Demo Africa Conference seeks African start ups


21 April 2016

Melissa Javan

A total of 30 start-ups in Africa will be selected to be mentored and coached in talking to investors and refining their business models to prepare them to engage funders at the 2016 Demo Africa Conference, which will be held in Johannesburg later this year.


The 2016 Demo Africa will be held in Johannesburg from 22 to 26 August 2016.(Image: Brand South Africa)

Applications are open until 15 June for entrepreneurs who want to benefit from this initiative. They will be able to pitch their ideas in the hopes of getting funding for their businesses. The 2015 Demo Africa participants, for example, raised $8-million (over R110-million) in funding.

The 30 start-ups will be selected by a panel of judges. The conference will run from 22 to 26 August at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg; it is the first time the annual event will be held in South Africa.

According to the organisers, Demo Africa is a flagship initiative of Liberating Innovations in Opportunity Nations in Africa (LIONS@frica), which aims to connect African start-ups to the global innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem. At Demo Africa, start-ups are able to meet investors, information technology buyers, media, and tech acquisition specialists from around the globe.

The initiative was set up in 2012, and 150 companies have been launched since then, according to Harry Hare, the chief executive officer of Demo Africa. Although hundreds of start-ups apply to be part of the initiative, only 30 will be selected, he adds. “We are looking for companies that will have an impact in communities, and also have the potential to grow.”

The initiative aims to help entrepreneurs refine their business model, he explains. “We will help them do marketing and give them supporting learning material. Sustainability is almost guaranteed.”

Success stories include a micro-lender business in Kenya, he says, and “several companies have gone on to raise a lot of money”.

One of the important aspects of Demo Africa is the experiential learning that entrepreneurs will gain, explains Isayvani Naicker, the chief director of international resources in the Department of Science and Technology. “A lot of entrepreneurs fail, but they learn from their experience for when try to do something else.”

Johannesburg is excited to host Demo Africa this year, says Ruby Mathang, Johannesburg’s mayoral committee member for economic development. “We will engage with local investors and make sure that they come prepared – that they bring their wallets!

“The city of Johannesburg wants to position itself as the number one entrepreneurial hub on the continent. This requires that we play a significant role in the African technology innovation ecosystem,” he says.

For your start-up to be part of Demo Africa, apply at