EP 276 – Thandwefika Radebe – Co-Founder at Qwili – We’re About to Do This Leapfrog

by | May 24, 2023

The Asia Tech Podcast was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to an incredible entrepreneur from South Africa, ⁠Thandwefika Radebe⁠, a Co-Founder at ⁠Qwili⁠. Qwili is a digital marketplace used by merchants to sell value-added services to consumers who are often not able to access these services themselves.

Some of the topics that Thandwe discussed:

  • Why he studied developmental finance
  • His discomfort caused by the obvious economic disparity on the continent
  • His family’s reaction to him leaving a stable corporate job
  • Changing the perception of investing in Africa with data
  • The importance of familiarity and certainty when it comes to tech startup investing

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

  1. I Felt a Bit Distant from My Mission
  2. The Only Difference Is a State of Mind
  3. You Just Need to Convert One Person
  4. Infighting Is the Fastest Way to Look Disorganized
  5. Bringing Prosperity to My People
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:00
O kay, now we’re good to go. Here we go. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. We have Thandwefika Radebe with us today a co founder of not bad, yeah?, a co founder of Qwili…help me here.

Thandwefika Radebe 0:21
C’mon! C’mon! No. No. No. Don’t cop out.Do it…

Michael Waitze 0:25
I don’t know. I can’t remember. Tell me.

Thandwefika Radebe 0:31

Michael Waitze 0:32
One more time.

Thandwefika Radebe 0:35

Michael Waitze 0:36
Qwili…, we’re not going to get this. Why am I getting this wrong?

Thandwefika Radebe 0:43
Qwili, is what every English speaking…

Michael Waitze 0:46
now you went and did it.

Thandwefika Radebe 0:47
I’m just saying It’s like, Oh, yeah. I mean,

Michael Waitze 0:56
okay, I’m gonna be quiet. And just say the name of the company

Thandwefika Radebe 1:01

Michael Waitze 1:02
I’m never gonna get it. Okay, Thandwe, thanks for coming on the show. You are. a star! And let’s talk about this. Before we get into the main part of our conversation. I mean, give our listeners a bit of your background for some context, where are you? And why is it so…And then end with maybe why it’s so hard for me to pronounce this right. Go ahead.

Thandwefika Radebe 1:25
So, yes, I’m trying to figure I’m calling in from Cape Town, South Africa. Nice. So I mean, I’m a Master’s in development, finance, graduate, and super, super, super passionate about, my tagline is bringing prosperity to my people. Okay, and what that meant, really, if you had to just paint a picture of the context that I live in, when I grew up, it’s no secret that Africa’s got a lot of poverty around us. The biggest scandal in my country is that you’re the most unequal society in the world. Go ahead. So it’s not unheard of to see more look at Monaco, on your right side, and on the left side of abject poverty, the slums. So I went off to study finance at the University of Cape Town trying to solve for this particularly, I thought that finance was one way in which you could do that. And hence why I went on to do a master’s in development finance, as opposed to traditional finance. And in my final year of studies, I started a NGO called Parma, which is spot farmer, but it’s actually pipe farmer. And the objective there was to take the brightest minds on campus, and university students and greatest know how on the African continent and place those minds on survivalist entrepreneurs, with the objective of getting those entrepreneurs to scale, so they could employ people. And, you know, by extension, bring prosperity to our people. And it was there that I began to understand what prosperity meant, right? Prosperity is just getting people into a place where they can just look after themselves, without the need for any external help coming in. It’s exactly what the Asian Tigers did. They built a whole lot of factories that had a lot of mom and pop stores that were built and got people. But God got people to, to do to survive and bring prosperity into themselves. So that’s where I got that from from Panama. Straight after that. I left I ran the Sadek business for Jura, South Southern Africa. So everything south of the DRC is what I used to do on behalf of Curacao mainly as a distribution manager.

Michael Waitze 3:56
So DRC mean, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yeah, just for people that don’t necessarily understand the Yeah, the geography of Africa, but good stuff. Yeah.

Thandwefika Radebe 4:07
So I ran all those territories, on behalf of the battery company, wow. Of felt distant from my original mission, which was bring prosperity to people, I felt like being incorporated a little bit of a cop out to the mission of, you know, guys, like, bring value of saving your people from abject poverty, Mexico City, but anyway, so that’s where we started cleaning. So I quit my job on the first of March of 2020. So for those of you who might not understand where that is, is that, you know, Wuhan was going crazy with COVID and someone said, Hey, man, it looks like there’s gonna be some lock downs around the world and acid. Yeah, that’s a great time to quit your job. It’s

Michael Waitze 4:52
a great time to give up my own personal prosperity, and try to focus on everybody. But did you exactly right Do this, there’s so much to focus on here. I want to back up a little bit right for people maybe have a different generation that don’t understand why there’s so much disparity. And when you talk about disparity, is it just in South Africa? Or is it in the entire African continent? I mean, to be fair, you’re right, there is a lot of poverty. And the perception is that there’s poverty in Africa. I mean, we, I guess we could have this like five hour conversation, right? Because you have 50 countries. I don’t know how many countries there are in Africa. They’re all very different as well. But if you want to talk about South Africa, specifically, maybe we can talk a little bit about why. In town a, there seems to be like unlimited prosperity. And maybe in township B, it feels like, what’s the why are we here kind of thing? Do you want to talk about this at all?

