepreneurs and coaches get clarity, build a personal brand and grow a successful business online. Currently, Oumnia oversees several advisory reports on key economic trends in the Middle East and Africa, helping businesses and investors get key information for their decision making process. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Oumnia Boualam talks about her corporate experience and her passion for Arab and African female entrepreneurs. Excerpt.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about yourself and Brussels Global Review?
Oumnia: Growing up I was very shy and introverted. I never felt comfortable socialising and even dreaded going to school in Morocco (which is where I am from). That completely changed once I moved abroad at 18 to study then work in international sales and marketing. I used to work for a very demanding company selling High Ticket advertising in Emerging Countries. This meant I had to live in various countries (9 in total) and conduct on average 300 meetings per year. While this was an exhausting job, It allowed me to learn how to become adaptable and sociable in the business environment. When the pandemic started I decided to move away from this environment and start building my own business focusing on Sustainable Development and helping Africans and Arabs “do business better”.
I moved to Brussels and co-founded Brussels Global Review. We produce Sustainability reports on the MEA region for an audience of EU decision makers (here in Brussels). In parallel we have 2 signature online programs designed to help African and Arab professionals develop their digital skills, communication and confidence.
Alaba: Could you briefly share some of your experience as a corporate leader, your highs and lows?
Oumnia: Highs: Being able to see how many people I help through my social media content. Lows: Having to deal with toxic corporate culture, lack of support and judgments as a young African, woman entrepreneur.
Alaba: What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Oumnia: I am most proud of the program I have created: The Digital Boss Academy. It’s going to help so many young professionals in Africa and the Middle East to leverage the digital economy to earn more.
Alaba: What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
Oumnia: I wouldn’t call it a strategy but more of a personality trait: Curiosity. Being curious and not always following outdated methods and strategies just because that’s what is being said or that’s the way it’s being done. I also strongly believe in learning from life experience rather than having prestigious degrees and that is a crucial skill in Business.
Alaba: Can you share your thoughts on Gender Inclusion in Africa and the Arab entrepreneurship ecosystem?
Oumnia: Not enough is being done to change the mindsets. There can be new regulations, new programs and so on. But if the mindsets of both men and women don’t change in terms of really considering equal opportunities for both genders then we will make very slow progress. Women are still expected to have kids and get married before having a career in our society. Some women founders are being asked what will happen to their business once they start a family. We also don’t have enough success stories to inspire and empower women to follow their dreams.
Alaba: Kindly walk us through a typical day as an entrepreneur and how do you relax?
Oumnia: Every day is different for me because I tend to get bored with routine activities. But one thing remains the same every single day from 06.00am to 09.00am I write and create content. This is the time of the day my brain is most active and also as a natural introvert I feel much more comfortable when things are quiet so I can be deeply focused.
Alaba: What advice would you give to any woman who wants to launch into entrepreneurship?
Oumnia: Starting a business is not as hard as you think if you’re willing to learn. The hard part is to overcome your fear and mindset blocks. That requires a lot of personal development work and it’s not comfortable to go through it.