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Why Venture Capital model in Africa has not worked well enough – Ndubuisi Kejeh, founder, Mustard



The amount of funding secured by startups in Africa has grown significantly in recent times. A report by Briter Bridges states that African startups raised a sum of $4.65 billion in funding in 2021, despite the effect of the pandemic on world economies, and surpassing its record in previous years.

While the figure has continued to be impressive, questions around the building and sustaining of good brands by these startups, after securing the needed funding, have become a major concern for stakeholders.

In this interview with Ndubuisi Kejeh, the founding partner at Mustard, an Africa-focused venture agency, he explained how his company is trying to change the narrative and model of VC in Africa. He also discusses his agency’s mission to build global brands that could shape Africa’s future image.

What exactly is Mustard and what problem is it looking to solve in Africa?

We refer to ourselves as a “venture agency” that is working to build technology ventures from the continent, which can turn into global brands with products that are consumed around the world.

We do not think there are currently any companies/brands like this, but we believe they must come to exist, as they will be important to shaping how Africa will be viewed/perceived in the future (by Africans and non-Africans), for its place in the world, and for job creation.

Since there aren’t really any examples of such companies/brands, we are using our investment vehicle to enable us to build them from scratch (before any company has even been incorporated) with founders and investors who believe and share our philosophy.

What makes it different from the regular accelerators and incubators we have seen in recent times?

We are different from an accelerator/incubator in the following ways:

We do not have a programme to which people can apply, instead – similar to an agency – we choose those with whom we work, and need them to align with our narrative-led venture-building philosophy.

Similar to an agency, we work intentionally with a small number of people. We plan to build 3-4 ventures with founding teams per year.

Unlike a programme, we do not work with those who have already established their idea or registered their company. We care about stories/brands that can move humans across the world, and work to build these from ideas first of all, before enabling them to naturally manifest into visual identities and consumer products.

Also, unlike typical programmes we are extremely hands-on. Our small team of designers, storytellers and engineers work to advise on and strategically build the detailed brand narrative and product for each venture, since we want these ventures to have our narrative-first philosophy baked in from the start.

Our criteria for investing our capital and expertise into an idea, in order of importance, are the following:

  • The idea must have a potentially ‘globalisable’ product and brand;
  • The individuals/founders we work with must have a story and passion that aligns with the venture idea;
  • The idea must not be incorporated, we must start from scratch.

How do you intend to utilize the recently launched £4 million investment vehicle?

Most of the capital/money in the investment vehicle will go towards financially enabling us to build venture ideas capable of going global, with passionately aligned founders from the very beginning.

A typical institutional investor (VC) would make their ongoing money from a 2% management fee, and their future money by receiving 20% of the profits from their investments. Aside from their management fee, most of the money they raised would go to the investee companies, which – if early stage – would be used by them to hire a team (or consultants) to build their product and brand.

For our model, we do not take a management fee. Much of the capital we invest into are the ideas that will be used by these ventures to pay our fees because we are the cohesive, multidisciplinary team who will build the venture’s product and brand. Our fees will be fixed and heavily reduced in accordance with our sweat equity strategy.

Similar to VCs, most of our money will be made in the future if we are successful. If and when we sell our venture assets, we will take 25% of the profits and distribute 75% to our vehicle’s investors.

Are you looking to work with specific sectors?

We are currently sector agnostic, looking at B2C or consumer-based software. But broadly speaking, given our mission, we are more interested in the ‘globalisability’ of a venture idea’s story (and its commercials) than the specific industry.

We can definitely say that we are not focused on many of the popular industries receiving investment such as fintech and agritech.

There are many investors focused on building these industries, which we will leave to them. However, there are hardly any (if any at all) focused specifically on building global brands stemming from the continent. This will be our focus.

Why did you choose Africa?

Each person on the Mustard team is passionate about Africa, is a member of the diaspora, and/or someone with industrial experience of the region.

Secondly, we genuinely believe that Africa’s future will be strongly shaped by the brands it is able to produce, and if this does not happen over the next two decades, the region will struggle even more than it does now to progress in an increasingly digital and brand-centric world.

As stated by Thebe Ikalafeng of Brand Africa in 2020: “As was the case at the turn of the decade, there remains a stronger enthusiasm for building African brands. But the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.” He believes someone needs to build these brands to illustrate to the world what they could look like. We are trying to do exactly that.

