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Dakar Network Angels launches, makes Coliba its first investment

Dakar Network Angels (DNA) has launched to back tech startups in Francophone Africa, and made Ivory Coast waste collection and management startup Coliba its first portfolio company.

Dakar Network Angels is an angel investing group comprised of 31 members across four continents, who are either investment professionals or industry experts willing to invest their money, time, experience and networks in enabling promising entrepreneurs to grow.

To become a member of the DNA, individuals must commit to investing a minimum of US$10,000 per year, and corporates US$30,000. In the first year, it aims to invest up to US$320,000 into four startups.

“All members are hands-on and involved in the investment decision-making, and the monitoring of investees. We’ve also set-up a board of five people to run and coordinate the group activities,” said DNA founder Marième Diop, who works for Orange Digital Ventures.

“Once we invest in a company, we will assist the latter to get the fundamental basics in place to scale quickly, become sustainable and/or fundable, leveraging our network resources.”

The group has already made its first investment, sinking US$25,000 into Ivory Coast-based Coliba, a waste management web and mobile application that connects households and businesses with affiliated plastic waste collectors.

“We received good quality applications for the first cohort and it was difficult for us to choose. After a selective process, our members voted for Coliba because of it is a social enterprise leveraging technology to solve two major pain points in Africa – big amounts of waste uncollected, and lack of concrete actions taken by those who pollute the most,” said Diop.

DNA is actively seeking investment opportunities in tech or tech-enabled companies solving real African problems and with significant market opportunities. They should ideally have the ability to expand to multiple countries. It is not focused simply on Dakar, or even Senegal, but rather the whole of Francophone Africa.

Diop explained to Disrupt Africa why she decided to start an angel fund for Francophone entrepreneurs.

“I’ve been investing for two years now with a fund based in Francophone Africa, but haven’t invested in any Francophone startups yet. The problem is the lack of investable companies, which is common to most Francophone countries,” she said.

This is coupled with the lack of funds targeting French-speaking African countries, an issue Diop wanted to partially address.

“I just realised that if nothing was done, this situation would never change because the lack of local investment funds and formal business angels networks that are able to address the needs of seed-stage startups could hinder the rise of digital technology in Africa,” she said.

“With the DNA, we want to leverage our network to bring business support resources and services as much as we can to help our investees build a foundation for growth.”

In general, local investor money is vital for African startup ecosystems.

“Look at how angel networks have impacted more mature ecosystems like Kenya and South Africa. Today, 60 per cent of SMEs in Senegal would die at the end of the first year of launch because of the lack of funding opportunities,” said Diop.

“Like a husband to his wife, beyond capital, our entrepreneurs need mentors that will listen with attentive ear and help them make the right decisions, investors that will guide them through the process of fundraising, industry experts that will share valuable advice, support and connections for scaling, and government sponsors who understand their difficulties and put in place the right incentives to improve the ease of doing business in Francophone countries.”

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