Outliers #017

The African Century? 💯

While Africa's potential is a recurring theme in Outliers, sometimes it can be taken as a given. In this week's issue, Lachlan Duffy lays out the exact factors that make the region so interesting, starting with the fact parts of Africa are holding up the world from population collapse.

Also, Guyana is the fastest growing economy on earth and the incredible global diversity in the top ecommerce stores.

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The most interesting global Seed to Series A deals from outside the US this week:

  1. Baraka - US$20m - Dubai, UAE - Fintech
    Pivoting from a financial content platform to a commission-free trading app, Baraka offers the Middle East access to the stock market.
  2. Loops.ai - US$14m - Tel Aviv, Israel - AI
    Loops is an AI platform that allows product teams to improve KPIs based on achievable outcomes from their data.
  3. omni:us - €12m - Berlin, Germany - Insurtech
    Omni:us automates insurance claim management their their AI-as-a-service type platform.
  4. ifeel - €10m - Madrid, Spain - HR
    Working in the wellbeing space, ifeel helps employers to stay in touch with their workers’ mental health.
  5. Silkhaus - US$7.75m - Dubai, UAE - Proptech
    Sitting on top of distribution platforms like Airbnb, Silkhaus has built a platform for property managers to manage short term rentals.

A VC's Insight

The African Century

We have heard much to do about the Asian Century in the late 2000s and much of the 2010s. As we run the demographics more and more and roll them forward over the next few decades, there is another continent which has been quietly building up momentum and readying itself for a day in the sun. Africa’s potential is a usual topic of conversation in Outliers, Lachlan Duffy digs deeper into why.

The African Continent: a geographic nightmare

When it comes to geography, the African continent has it about as bad as there is. Noted economist Thomas Sowell talks through the geographic struggles which have contributed to a ‘fragmented’ continent which has not enjoyed the same levels of connectivity of commerce as their European counterparts, and dealt every possible bad geographic feature imaginable.

In short, mountainous expanses and a lack of rivers has generally impeded commerce, trade and transportation; the lifeblood of economic development. The continent has been jammed with a difficult hand to work in a global competitive environment. Without navigable waterways and mountain ranges to ensure a year-round consistent river depths, much of the continent has its natural geographic commercial arteries in permanent cryo-freeze.


Africa is a continent of youth. It is home to the youngest population in the world, with three out of four Africans under 30 years old. And that trend is only going to grow stronger as more young people come of age and seek employment and opportunities on the continent. The African labour force is projected to double between 2010 and 2025, reaching 1 billion workers by 2025 (compared to 600 million in 2010). This means an increase from 40% of total global working age population today to 50% by 2050—an unparalleled opportunity for business growth.

This youthful population will also create a large consumer market for businesses looking to expand into Africa's markets; there are already signs that this has begun happening: according to Euromonitor International's data from 2015, Africa's middle class now numbers over 300 million people (with Nigeria alone accounting for around 50 million), up from just 55 million in 2000.

The continent is the youngest in the world, with a median age of 18 years old. By 2035, it is expected to have a working-age population twice as large as China's and India's combined.

Africa: Holding back the Tide of Population Collapse

Africa is the world’s youngest continent and will have a higher working age population for most of the rest of the 21st century, overtaking an India and China-powered Asia. Youth are the future, and labour is production - and by both counts Africa will play a pivotal role in the rest of the 20th century. By ~2050, half the world’s workforce will be African.

The Next Great Megacity:

Africa is already home to some of the world’s largest cities and densest urban environments, with Lagos and Cairo being some of the largest cities in the world. Urbanisation is expected to accelerate rapidly over the next few decades driven by a growing middle class, increased investment in urban infrastructure, and a young population that’s increasingly choosing to live in cities rather than rural areas. The UN projects that Lagos will reach a population of 25m (!?!) by 2035.

In particular, the corridor below that bridges Central and West Africa is set to join the global ranks of peerless urban sprawl. Boston to Washington, Osaka to Tokyo and Lagos to Abidjan - some 51m people are projected to live in this sole stretch of coast in 2035.

In fact, Africa’s urban population is predicted to double by 2050 – from its current level of around 400 million people to 800 million people by 2050. The continent will account for 40% of the world’s population growth between now and 2050, according to the UN Population Division (UNPD).

Source: The Guardian

Technology in the hands of the next billion people

The number of internet users in Africa increased from 0.6 million in 2000 to 472 million in 2016, making it the fastest growing region globally (World Bank 2017). In Kenya alone, mobile money transfers grew by 80 percent between 2015 and 2016 (FinScope 2016). This shows that there are huge opportunities for businesses looking to provide tech solutions that improve efficiency or create new services for consumers.

Growth in Tech Investing:

FDI into Africa is expected to increase from $60 billion in 2017 to $100 billion in 2020. In the last decade, FDI growth has been driven by a focus on natural resources and infrastructure, but this pattern is changing for several reasons:

The African Century?

Youth are the future. With ever increasing access to Technology and ever increasing physical and digital infrastructure overcoming a geographic straitjacket which has held back the continent for millennia, the 21st century will be the first century we can truly see what the African continent can achieve.

Half the world’s workforce for most of the rest of this century will be from Africa. Let’s hope they can save the world from population collapse.


In one of of the very first issues of Outliers we discussed why manufacturing economies tend to outperform mining/drilling economies. Those countries blessed with soils rich with metals or oil also tend to be plagued by the ‘resource course’ where they fail to capitalise sufficiently.

Breaking the mould a little, we’re recommending a podcast for the first time in Outliers. A question to start, which country has the fastest GDP growth in the world? Since 2015, this country has discovered a third of all oil on Earth…it’s Guyana. While most countries fail to capitalise on a make the most of boom, Guyana has been able to channel one sector’s benefits to the whole nation.

This podcast by Bloomberg (39 mins in length) runs through economic development for Guyana, and how economies develop more generally. You can also read the transcript here.

Macro lens

There are a few interesting insights into this graph. Firstly, it’s incredible to see the diversity in well established ecommerce players generating billions in revenue. Ten countries are represented in the top 15 revenue generators, showcasing how much room there is for disruption and success in so many corners of the globe.

Secondly, the sheer size and dominance of Amazon shows the power of a monopoly and how hard it can be to disrupt an established market. Amazon essentially does more revenue than all other players combined. Sure, the US is the centre of innovation but there is so much greenspace and bluesky to build into without incumbent competitors or regulation in other parts of the world; it’s a theme we come back to every week

Your authors this week

Lachlan Duffy - Passionate about countless ideas and possibilities, Lachlan puts traction to the side. If you have a big vision, Lachlan is waiting for your deck.  

Alex Barrat - New to the VC world, joining the TEN13 deal team, Alex spent his early career at VC-funded scale up Stake. Fascinated by development economics. All pitches welcome. Submit your deck here.