When Collaborating is a Bad Move

by: Samuel Suraphel on

We've all had them..bad collaborations.  Ouch..

In advance of the upcoming workshop on "How To be a Better Collaborator" with Joy Spencer, we held a free online webinar on "When Collaborating is a Bad Move."  Please find, below, the complete session.


Make sure to join us on June 11, 2016, for the full session.


Opportunities in Clean Tech - #DMVCTAFRICA

by: Samuel Suraphel on

Summary of DMV African Entrepreneurs Meetup on Clean Tech  by Etayenesh Asfaw and Larissa Mark of EvolveGreen, LLC. 

Register to watch full meetup at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1143682680582332162

Three days after digging out from the DMV area blizzard, the DMV African Entrepreneurs Meetup, held a clean tech gathering.  The session was co-organized by EvolveGreen, LLC, and Mansa Colabs, LLC.  On the panel, were representatives from Sanitation Solutions Group, Solar Sister, and eMaji

Access to clean water, clean energy and sanitation are major hurdles on the African continent. These challenges also present opportunities for entrepreneurs. According to the World Bank, clean tech is a $6.4 trillion dollars of investment will be in the sector over the next decade.  With unlimited opportunities, the financial sector, nonprofits, and small business enterprises are all looking to make an impact in this sector.

eMaji, cofounded by Taf Makura, is an open source technology to test the water quality of groundwater supplies/boreholes and alert water authorities when conditions are dangerous for public health.  eMaji is  interested in building a prototype and proof of concept upon which to create an open source platform for others to use. This is a new technology with the potential to prevent water contamination from causing public health problems around the world.

Sustainable Solutions Group works to provide latrines in Uganda.  This industry is vital for continued sanitation since bacteria associated with sewage is a major source of water contamination.  SSG grew out of a nonprofit model by staff from the Water for People charity. SSG focuses on latrine construction, placement and removal of waste. The latrine uses a precast concrete model and includes collection and disposal of waste. SSG imports some parts associated with the latrine construction from China and Bangladesh but has found that costs for importing and transporting into Uganda could be expensive. Understanding the demand for latrines, the cost of construction and the local land ownership are critical to the promotion and widespread adoption of these facilities. The future goal of SSG is to focus on collecting and reusing the waste. 

Solar Sister, the final panelists, addressed the unreliability of energy in many African nations.  Millions don’t have access to electricity in rural parts of Africa and, as such, Solar Sister staff empowers women entrepreneurs to market and sell solar powered electricity for residential use.  The production of the solar components for Solar Sister is mostly from China, although there is an effort to have more of the work done in Africa. Currently Solar Sister operates Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.

There are several challenges to developing a water technology tool but efforts continue.  In order for effective implementation of clean technology in these areas, businesses must work to develop an effective set of partners and partnership with government and researchers.  It is also necessary for clean technologies startups to hone their financial management and project management skills so that projects can move forward.  Workforce education and effective partnerships are key for production and promotion of products in the clean technology sector. 

Overall it was clear the market opportunity for clean technology is huge and support for local clean-tech industries are growing and will provide huge economic and environmental benefits for the future.  Mansa Colabs, an advisory focused on the growth of African entrepreneurs and the organizer of the DMV African Entrepreneurs Meetup, will host future meetups focused on opportunities in the health and creative sectors in 2016.

Evolvegreen, LLC, is an environmental consulting firm operating at the interface of science and policy.

Other Resources:

Building Your Team of Advisors

by: Angel Nonye-John on

With tech startups and social enterprises, it’s not uncommon to see a board of advisors. While it’s known to be an essential part of the startup team, early stage founders often have many questions about startup advisors and what they provide. From the day to day, the Mansa Colabs team has noticed recurring themes and questions about advisors.

Who are startup advisors?

Advisors come from all sectors and have a variety of experience. Typically, they have expertise or experience that the founders lack. Advisors haven’t necessarily started their own startup or social enterprise. You should look for advisors with strong expertise in a particular domain and look at an entrepreneurial background as a plus.

What do startup advisors do?

Have you ever wondered how you should develop your cross market entry strategy in Nigeria or UX design? While you can just attempt trial and error, guessing with your strategy can be costly and possibly finish startup resources. Advisors play the role of a sounding board. They can advise you based on their experience and observations in a particular country or sector. Apart from being a mentor of sorts, the best startup advisors will have access to large networks of prospective strategic partners, team members, clients and investors.

How to compensate startup advisors?

It depends. See your relationship with your advisor as a long term deal. At first, your team of advisors will probably be unpaid. However, as your company grows and they deliver, you should compensate them in some way. Also, advisors are also best positioned to possibly invest in their advisee companies.

How do I find advisors?

