GoMetro’s Baptiste Boittiaux is a Frenchman in love with SA. Having lived in Paris most of his life, he was recently back in the City of Lights for the Google PitchDrive tour – a high-profile tour of Europe’s biggest cities and biggest investors with Africa’s finest innovators – and he couldn’t wait to get back to Cape Town. Now safely back in the Mother City, he tells us why South Africans don’t realise what they have.
I came to Cape Town for the first time as part of my final internship 3 years ago. I was working at Media24 e-commerce division for a website called ShopGuru – a clone of Groupon that has shut down since then.
I instantly fell in love with the city, the people there and the country in general. I lived between Cape Town and Paris and recently got to settle permanently in the Mother City.
I really believe that Africa is a continent of great challenges with plenty of opportunities to work on, problems to be solved and ideas to be created. Africa is an almost untapped market and that’s what’s very exciting about it.
South Africa and Cape Town in particular is, to me, the best place if you want to be at the very centre of this ecosystem. It is a doorway to the continent and perfectly positioned (both geographically and technologically) if you want to learn about local challenges while getting exposure to ideas and innovations from all over the world.
The opportunity of Africa
Africa has world-class entrepreneurs and innovators solving local challenges with global technologies. I think that Africa needs to position as a global hub for innovation: the continent has all the resources and talents to be at the very centre of worldwide innovations. Every solution that the Google Pitch Drive entrepreneurs built in their home markets, for example, had opportunities to be adapted one way or another to the European market.
Lack of capital is not all bad news
It is true that there is a lack of funding when it comes to raising funds above $1 million, but I truly believe this will change relatively quickly. All we need are successful entrepreneurs exiting their business and reinvesting into the local ecosystem. It’s a virtuous circle.
I was amazed by the capacity of African entrepreneurs to build profitable businesses in a short period of time. I believe that the lack of funding is also a chance for entrepreneurs to focus on the most important thing when it comes to build a business: focusing on delivering a viable product and generating revenues as soon as possible.
The next big innovations in the world may well come from South Africa
The notion of leapfrogging – developing countries adopting a new technology like mobile banking quicker than developed countries because of a lack of legacy systems weighing them down – is also a very interesting concept. I think that the next big innovative solutions will come from Africa – whether it has to do with blockchain, drones or artificial intelligence.
All right conditions are there for entrepreneurs to fill in the infrastructure gap with innovative technologies.