We’re excited to be expanding our team to support our mission and the amazing startups we’re partnering with. One of our newest team members is Rose Odengo, our Head of Communications and Community. To help you get to know her better we sat down with her to discuss her role, some of the challenges startups face, and how she’ll play an important part in helping to overcome these challenges.
Let’s dive in.
Can you share a little about your background and what led you to join Madica?
I've been working in the communication space across the African continent for close to two decades now. I worked in advertising, public relations, strategic communications, and journalism where I felt growing frustration figuring out what’s holding back African companies and nonprofits.
I started to realize a common thread – a lot of African companies are doing phenomenal work but weren’t able to effectively tell their stories. And while great storytelling is naturally what Africans do, in terms of telling those stories in a way that an international audience can relate and connect to, and helped organizations grow, and reach their goals, there seemed to be such a huge gap.
So the last five years I've been aggressively working with organizations across the continent, to tell compelling stories and build effective communication strategies. Africa is the youngest continent, and by 2050 one in every three people on the planet will be African. This demands faster job creation on the continent and securing Africa’s global economic competitive edge. By supporting African startups and ensuring their growth, we are playing a role in securing that African future. That’s what I live to do. And Madica is doing just that, that was the perfect match for me.
What do you see as the most exciting trends and opportunities in the African startup ecosystem right now?
There's quite a bit of funding coming into the continent - $3 billion in market investments as of 2022. That's pretty promising. There's something we're doing right on the continent to attract more investment.
We have a couple of unicorns not just in Nigeria. Countries like Ghana and Uganda to name a few are also showing growth and potential as well. We're not limited to investment opportunities in Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi or Cape Town, we’re now seeing other smaller economies relative to the ‘big four’ showing a lot of promise.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing African entrepreneurs today?
In addition to what I mentioned earlier about effectively telling stories to international audiences, there also seems to be a huge information gap. Startups need more insights on what exactly VCs seek to invest in or even how to build viable business models.
Many founders have great ideas and solutions for their markets, but need to invest more in research of their customer needs. Because ultimately, no matter how brilliant your tech solution, you need to ensure the market is actually willing to purchase your solution.
Madica wants to grow the information pool and make it more accessible to entrepreneurs across the continent to build businesses, with longer term and broad spectrum outlook.
What attracted you to Madica's mission and how do you see yourself contributing to it?
I’m excited about the energy and raw talent that Africa has. So when I saw Madica’s mission to help underrepresented founders hone that energy and talent to help build a thriving startup ecosystem, I immediately knew I could help. Beyond the storytelling and helping to fill the information gap, helping to build communities, provide sounding boards, and support systems for founders will be a critical role I’ll play.
I’ll help ensure that entrepreneurs can engage and interact and also expose themselves to different thoughts, best practices and experiences to share and learn from. By nature, Africans are very communal, and it's important to actually tap into that and build community that will help entrepreneurs build, grow, and succeed.
How do you see your role evolving? And growing as Madica continues to develop?
One thing the Head of Madica, Emmanuel Adegboye always says is that “we’re here for the startups.” We’re here to give them the funding, resources, knowledge, networks and mentorship they actually need. And as we continue to grow our investments and partner with more startups, my role will definitely continue to evolve to support both Madica and these startups as we navigate and build the thriving startup landscape we all wish to see.
What are some interests or hobbies that you have outside work?
When I'm not working, I try to completely decompress and empty my mind in nature. What I like about Nairobi is the wild, natural side to it. There’s one place called Karura Forest that was saved by the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai, who I thank every time I’m there. It’s such a beautiful, quaint forest that’s so quiet and has such beautiful trails. Sometimes I’ll even walk 10 kilometers in it just to enjoy the silence and the smell of fresh air that the many trees provide.
I also love a good safari. Nairobi is the only city on the entire planet that has a national game park within it. So without leaving the city I can go on a two hour safari and I’ll see lions, buffaloes, hippos, giraffes, baboons, leopards and zebras. And just being in that space and seeing their magnificence really cleanses my soul.
Thanks, Rose for such an insightful interview. We look forward to seeing the impact your work has on founders, startups, and the ecosystem as a whole.