Building New Bridges

Building a sustainable network is always challenging, especially when it’s a large-scale and diverse network that connects two continents and includes stakeholders and entrepreneurs from different sectors.

How do you create a community, meaningful exchange and opportunities that will lead to sustainable partnerships?

Well, we are about to find out!

We started a new program in September of 2021, which internally we lovingly called the little sister of “AsiaBerlin,” but officially the project is called the “AfricaBerlin Network: Connecting Startups and Ecosystems”. The title exactly states what we are doing: shaping a network for entrepreneurs, institutions, organizations and investors, with the goal being to foster economic development and growth and to overcome the hurdles of entering a new market. The regional focus lies on Berlin and startup ecosystems in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

In recent years, countries like Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria and Egypt received more and more attention due to their growing startup ecosystems. Especially in the tech sector, innovative ideas have developed and businesses are blooming. According to a study from 2019, investment in African startups has increased by over 700% since 2015. While impressive, that is just a figure. What’s inspiring is talking to founders and entrepreneurs on the ground, be they from Egypt, Ghana or any other African country. The chance to listen to their ideas, experiences their enthusiasm and engagement, and to see how ideas can be translated into technological change is inspiring. In the first months of the program we participated in online events, pitch sessions and reached out to startups and stakeholders. In each conversation we saw a positive “can-do” attitude and left with the energizing feeling that both the participants’ curiosity and the possibilities for growth were endless. Just think of one of the greatest examples, where the whole African continent basically leapfrogged an entire development stage and came up with a faster, safer and cheaper solution: mobile payments.

On the other side of the bridge is Berlin. A vibrant, international city where more than 500 startups are founded every year. The reason why so many startups are founded each year in Berlin is simple: the city has everything that a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem needs: scientific research, media, universities, events, financial support and businesses eager to expand into new markets and to make new connections. All in all, there is a lot of ambition and many opportunities.

Building an Inclusive and Collective Network

We want to make those ambitions more visible and create sustainable collaborations through the AfricaBerlin Network. The networking program brings together all those actors — makers, innovators, founders, investors and institutions.

We want to build a bridge for everyone, to share knowledge and resources, to exchange and collaborate.

One of the main goals is to foster internationalization and to open new doors for the Berlin startup ecosystem and for the ones in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. We are aiming to do this over the next two years through hybrid events, networking sessions, workshops, delegation trips, hosting a podcast and by participating in conferences and partner events.

While the idea of developing the AfricaBerlin Network is extremely exciting, it is of course challenging. Not only because building a stable bridge requires a lot of planning, solid groundwork and stable pillars, but also because connecting two continents is a geographical challenge. When people speak of “Africa,” they often refer to it as one country, but Africa consists of 54 countries with highly diverse peoples, cultures, businesses and work environments. Hence, what works in South Africa does not necessarily work in Kenya, just like what works in Spain does not work necessarily in Poland.

Only if we are aware of the cultural diversity and different dynamics, even within one country, can we achieve success.

by Carolin Schütz

Project Lead

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