Episode 024: Promoting Africa's Innovators with Nnamdi Oranye


About Nnamdi Oranye

Nnamdi Oranye is the founder of Disrupting Africa, an open platform promoting Africa’s innovators.

You can connect with him @Nnamdi Oranye on Linkedin and @nnamdi_oranye on Twitter.

Nnamdi is passionate about Africa’s tech innovationn. He is the author of Disrupting Africa and Taking on Silicon Valley. Nnamdi is also the former host of a weekly show featuring African innovators on radio station PowerFM 98.7 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s a regular contributor on African tech innovation to the BBC, CNBC Africa, and Mail & Guardian.

Nnamdi spent his early years between the UK and Nigeria before moving to Botswana with his family where he studied engineering at university. Itching to leave for the “first world”, he immigrated to Australia. But a bullish McKinsey report changed his perceptions on the opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa. When he was asked to lead the Africa expansion of an Australian mobile money company, he jumped at the chance, moving to South Africa.

This experience in Africa’s fintech sector during the takeoff of mobile money dramatically shaped his perceptions on African innovators. He met many brilliant African innovators who struggled with getting visibility. When he joined PowerFM 98.7 as a contributor, he spoke with many African founders and innovators, which marked the beginning of his life mission to promote African innovation abroad.

We chatted about Nnamdi’s early experiences in fintech, his fascination for all things digital payments, the one takeaway every African innovator should remember (hint, it’s about mindset), and 3 innovative African companies that he admires.  

Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Nnamdi Oranye.

What We Learn from Nnamdi – Understand that You’re the First Generation

Nnamdi says that African innovators need to understand that they’re the first generation and it’s going to be hard. The first wave of African innovators is charting the path for the next generation. Think of innovation from a legacy point of view – what legacy will I leave for the next innovators?

Nnamdi’s Actionable Tips

  1. Your strategy must be pan-African from day one.
  2. The secret to scaling is understanding what problem you’re trying to solve.
  3. Appreciate that this is very hard. Adopt a mentality of “we’re the forerunners trying to solve these hard questions to make it easier for generation two and three of African innovators."

Nnamdi’s Top Quotes

  • "Part of what I’m really passionate about is trying to make it easier for African innovators because if we don’t promote them, if we don’t talk about them, it almost feels like they don’t exist."
  • "The opportunity doesn’t lie in the tech. The tech becomes the enabler. The real opportunity is actually touching people’s lives."
  • "Growing up I never thought of myself as a patriotic Nigerian or a patriotic African. My view was that I’ve got to move out of Africa and go to a first-world country, settle in, and live the Australian dream. I never thought of myself having a role to play on the continent. That report was the first inclination that I could contribute. It took me almost two years to get over that hurdle of coming back to the continent to contribute."

Nnamdi’s Links/Resources

Nnamdi’s Mentions

  • African Leadership Group

  • Fred Swaniker

  • MFS Africa

  • MicroEnsure

  • Livestock Wealth

Key Timestamps

  • Nnamdi’s tricontinental upbringing [3:10]
  • McKinsey’s “Lions on the Move” report [4:45]
  • The job that took him to South Africa [7:38]
  • Why the book’s topic went beyond mobile money [13:38]
  • PowerFM 98.7 [15:15]
  • His definition of a credible innovator [17:06]
  • Exciting fintech trends [18:38]
  • Adopting a Pan-African strategy is key [23:45]
  • The secret to scaling [25:12]
  • The urgency facing Africa to solve hard problems [27:56]
  • Key ingredients to innovators’ successful track records [29:15] 
  • 3 ways to make the lives of African innovators easier [32:58]
  • Example of an African entrepreneur solving a difficult problem [37:51]
  • 3 innovative African companies that inspire him [39:33]
  • Recommended books [44:32]
  • Actionable advice for aspiring African entrepreneurs [46:48] 
Victoria CrandallComment