First, decide what kind of advisors you need. Map out your learning needs or skills gap and identify 2-3 types of advisors for your startup. Start tapping into your existing networks. Think about people who you have met through mutual acquaintances or events. Make you and your advisors are clear about expectations and commitment.

How can Mansa Colabs help?

Here at Mansa Colabs, we have a Virtual Advisory Service (VAS) for smaller advisory support for startups in Africa and the Diaspora. Through our VAS, we match early stage startups and social enterprises with advisors in our network through a month-to-month subscription model. We charge a minimal fee for the VAS subscription. For those interested in more hands-on advisory, like conducting market research in Ghana or business development in the Diaspora, we work with the individual startup to create a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

To inquire about our advisory services email us at info@mansacolabs.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday Roundup

by: Angel Nonye-John on

Photo: Genii Games, 2015 

From games culturally inspired games to solutions for talent acquisition, the news from the tech scene is thinking local.

Blooming Gaming Industry: Locally produced and focused gaming companies are cropping up all over the continent. With industries such as Nigeria’s expected to grow 20 % annually, game developers are optimistic about the industry outlook. - Via SmartMonkey TV

Hubs Must Act Like Startups: AfriLabs director, Tayo Akinyemi addressed the value and  business models of existing hubs. While many are serving the local communities needs, the activities and services on their roster don’t lead to long term sustainability. - Via Disrupt Africa

Finding Great Talent: Don’t find and keep great talent by making them sign their lives away. Instead, be well rounded, supplement pay with passion, and always pay on time. - Via Harvard Business Review

Open Access & Ebola: Many of us are familiar with the current uses of open access software during the Ebola crisis. But it doesn’t end there. Doctors have benefited from open access scientific journals that would otherwise be costly or difficult to access. - Via Tech Dirt

Tech in the Wild: iHub ventured out to Tsavo, Kenya to assist rangers in anti-poaching efforts.  A team’s experience developing mobile app to combat poaching - Via iHub

Stories We Like

Three South African artists create blog portraying SA in their eyes - Via Destiny Man

Infographic shows where Africa’s mobile money fits globally -Via Memeburn

Let us know articles you would like to see in the next newsletter on our Facebook or Twitter.


Africa Tech and Entrepreneurship News

by: Angel Nonye-John on

We’ve rounded up some interesting articles for March. While MPedigree expands across sectors, M-Pesa grows regionally with the help of Vodacom. Read these stories and others below.

Authenticity in Every Sector: After success in pharmaceuticals, MPedigree is moving to Ghana's textile and beauty industry. Their authentication platform will reduce the adverse effects of counterfeiting on consumers and companies. - via Disrupt Africa

Addressing Youth Unemployment through Partnership: Jobberman and Microsoft Nigeria signed an MoU focusing on youth unemployment. Both companies will work to increase the number of resources for career training and development. - via Tech Moran

Booming Cities: Although well known Lagos, Kinshasa and Johannesburg top the list of high growth potential cities, the report claims true opportunity lies in the “Next 10”. Luanda, Khartoum, Abidjan and 7 others are expected to triple in size by 2030. - via PwC

M-Pesa Goes Regional: M-Pesa is now crossing borders. Through partnership with Vodacom, Safaricom users can now make transactions between Kenya and Tanzania. Via Ventures Africa

Stories we like

Young Kenyan Entrepreneur turns rejection into opportunity - via Ventures Africa                      

Burkina Faso Film Festival brings opportunity to a diverse group of filmmakers - via Vice

Check out the photos from our recent event in DC. Also, join the meetup group to get updates on future events.

Engage with us on twitter or facebook!

Insight: Mobile and E-Commerce Moving Forward

by: Angel Nonye-John on

It is increasingly common to read about the rise of e-commerce in Africa. Although e-commerce is not currently the most profitable industry for investment, the growing middle class provides strong opportunity and potential. Additionally, mobile commerce, consumer attitudes and tech developments are making e-commerce an industry that transcends class barriers.

Here are 4 insights about the future of mobile and e-commerce in Africa:

Increasing Consumer Optimism: A number of reports such as Ten Things to Know About African Consumers from BCG have noted that consumer optimism is on the rise. Consumers across the continent have a positive future outlook on their local economies and personal finances. A recent poll by NOI Poll, a Nigerian polling service, showed that Nigerians are positive and hopeful about their economic situation despite Naira devaluation and depressed crude oil prices.

Service Apps That Are Better Focused: It seems like there is a new and creative service app everyday. While they do provide solutions to concrete issues in the service industry, these businesses will have to think beyond the multiplicity of service hangups. As Brian Ascher highlights, though the Uber/Airbnb model has the ability to disrupt other service industries, consumers will not find convincing value in every tech solution. While the economic landscape in Africa is changing, most people devote their income to housing, food and education. These companies will need to focus on their consumer and test the best ways to add value.