Do you foresee any challenges specific to Africa that could likely slow you down in the course of delivering Mustard’s objectives?

Yes, we do. In our opinion, there is little to no thinking and appreciation for brand building across the continent. Therefore, we often encounter case where people either disregard our objective and focus as trivial or think they understand/appreciate it until realising through their actions, thinking and focus that they do not when it actually comes to execution.

Building and sustaining a brand is a very detailed exercise, which must be continued over the entire lifetime of the company. It requires real believers in its power, and detail-oriented people to continually maintain it. Powerful brands have relationships with their audience, so nurturing it can be analogous to maintaining a human relationship, which we all know takes work for it to be meaningful.

We find there are few believers and even fewer people who can execute, so our pool is very narrow. However, we are fortunate to have got to know quite a few of these people through the networks we have built up over the years, and intend to find and influence more through the audience we hope to build around our work and content.

What’s your view on the current tech space in Africa at large?

I think the VC model as practised in Africa has not been working well, although we will eventually see the real numbers and returns as VC firms come to the end of their terms. I think we need to greatly increase our focus on the quality and multi-disciplined nature of teams, and work intensely on our brand communication and global ambition. I don’t know if our best entrepreneurs are really thinking and believing they can go global, as opposed to just pan-African. The best startups need to look outside to consumers in external markets much earlier.

Additionally, I think we desperately need to see more exits, to entice more investment from HNWI Africans and private investors. Until we begin to have serious noteworthy exits the space will continue to be propped up by multilateral and DFIs, which is not a long-term solution and, regardless of the media rhetoric, is evidence of a nascent ecosystem.

What is your five years projection?

Over the next five years, we are hoping to build at least one (but hopefully more) global brand that stems from a country in Africa.

We want the products of these ventures to be utilised by people in markets outside of the continent, and their brands to stir the emotions of audiences in multiple regions.

Also in five years, we want to have illustrated the power of our model and narrative-based approach, by exiting our investments and returning significant returns to our believing investors.


 Analysing the demands of Nigerian SMEs to achieve global competitiveness 




Growing globalisation presents Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the globe with an unprecedented opportunity to extend market reach, enhance performance, and potentially upscale to larger companies. Thanks to global interconnectedness, a small family-run business in a remote part of China can manufacture shirts and export worldwide. This is the case for most Chinese SMEs. In 2020 they accounted for 68% of Chinese exports, according to estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In Nigeria, the reality is different for most small and medium-sized businesses. 

In its latest report, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) reported that only 7.7% of business enterprises surveyed exported their goods or services. Of this crop of businesses, 95.3% of exports value less than 10 million Naira ($23,300). This export data highlights the gross under-representation of Nigerian SMEs in international trade despite contributing to nearly half of the domestic GDP when combined with micro-scale businesses. 

The exclusion of Nigerian SMEs from global trade matters because the success of small and medium-scale businesses will directly translate to the enhanced global competitiveness of the Nigerian economy. China and India, both highly populated developing countries, have risen to prominence on the back of value-creation by entrepreneurs in SMEs. 

Furthermore, there is only so much value that can be created within a geographical market; however, expansion to other regions can create new demand and opportunities. Take, for instance, the $93 billion global oil palm industry where Nigeria has a market share of less than 5% despite having abundant natural and human resources to potentially produce and supply oil palm as well as derivatives. We lose out on the multi-fold values that could have been derived from processing and exporting to the vast global market if our agricultural commodities are only consumed within the country and our SMEs fail to break into the global markets. 

There is a plethora of reasons why less than a handful of SMEs in Nigeria are engaged in exports; most of the bottlenecks are behind the borders and overlap with challenges already identified by small and medium business operators. In the 2021 SMEDAN report, 92.4% of surveyed businesses believed the biggest challenge to enterprise development was the lack of finance.  

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The availability of funding is critical for the day-to-day operation of businesses as well as financing business expansion in the long term. Due to high-interest rates, high rates of informality, poor documentation culture, lack of sufficient cash flow, and weak macroeconomic conditions, many SMEs are unable to obtain loans from most financial institutions. Where obtaining a loan is possible, for example from a micro-finance bank, the volume is too little to make a meaningful impact while the volume of loans disbursed by government programs is good but could be better. As a result, 48% of SMEs depend on family and friends, while 15% rely on credit facilities, 8% on trade credit, 6% on co-operatives, and 6% on grants based on PwC MSME Survey 2020.  

