Ndubuisi Ekekwe: A Visionary With African Tech Dreams

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: A Visionary With African Tech Dreams

Ndubuisi Ekekwe founded and runs the nonprofit African Institution of Technology, whose goal is to advance emerging technologies in developing nations, especially in Africa.

He’s an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda and a TED fellow, a program that brings together young innovators in the areas of technology, entertainment and design from around the world to amplify the impact of their projects and activities.

In 2013, Ekekwe received World Economic Forum Young Global Leader recognition.

He is also the idea man behind First Atlantic Semiconductors & Microelectronics, an engineering company in Nigeria. FASMICRO has a software unit that has created products and services including education tools and analytics systems used by governments and private firms.

Ekekwe introduced StartCrunch.com, a fundraising and payment program for Nigeria and the rest of Africa. He is also helping to raise funds for a university that the African Institution of Technology wants to build by 2015.

Ekekwe spoke recently with AFKInsider.

AFKInsider: Why this latest venture?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: The primary goal of starting StartCrunch is to enable Africans tap into the crowdfunding movement and fund ideas, events and passions that appeal to them by reaching out to friends, families and anyone that can identify with their cause.

StartCrunch is a pioneering solution in this space in Africa and is poised to bridge the payment gateway limitations which are inherent when people are living in Africa and want to receive support from those in the U.S. and other developed regions of the earth. With payment gateways that support both local and international payments, StartCrunch solves the payment location problems.

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AFKInsider: Why this type of funding?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: Crowdfunding has been demonstrated as a very reliable and effective way of funding projects…and we are confident that it will work in Africa. For those who do not have access to venture capitalists, StartCrunch can provide a platform to reach strangers who can contribute small amounts to help them accomplish their goals.

AFKInsider:  Do you feel people and investors are still skeptical about African-owned businesses?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: I think every investor wants great returns. Historically, Africa has done well in minerals and hydrocarbon-based businesses. In those areas, I do not think there is much skepticism.

But when it comes to the technology space, Africa has yet to prove itself as an innovator or leader…if a child in Africa can cure the HIV/AIDS problem today by inventing a special drug, I do not think someone in London or Boston will refuse to buy the drug because it is coming from Africa. The world is closer than it used to be and everyone is looking for value.

AFKInsider: What are your goals with StartCrunch?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: We want to empower tailors, artisans, film makers, dancers, small businesses and others by providing them with a solution that will enable them to tap into the riches of the world. I am confident that a young promising tailor can raise the money he needs to expand his business through this platform. And perhaps someone can tap into the network and raise money to make a good film.

AFKInsider: What are some new developments with the African Institution of Technology?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: African Institution of Technology is pursuing a university license in Nigeria. We want to establish a university that will graduate future leaders of Africa. This is the only goal the institution has now for the next 10 years…to build a university that will provide a new vista in Africa’s quest for economic prosperity.

AFKInsider: Why a new university in Africa?

Ndubuisi EkekweBecause the educational system in Africa is sub-par, especially for women. We have a history of not educating our women and we want to focus on women and education.

AFKInsider: Is it difficult to get funding within Africa?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: Africa is not as rich as America. Comparatively and relatively, both have the same level of burden to get funding. It is very hard to get funding in U.S. Similarly, it is also hard to get funding in Africa.

But since America is richer, they have more funds to spread around. I do not focus on the difficulty; rather, I spend my time on the idea. If you have great ideas, you can easily get funding in Africa or the U.S. Investors are always attracted to great returns.

AFKInsider: There have been many media articles lately on how Africa will be the next hotpot for investment. Why do you think people are just now discovering this?

Ndubuisi Ekekwe: Governance in Africa has improved. That is the confidence driver many investors are experiencing in the region. One dictator will not cease any oil rig you have invested millions of dollars to develop because most of the governments are now run by democratically elected leaders.

The exuberance about Africa is the fact that it is coming up and with a population of about 1 billion people, it is a huge opportunity…Many are buying their first TVs and phones. That is the opportunity. As the credit system evolves, they will begin to buy in credits and take debts. These are real opportunities. Everyone has known for decades that Africa is an opportunity.

What is different now is that Africans are earning better wages to spend money and that is why the global economic searchlights are beamed into the region.