Infrastructure: This point really doesn’t need an introduction. Lagging infrastructure will continue to be an issue for the mobile and e-commerce industry, especially delivery service platforms. However, the story isn’t all doom and gloom. OkHi is a Kenyan company tackling the sparsity of physical addresses. We wish them luck and hope to hear about other companies taking a unique approach to develop infrastructure.

First, there was the mobile device: Unlike their western counterparts, the majority of African consumers were introduced and acquainted with mobile devices before personal computers. This pattern will be an advantage for mobile commerce companies because building consumer trust will be less of a battle. Even so, internet privacy and security will need to be addressed moving forward.

Well enough from us. We want to hear from you?

What are your viewpoints on the future of mobile and e-commerce? How does it apply to your start up?

Engage with us on our twitter or facebook!

Upcoming Events - Meetup and Women Mean Business

by: Samuel Suraphel on

Happy to share a few initiatives that seek to further connect and empower African entrepreneurs as well as celebrate, in particular, women entrepreneurs and leaders.

DMV African Entrepreneurs
The DMV African Entrepreneurs meetup was launched for those interested in starting a business in the Africa region, have family or friends looking to do so, or are African entrepreneurs in the D.C., Maryland, or Virginia(DMV) area.

Whether you are at pre-idea stage, to those further down the road of engaging with the new venture creation process, you’re welcomed!  The meetup is also open to social entrepreneurs/non-profits.  Come to discuss and share tips, advise and network with others interested in contributing to the economic growth of the African continent in sectors ranging from technology, media, agriculture and more.

Our first event will cover the recently published e-book "101 Ways To Make Money In Africa”.  We’re happy to leverage this session to help attendees think through a range of ideas brought together by the authors, Harnet Bokrezion PhD and John-Paul Iwuoha.

Women Mean Business
Starting March 7, 2015, we are delighted to join with Rhoyalty Concepts, SBTS Group and other sponsors for Women Mean Business, a series of online events connected with International Women’s Day.  

Interested in joining online? Please visit the following link to register online.   The calendar of events include:

March 7th (10AM – 12PM) – Taking Your Business From Thought To Action
March 9th (8PM – 9PM) – How To Fund Your Entrepreneurial Venture
March 14th (10AM – 12PM) – Balancing Your Business & Your Life

All times are Eastern Standard Time(EST) or UTC -0500.

Seasons Greetings and 2014 Insights

by: Samuel Suraphel on

Photo by: Thomas Quine on Flickr Happy holidays and festive season to all! 

As this year comes to a close, here are a few of our insights from 2014, related to African tech entrepreneurship:

1.    Startups are popping up everywhere: Despite financial, technical and other challenges faced by startups in emerging markets, this has not deterred entrepreneurs from pushing forward and launching innovative companies.

The number of new ventures that are launching is amazing.  If you follow any of the tech blogs, such as TechMoran, your inbox is probably full of posts detailing a new company/product/service.  Though this is great news, the challenge persists in plugging these ventures into project and investment flows, as well as access to skills support.  A few of our engagements have zoomed in on key areas such as pitching, to better our clients’ ability to sell their product/service stories succinctly to audiences ranging from investors to customers.   We’ve additionally been able to connect clients to guidance around UX design and EdTech strategy.

With over 100 incubators/co-working spaces now on the African continent, international organizations like tipHub, She Leads Africa, Mara Foundation, VC4Africa, and ourselves, the ecosystems for support are emerging and undergoing their own growth and learning phase.  We look forward to playing our part in continuing to strengthen and increase the growth of successful companies.

2.    The DC African Diaspora Tech Ecosystem is buzzing:
This year saw many events that connected the dots in the emerging tech ecosystem in the Washington, D.C., region for African Diaspora entrepreneurs.  A few included: DC Tech Afrique, AfricanDevJobs, #DCHackEbola, Technoir 1 & 2, the Coders4Africa conference, the Ron H. Brown African Affairs Series, and Diaspora Demo Day.   

At tipHub's Diaspora Demo Day alone, there were over 20 Africa related startups, with folks flying in from the continent and throughout the US.   The year saw tons more networking happy hours and side-events, too many to count.  Outside the region, special note goes to the Design Africa conference held in April at The New School(New York City), which was one of the best applied and multidisciplinary conferences to take place, that merged technology, policy, design and other fields.  

3.    Business to Business, the elephant in the room:  Many of the financially successful African tech businesses are not written about on the popular press nor have the shiny “startup” swag afforded newer firms.  Nevertheless, business-to-business(B2B) tech companies providing solutions to financial institutions, manufacturing companies and beyond are big winners in the African technology scene, next to the MNO’s.    We recently wrote a blog post for Grofin on the upcoming impact of cloud and mobile technology, and expect this area to heat up even further in 2015.