Yet, engaging in exports is a capital-intensive venture because of the need to produce goods that meet international standards, as well as investments that need to be put into securing authorization (from Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, NAFDAC, CBN, etc.) for exports and facilitating the logistics.  

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Another area in SMEs that needs intervention to improve their development, and in turn, global participation is the provision of infrastructure. Per the SMEDAN report, 20.9% consider the paucity of the quality physical infrastructure to be a critical challenge. The problem of infrastructure extends across the entire chain of value businesses rely on. Epileptic power supply means shorter production hours, high operating costs when generating sets (industrial or residential) are employed, or even high capital expenditure to procure alternative power sources. After scaling the issues of power supply, SMEs face obstacles imposed by poor transportation networks. For SMEs involved in exports, goods can be stuck for months at the port and end up in poor form by the time they arrive at their destination. 

Another area of demand for SMEs and similar businesses is vocational and entrepreneurship training. From the SMEDAN report, 20.8% of surveyed businesses rated gaps in vocational and business skills as the main constraint on enterprise development. Often overlooked, entrepreneurship and management skills are a bedrock of SMEs’ success. Programs on vocation and entrepreneurship will help business owners and operators learn essential business skills such as financial and risk management, strategy, sourcing business capital, taxation, human resource management, and so on. This training will also help businesses formalise and position themselves for better opportunities in the market.  

Other pressing demands of SMEs are the need for workspaces, consistent government policies, and access to research & development. Concerning government policies, some of the pain points of businesses are the multiplicity of taxes, demolition of properties, high fuel prices, customs duties, a ban on particular raw materials importation, and trade permits.  

The government would need to improve accessibility to capital to improve the situation for SMEs. Several state and private funding initiatives such as FGN Special Intervention Fund for MSMEs, National Enterprise Development Programme, the YouWIN Connect Nigeria program, The Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) Programme, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), and Lagos State Entrepreneurs Trust Fund (LSETF) already exist amongst others. Improving access would involve creating more specialised funds for women entrepreneurs, and training SMEs on how to keep records and apply for existing credit and grants.  

There are no shortcuts to solving the problem of infrastructure for SMEs, but one quick win is expanding opportunities for export-oriented SMEs to participate more in Free Trade Zones (FTZs). FTZ, as defined by Mondaq, is any location where goods can be shipped, handled, manufactured, reconfigured, and re-exported without the involvement of customs agencies. These zones have a tendency to have better infrastructure and streamlined processes that allow a smoother flow of goods.  

On vocational and entrepreneurial training, a partnership by local and foreign experts in the private sector with the government in organising workshops, seminars, boot camps, and similar programs for SME owners and operators will go a long way. Through tax incentives consulting firms like the Big 4s can be encouraged to organise training for SMEs in areas like digitalisation, taxation, financial records keeping, and business strategy. This idea can be extended to the areas of research and development. Asides from private and public research institutes, academia can be a viable partner to pair SMEs with so that new products and technology can be developed. 

To conclude, it is paramount to drive home the point that SMEs hold so much potential to enhance growth and development for Nigeria, as is the case for many developing countries. The limitation faced by SMEs in global market participation is therefore an important issue for national development that must be addressed by all stakeholders.  

About the author:

 Connect with Nnamdi Okoh on Instagram @nnamdiokoh, Twitter @Lord_nnamz and LinkedIn @Nnamdi Okoh. Learn more about Terminal Africa’s service offerings at

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Lagos seals 42 health facilities across the state




The Lagos State Government, through the Health Facilities Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA) has sealed a total of 42 health facilities out of about 1040 visited between January and September 2022. 

This was made known by the executive secretary of HEFAMAA, Dr. Abiola Idowu, in Ikeja while reviewing the activities of the agency in the nine-month period. 

Sealed for non-compliance with regulatory standards: Idowu said the facilities were sealed for non-compliance with regulatory standards, adding that other infractions committed include non-registration of facilities and lack of qualified medical personnel, as well as the illegal training of auxiliary nurses.  

She disclosed that in the same period, 170 facilities across the state were inspected for registration, while about 157 closure notices were issued. 

