Afropolitan is aiming to create a digital nation bringing together the best of Africa.
“It doesn’t matter how much you raise, we cannot entrepreneur our way out of these problems. We actually have to do the hard work of fixing these governance issues and letting the other sectors thrive.”
The bitcoin blockchain has evolved into numerous applications providing multiple opportunities for entrepreneurs not afraid to chart the unknown path.
Nigerian tech entrepreneurs Echeme Emole and Chika Uwazie, raised in the diaspora, are two such coming up with an innovative idea for cryptocurrencies.
Looking to build “a new digital nation” for Africans, they have managed to convince a group of investors to back their idea to the tune of $2.1 million.
“The way to think about it is that it is a country that firstly starts off as an online community but materializes into a physical one after reaching critical mass. For us, the reason for building a new country is that we are saying, the nation-state experiment has not worked for us collectively as black people and through this [platform], we can build a country that we choose,” begins Emole.
“So, the subsequence of the old system is that we have leaders, money and institutions we can’t trust. We want to go back to first principles and build a new country, one [where] we can re-draw colonial borders without historical constraints or political baggage. This is a country where people from Africa, African-Americans, Afro-Latinos and the diaspora in total can exist…”
In order words, they opine that without addressing the issues of bad governance and broken systems at the core of the African startup ecosystem, nothing meaningful can be achieved by the remarkable talent on the continent.
As Emole succinctly puts it: “It doesn’t matter how much you raise, we cannot entrepreneur our way out of these problems. We actually have to do the hard work of fixing these governance issues and letting the other sectors thrive.”
Now the co-founder of Afropolitan, an event and community building platform, Emole had pivoted from law to fintech as an executive for Nigerian unicorn Flutterwave before helping orchestrate one of the biggest exoduses of the African diaspora into Africa through the Year of the Return initiative that saw over a million people flock to Ghana and Africa’s shores with a direct benefit of over $2 billion in economic activity.
On the other hand, Uwazie had an entrepreneurial career in recruitment and HR that culminated in her joining the prestigious ‘500 startups program’ and becoming CEO of HR tech firm Talentbase in Nigeria.
After Covid hit, both Emole and Uwazie found themselves, as many did, working remotely and using social media to continue driving engagement and making an impact.
It was Uwazie who first told Emole that Afropolitan can be more than a community-building platform.
“I had a deep respect for Chika but it wasn’t planned for us to work together. It started in December 2021 where I had this idea and ran it past Chika and we both started working on it organically,” says Emole.
The two are co-founders of Afropolitan, a community-as-a-service company with a vision to build a network that brings together the best of Africa.
“We are building the next Facebook but this time instead of an online passive community there will be a country with shared purpose and shared value and a common currency and this allows us to capture the value we create at scale in a very seamless way,” says Uwazie.
Their idea is based on what is referred to as ‘a country in the cloud’ – as in an article published by the former CTO of Coinbase, Balaji Srinivasan, who they say also happens to be one of the investors in the new venture. His idea hinges on building a cloud ecosystem first – rather than starting with physical territory – in building a new nation.
But the question remains, is there a need to build a new digital nation based on cryptocurrency? Emole certainly believes so.
“Flutterwave gave me some insights and data as to how bad things were on the continent. It’s like $5 billion of venture capital has gone into the African tech ecosystem in the past year, but the reality is people are actually very poor so it doesn’t matter how shiny your apps are because if people cannot afford to spend money on it, then what is it for?”
Without fixing the deep-seated governance issues that have caused a lot of startups to fail in Africa, Afropolitan believes that entrepreneurship will not thrive.
“Picture a house that has a weak foundation and the owners want to fix this house but instead of fixing the foundation they say ‘we are going to fix the lights, and the fans and walls’. What eventually happens is that the foundation collapses. So, we are saying instead of fixing this weak foundation we are going to build an entirely new one. The foundation represents the governance. We now live in a time where we don’t have to go through this journey alone. The diaspora sends some $70 billion worth of remittances each year so, we are saying can we build a network that allows us to build abundance on top of it,” says Emole.