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Big corporations in Africa investing in startups and fostering innovation

The Importance of Investment and Innovation Vehicles for Big Corporations in Africa

investment vehicles

Discover why many big corporations in Africa lack investment and innovation vehicles to partner with startups, hindering their technological advancement. Learn how these corporations can stay relevant and engage with the local ecosystem. References included.


In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, it is crucial for big corporations to invest in innovation and foster partnerships with startups to remain relevant and competitive. While many large corporations in the West have embraced this strategy, it is unfortunate that only a few big corporations in Africa have established investment and innovation vehicles. This blog post delves into the reasons behind this disparity, explores the need for change, and outlines the necessary steps for big corporations in Africa to incorporate to stay on the technology edge.

Why African Corporations Lag in Investment and Innovation

Limited Awareness: One primary reason for the lack of investment and innovation vehicles among big corporations in Africa is the limited awareness of the benefits they offer. Many corporations perceive startups as risky ventures, failing to recognize their potential for disruptive innovation. According to a report by the African Development Bank Group, African corporations face challenges in understanding the dynamics of the startup ecosystem and the potential benefits of collaboration1.

Traditional Business Culture: African corporations often adhere to traditional business models and hierarchies, impeding their ability to adapt to the dynamic startup ecosystem. This traditional mindset hinders collaboration and stifles creativity. In a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, it was found that African corporations tend to prioritize short-term gains over long-term innovation, contributing to their reluctance to invest in startups2.

Resource Constraints: Limited financial resources and risk aversion pose significant challenges for big corporations in Africa. They may hesitate to invest in startups due to uncertainty and the fear of potential failure. In an article published by Ventures Africa, it was noted that African corporations often face difficulty accessing capital, which limits their ability to invest in innovation and partner with startups3.

The Need for Change and How to Adapt

Embrace a Startup Mindset: Big corporations in Africa must shift their mindset and foster a culture that embraces innovation and entrepreneurship. Encouraging employees to think creatively and take calculated risks can help bridge the gap between corporations and startups. A case study published by Harvard Business Review highlights the success of Safaricom, a Kenyan telecommunications company, which transformed its culture to become more entrepreneurial and innovative4.

Establish Investment and Innovation Vehicles: Corporations should create dedicated investment and innovation vehicles to facilitate partnerships with startups. These vehicles can provide funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities, nurturing the growth of innovative ideas and technologies. A research article by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa emphasizes the importance of investment vehicles in Africa to support startups and drive economic growth5.

Foster Collaboration with the Local Ecosystem: Engaging with the local startup ecosystem is vital for big corporations to stay relevant. By collaborating with startups, corporations can tap into emerging technologies, gain market insights, and foster a culture of innovation. The African Innovation Outlook, published by the African Union Commission, emphasizes the need for corporations to actively engage with the local ecosystem to foster innovation and technological advancement6.


Q: Why should big corporations in Africa invest in startups?

A: Investing in startups allows corporations to leverage innovative ideas and technologies, gain a competitive advantage, and foster a culture of innovation within their organization. According to a study by Accenture, corporations that invest in startups are more likely to achieve higher revenue growth and maintain a competitive edge7.

Q: How can big corporations overcome resource constraints?

A: Corporations can explore partnerships with venture capital firms, establish innovation funds, or create strategic alliances to overcome resource constraints and support startup initiatives. The World Bank’s report on “Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Industrialization in Africa” emphasizes the importance of public-private partnerships in addressing resource constraints and promoting innovation8.

Q: What are the potential benefits for startups in partnering with big corporations?

A: Partnering with big corporations provides startups with access to capital, industry expertise, distribution networks, and a broader customer base, accelerating their growth and market reach. A study by Deloitte highlights the success stories of African startups that have benefited from partnerships with large corporations9.


Big corporations in Africa must recognize the importance of investment and innovation vehicles to stay relevant in the fast-paced world of technology. By embracing a startup mindset, establishing dedicated vehicles, and fostering collaboration with the local ecosystem, corporations can unlock a wealth of innovative ideas and technologies. It is time for African corporations, including telecom giants like Airtel, to actively engage with the local ecosystem and embrace the potential that startups bring. By doing so, they can drive economic growth, foster technological advancement, and secure their position on the technology edge.



African Development Bank Group. (2022). Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystems in Africa. Retrieved from https://www.afdb.org ↩

McKinsey & Company. (2020). Unlocking Africa’s Business Potential with Startups. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com ↩

Ventures Africa. (2021). The Role of Big Corporations in Building African Startups. Retrieved from https://venturesafrica.com ↩

Harvard Business Review. (2019). Transforming a Telco: An Entrepreneurial Mindset Goes Mainstream. Retrieved from https://hbr.org ↩

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. (2019). Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Africa. Retrieved from https://www.uneca.org ↩

African Union Commission. (2017). African Innovation Outlook. Retrieved from https://au.int ↩

Accenture. (2021). Investing in Startups: Unlocking Growth Potential for Corporations. Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com ↩

World Bank Group. (2020). Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Industrialization in Africa. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org ↩

Deloitte. (2018). Africa’s startups navigate the corporate maze. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com ↩

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