Idowu explained that the key areas monitoring officers focus on during monitoring and inspection exercises of health facilities are: the qualification of personnel, operation processes of the facility, the environment, and the standard of equipment. 

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On HEFAMAA’s monitoring activities, the executive secretary explained that the aim of the franchise is to improve the effectiveness of the monitoring exercise so that all the health facilities in the state can be monitored at least twice a year as the law stipulates. 

  • She said, “The Agency is empowered by the Health Sector Reform (HSR) Law 2006 to franchise some of its activities. Section 49 (5) of the law granted the agency the power to select franchise companies to monitor and ensure compliance with the law by health facilities in the state.’’ 

Get acquainted with the law: Dr. Idowu, therefore, advised owners and operators of health facilities to get acquainted with the law and carry out their operations in accordance with it to safeguard the health of the people. 

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She also emphasized the commitment of the state government to sustain the fight against quackery and unprofessional conduct in the system, as well as urged intending operators to ensure proper registration with the agency through its website, before commencing operations. 

Going further, she added that existing registered operators should ensure prompt renewal of their certificates to avoid being sanctioned. 


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Nigeria produces 13% of global tantalum output – EITI




The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) said Nigeria produces 13% of the global production of tantalum. 

EITI disclosed this in its 2022 Mission Critical Report which was released on Wednesday, November 2.   

Tantalum is a highly resistant mineral used in manufacturing electronics, especially mobile phones, laptops, and super alloys. 

According to EITI, the mineral will potentially be used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, depending on the technology development and deployment of alternative zero-cobalt batteries.    

In 2021, China recorded imports of tantalum from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone.   

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Nigeria lacks mining data: The report showed that aside from the recorded tantalum production rate, Nigeria rarely had any definite data for 14 of the minerals highlighted in the report. That’s because the country’s solid mineral sector is characterised by artisanal mining and small-scale mining of manganese and tantalum. 

Lack of data discourages investors: The report showed that exploration and mapping of mineral deposits are limited in many EITI-implementing countries, especially African countries like Nigeria. The availability of comprehensive and public geological data determines the ability of resource-rich countries to attract responsible investors and negotiate favourable terms for the country and its people.  

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The importance of open geological data: EITI said access to open geological data is important to support a transition mineral development strategy and to level the playing field in negotiations between governments, companies, and communities. Transparent information can improve the terms of contracts, facilitate mine planning, and ensure that all stakeholders are well informed.  

Profit shifting in Nigerian mining market: In October 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said countries like Nigeria lose $600 million in revenue due to tax rate differences between African countries and offshore affiliates in the same multi-national enterprises’ group.   

The EITI report corroborates what the IMF said. The report said: 

  • “Research on profit shifting in mining across Sub-Saharan Africa indicates that African countries are losing, on average, between $470 million and $730 million per year in corporate income tax from MNE tax avoidance. The baseline estimate – which also includes Sub-Saharan African economies with small mining sectors – suggests a revenue loss of about $600 million, based on tax rate differentials between African countries and offshore affiliates in the same MNE group.”   

What you should know: Tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) is a serious governance challenge for countries pursuing resource revenues from the taxation of multinational enterprises (MNEs).  

  • BEPS occurs when companies shift reporting of profits generated in higher tax jurisdictions to other parts of their business in lower tax or no-tax jurisdictions.  
  • This challenge could become more pronounced in the transition minerals sector given the integrated business structures of many of the MNEs involved in mining, processing, refining, marketing, and trading in transition minerals across multiple jurisdictions.  
  • There are also increasingly powerful global partnerships controlling transition mineral value chains, for example, through the consolidation of mine-to-car business deals by upstream and downstream MNEs.    

Nigeria must take action: Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries need to take intentional steps to maximize their mineral resources, especially in the era of the global energy transition.  

  • During the October 2022 Reuters Impact Climate Conference in London, the president of the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), Samaila Zubairu said it was time for Africa to rethink the approach to its mining value chain.  
  • According to him, mining is carried out in Africa, and the minerals are exported to Asia where they are processed and exported to other parts of the world. He said that this cannot continue and Africa needs to also process mineral resources so, there is value capture here before exports take place, and Africa can expand its mining capacity.   
  • Zubairu said; “Africa needs to expand its mining capacity, more minerals should be sourced, mined, and processed here on the continent. More investments in adaptation will increase infrastructural capacity.” 


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