4.    Ebola, Emergency management, and Tech Response to Crisis:   Last but not least, the current Ebola crisis in West Africa has brought public health and crisis management back to the forefront of our attention.  Though most of the global press coverage has simmered on reporting about Ebola, the crisis persists in the region and is growing in Sierra Leone.  

Through sites such as EbolaDeeply and social media, one is able to gain a broader view of the situation.  On our end, participating in the Africa Emergency Technology Response Forum(AETRF) has highlighted the efforts of technology organizations from the region in building the necessary ICT tools needed to handle emergency awareness and response.

With the launch of #AfricaAgainstEbola by the African Union and a host of telecoms, early 2015 should further highlight how collaborative tech partnerships can be used to help support emergency efforts such as the current situation in West Africa.  

Given the enormity of the challenge, we hope to see even more innovative services and inclusive partnerships develop to help in everything from awareness raising to education and logistics, particularly with a focus on aiding local entrepreneurs as they manage current needs and prepare for post-Ebola recovery.

So, thanks to the clients, staff, partners, interns and tech community that made 2014 possible!

For further insights, feel free to contact us and we’ll get back in touch.  For startups, SMEs and social enterprises or those interested in working with them through our virtual advisory service, feel free to submit your information at the following link.  

Look out for more services, activities and news from us in 2015.  

PS: Check out Mansa Colabs in the media at Impact Africa and on the Helen Show(Part 1 and Part 2)



We're Looking for Talented Interns!

by: Samuel Suraphel on

One of our exciting initiatives to launch in the coming month is the Digital Business Challenge.  The Digital Business Challenge identifies leading Kenyan and Tanzanian IT and Creative sector startups and SMEs through an awards challenge. Prizes include access to leading global advisors in tech, creative, and startup business, virtual presence in co-working spaces in the US, and over USD 1,000 worth of services and products. 

The Business Challenge will focus on three areas as outlined below:

-Best B2B Tech Idea - (Software/apps that improve businesses and value chains) -
-Best Creative Tech Idea - (Animation, CAD renderings, Mobile games, Online videos)
-Best Education Tech Idea - (Educations software, apps, content)

We are looking for creative, tech-savvy students and young professionals who are eager to connect with and help promote the growth of Africa based or Diaspora entrepreneurship in the categories listed above.


Social media skills to support creating content and posting it regularly to social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Identify key social media influencers and raise awareness among them about the challenge.
Produce relevant hashtags and other messaging material that will be disseminated online.
Link to relevant stories and events that can connect with over MC Digital Business Challenge.
Respond to social media questions/requests.

Able to produce simple graphic designs, layouts
Superior writing/editing ability
Able to prioritize tasks and manage time
Excellent verbal communication skills in English
Program knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite or other design programs is appreciated but not required
Demonstrated interested in either Entrepreneurship, Technology or the Creative Sector
Demonstrated passion and interest on Africa development issues
Knowledge of Swahili or French preferred but not required
Other duties as assigned 


Support review of applications
Respond to applicants questions
Identify and follow up with potential sponsors
Schedule and support Video Conference Interviews
Support with the other logistics of the Challenge
Coordinate with primary lead on competition to complete other tasks as assigned

Superior writing/editing ability
Able to prioritize tasks and manage time ­
Excellent verbal communication skills in English
Demonstrated interested in Entrepreneurship, Technology or the Creative Sector
Demonstrated passion and interest on Africa development issues
Knowledge of MS Office
Program knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite or other design programs preferred
Knowledge of Swahili or French preferred but not required
Other duties as assigned



Support review process for Digital Challenge by responding to technical questions regarding:

-Business value chains and other B2B services, operations, marketing, etc.

-Creative sector digital initiatives

-Education ventures that utilize digital applications and services

Access potential sponsor or partners

Involvement in strategy for Digital Challenge

- Experience with Business Strategy (digital solutions), Digital Creative Arts, Digital Education and knowledge of African context

- 3-5 years minimum of experience in subject field  

We value the skills that professionals bring to the table in promoting African innovation. This is a fun opportunity to connect as well as have an impact with/on African entrepreneurs. We look forward to connecting with you!

For interested candidates, please send a brief email and your CV to digitalbusinesschallenge (at) mansacolabs.com

Welcome to the New Mansa Colabs Website!

by: Samuel Suraphel on


I am happy to present the new and improved Mansa Colabs website.

Though I’ll leave the visitor to explore the various portions of the site, including about Our Team, Work and Services for Startup/SME and Social Enterprise clients, we hope to also publish articles and interesting insights that help inform our clients and site visitors via the Mansa Colabs blog.

© 2014-2016 Mansa Colabs. All Rights Reserved.