African entrepreneurs face huge barriers – and our adoration of the intrepid explorer armed with a Harvard degree privileges everything foreign and white

Last week I attended my first TED conference. Held on an expansive lodge on the foot of Mount Meru, in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, TED Global 2017 promised to “share bold ideas, tough truths and jaw-dropping creative visions”. It delivered. For three full days, 700-plus attendees from around the world were treated to talks from writers and scientists, artists and academics, politicians and activists. But amid the laughter and the occasional tears, for me there were intermittent bouts of anger.

Among TED’s “astonishing group of speakers” was a creature anyone who watches the African continent will know well: the tech entrepreneur. From Morocco to Madagascar, Africa has emerged as the last frontier for entrepreneurs, a land overflowing with problems that any intrepid explorer, armed with a Harvard degree and a bright idea can make his name and fortune solving (it’s nearly always “his”).

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