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:

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

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