MEST Team Shares The Motivation Behind The Airbus Bizlab Africa4Future Initiative

Kelechi Udoagwu | Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Airbus Bizlab Africa4Future meetup at the MEST Incubator in Lagos, Nigeria

Airbus BizLab’s Africa4Future Challenge has returned to Africa for a second time, in partnership with ecosystem facilitator GIZ Make-IT in Africa, pan-African incubator MEST Africa, and innovation consultancy Innocircle.

The challenge launched in Toulouse, France in October 2018, and opened a call for applications from early-stage African aerospace startups, which closes on 30 November 2018.

It is the initiative’s goal to find and connect African aerospace startups with experts at Airbus who will work with the startups to speed up innovation and scale their product/service in Africa.

Last week, we caught up with MEST Managing Director, Aaron Fu. He shared MEST Africa’s motivation behind partnering with Airbus to implement the Africa4Future initiative across Africa. See below for his thoughts!

What is the reason behind participating in the Africa4Future initiative for MEST?

Every year, MEST recruits and trains aspiring technology entrepreneurs from countries across Africa. We have done this since 2008 and learned so many lessons we never expected to find.

We believe that finding, training and matching amazing entrepreneurs and startups is like alchemy. We’ve learned enough to take various concepts that would not naturally be merged to revolutionize industries across Africa.

We have also seen the ability of our entrepreneurs to reach and impact last-mile users on the continent. I’m talking about smallholder farmers, women in rural areas, and other underrepresented groups.

This partnership with Airbus is a new opportunity to mate cutting-edge technology with in-depth market understanding to create impactful aerospace products. We aim to find early-stage African startups in the space and partner them with Airbus experts to find new business models and scale in a way that may not have been ordinarily possible or as fast.

The selected startups will go on to a 6-month accelerator by Airbus Bizlab and GIZ Make-IT in Africa and implemented by Innocircle and MEST Africa.

Lastly, it also helps our own entrepreneurs, both at MEST and in the countries we operate in, to know more about the global scene, how to work with big corporates and how to inspire younger entrepreneurs to aspire for more.

Why is the initiative focused on the African market?

The consortium behind the initiative — Airbus, GIZ Make-IT in Africa, Innocircle and MEST — is motivated to bridge the disconnect between Africa’s innovations and the rest of the world’s. In the past, and even now, these two worlds have not been connected in a way that facilitates the exchange of ideas and innovation.

Airbus, GIZ, Innocircle & MEST consortium brainstorm session

With this initiative, we are involving early-stage African startups in the global scene and inviting them to the same playing field.

The leading startups from the Airbus Bizlab accelerator will showcase their solutions during the Paris International Air Show, which is one of the largest Airshows in the world. Amazing innovations from Europe are showcased there, and this will be one of the first opportunities to showcase Africa’s own innovations.

What can participants expect?

Airbus is a successful, innovative global firm. The opportunity to gain access and partner with them is rare and can be a launchpad for young African startups.

Apart from the perks of the competition itself (see them here), there is also the opportunity for intra and intercontinental travels. Kenya, South Africa, France, and Germany are some of the stops for the selected teams. It is an exciting opportunity to explore the world while collaborating with a global aerospace powerhouse like Airbus.

The selected applicants also get to be welcomed into the MEST pan-African community and gain access to our relevant networks. This naturally includes both new and seasoned technology entrepreneurs doing noteworthy things in various industries. This will limit an otherwise lonely entrepreneurship experience building an aerospace startup in Africa.

What is the vision for the future at MEST?

Our vision for the future is to keep building on what we’ve started. MEST is always looking for ambitious, driven entrepreneurs who are intently looking to build the next generation of globally successful software companies from Africa.

We are building a highly-networked, Pan-African experience for the entrepreneurs by putting down roots and incubators in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and recently, Cote d’Ivoire. We will be setting up in more African countries in the coming years to give our entrepreneurs a chance to choose the best initial markets to focus on and scale easily across countries.

We would love to keep working with other stakeholders and organizations with similar vision like Airbus to train and expose African entrepreneurs to the rest of the world.

African innovators in the aerospace sector have four days left to apply to the challenge. Startups can submit applications via https://www.airbus-bizlab.com/africa4future.