Call to Action: New models and ideas are needed to create digital economy jobs in frontier markets

Call to Action: New models and ideas are needed to create digital economy jobs in frontier markets

Anybody who has gone through the grueling process of raising venture capital for a startup in an emerging or frontier market is intimately familiar with the difficulty of a lack of local venture capital, combined with a lack in understanding local market context of US and European VC’s. On the flip side of the coin, I’ve had many conversations with US-based VC’s that are interested in connecting with deal flow in Africa and South America, yet can’t seem to establish a consistent pipeline of quality deal flow. So what’s the disconnect? The high growth, unicorn hunting mindset is a flawed premise in the context of a frontier market. The Silicon Valley ethos and fund structure cannot be copy and pasted into most countries in the world. We need a drastic and urgent mindset shift if we’re going to create and grow startup ecosystems in frontier markets. If this does not happen, these countries will be left behind. This post is an urgent call to action to ecosystem builders, angel investors, diasporans, and ministers in frontier markets to reject the Silicon Valley ethos and focus on how their population can produce an income in a globalized, technology-driven economy. I have three ideas that I believe can contribute enormously to the conversation around meaningful digital jobs in emerging and frontier markets.

  1. Focus capacity building efforts on selling in-demand skills on global freelancing sites

Freelancing websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com have been key drivers of globalizing demand for digital skills like design, SEO, development, admin support, marketing, and a seemingly infinite number of niche skills and talents.

  1. Invest in programs to engage diasporans in developed, large GDP countries

This is a key one that I’ve become particularly passionate about. Countries with below $20 billion GDP do not have a sizable domestic market to allow for the cultivation of serious global startups. VC’s are looking for 100x returns. The least developed countries in the world can’t provide these. The smallest 30 countries in Africa can’t provide this. The smallest 16 South and Central America countries can’t provide this. So how can these countries best invest resources into creating accelerator or incubator programs to get their share of wealth being created in the global startup ecosystem? Invest into programs for the diaspora in the US, Canada, UK, or China to receive funding to build their startups in the largest GDP countries in the world and put a clause into the investment terms that states in the event their company is ultimately sold, they commit to investing X% of the total purchase price into local assets back home in country.

  1. Provide a sandbox framework for digital currency startups to set up shop in your country

Starting in 2008 and accelerating with the global spread of coronavirus, central bank policies around the world have become completely nonsensical. Negative interest rates and infinite QE are the new normal. The next frontier is central bank digital currencies. The Marshalls Islands has already revealed they are developing on the Algorand blockchain

These are some notes I’ve taken on the subject but would love to hear all of your thoughts!

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