Thandwefika Radebe 5:43
Yeah. Yeah, let’s do that. I mean, you know, the reality, if you look at like, my country, in particular, South Africa, we’re an outlier on the continent. So we have the coolest, the most advanced African country. And the reason why is because we have the best infrastructure, banking system, yeah, resembles that of the West, and so on and so forth. Right? It looks through structural economics look like, okay, but this is a developed nation. The reason that’s true, is because during the apartheid government or the apartheid regime, they focused on their own white minority, white people, putting in a lot of infrastructure, business, heavy policies, focusing on them, and that part of the population. So you imagine a world we have 90% of the resources going to 10% of the population, it’s not hard to create something that resembles Europe, right. But that meant 90% of the population was starved of resources, and living in abject poverty with very little access to two basic needs and infrastructure. Right. Now, if you go further up on the continent, that’s not true for everyone else. Actually, bad pictures grim.

Michael Waitze 7:01
In every country, it’s a lot more equal. But still, the standard of living at the highest level is lower than it would be in South Africa, right? Because they didn’t build the same level of banking and technology infrastructure to make sure that anybody actually lived a life of what we would consider normal prosperity. Is that Is that fair?

Thandwefika Radebe 7:21
That I think that’s fair. And the economists, I’ll leave it to the economists and social scientists take down the granular detail. But in conclusion, yes, that’s what it is. Right? I almost say that. I think it’s slightly unfair to say, Well, how did South Africa get there? Well, South Africa got there off of by doing some very dark things to get to that level of prosperity. And it just inherently it’s just not. You know, if you’re not an activist, and you don’t want to be an activist, that’s fine. But anybody who lives in my context and looks out the window, you can’t be comfortable with that, right? Like, I can’t go to bed at night thinking, Okay, this is perfectly normal. I mean, it’s okay for town A to resemble Dubai, and town B to resemble the west of the West lumps, like, that’s perfectly normal. And by the way, they’re right next door to each other. There’s a street that separates the ones who want the richest, richest geography on the African continent, I think is still might be scenting per square meter, which is in Johannesburg, there’s a street that separates Santen from a township. Right. So that’s how close we are to each other, we can see that the the inequality so it’s problematic. I think it’s an it’s an I think that’s the role of what, what a lot of tech entrepreneurs who are building in my context are trying to fix or solve, bringing prosperity to our people.

Michael Waitze 8:49
I want to get back to this idea of bringing prosperity to my people, because I do think it’s really important if that’s the theme of this whole whole conversation. That’s, that’s great for me, I want to understand this, though, for you, personally, or maybe for your family. Right? In other words, if I met you, in Europe, in Paris, in London, in New York or in LA, you don’t seem to have come out of that environment. I don’t know what better way to say that. Right. So from your perspective, as a youngster, as a young adult, and now a real adult, like, what was your life experience, like and how did you get to here? I’m really curious.

Thandwefika Radebe 9:27
Yeah. There’s a small, small, small percentage of black South Africans or elites on the African continent, right, who are often parents. first movers into big corporations and become directors. Parents are politicians. Parents are part of the educated class doctors, lawyers, accountants. I come from a family of doctors and lawyers, and a family that has a strong emphasis on education. So I sound the way I saw, because I am South African educated. But I went to one of the best private schools in the country, arguably the best private schools in the country called Kingston. And so if you had to meet me that your or in the US wherever you’d be like, but you don’t sound like that’s your reality, right? I think what wouldn’t be true is that I’m probably one of a small, my family, my immediate family is quite well off. But if I think of my extended family that still live in rural areas, in townships, that isn’t true. So it will be untrue. For me to say that that isn’t my problem. Because I live that problem by its it sits within my walled garden as family members who still live within that environment.

Michael Waitze 10:48
Interesting. And again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make a value judgment about like, you didn’t have that. So you shouldn’t be concerned about it. It’s just curious. Oh, yeah, no, no, no, that’s not what I mean at all right. But it’s just curious to me that like, even growing up with a life of privilege, you still look around and go, this still needs to be fixed. Because that’s the thing, right? In other words, even you said, I decided when I was younger, that I wanted to bring prosperity to my people. And yet, I took a corporate job, and I was doing that and which I could have done my whole life. And I was feeling very unfulfilled, it seems to me and thought, nevermind, COVID No, COVID I don’t care. I’m gonna do this thing that I’ve already committed to doing. And basically, I’m gonna screw everybody else who tells me I shouldn’t be doing this thing. And I presume, but I’m curious to know what I mean, because you’re laughing. But I want to know this too. When you quit your job on March 1, like we weren’t really in the depths of COVID yet, but boy, we were almost you could see it like on the horizon, you’d be like, Oh, that looks like a bad thing that’s gonna happen. Did your mom and dad and your cousins your brothers and sisters or your friends just go, Dude, what are you doing?

Thandwefika Radebe 11:55
You know, interesting. And I’ll draw it back to what you were saying earlier. Right. Is that like, why don’t you just continue milking the system, dude, like, honestly, just work the system? You can? I think it’s a conscious, right, you. You look you you live this reality every day. And it upsets you. Yeah, it’s disturbing to look at it to the point where, you know, you’re not in equilibrium as a human. So for my own selfish lead, forget bringing prosperity to my people like my own selfish equilibrium. I felt like this imbalance within me is going to drive into depression. I can’t live like this. Yeah. So the only way that I can feel like I’m doing something about it, if I chip away at the thing, that’s annoying, to say, let’s go and fix it. Right? Yeah. And that strong feeling COVID Or no COVID is not going to change. Anyway. So come first march, I took a year decision, I said, this has been on my back for a year, right? There’s no COVID, that doesn’t really matter. If this thing still there. It’s not going to be removed, because it’s like, but COVID is a great excuse. To continue having that thing that’s disturbing, you continue to disturb you. I mean, that within itself is not rational, as if something is causing you abject, you know, pain, you should just remove it, regardless of what barriers in front of you. And that’s so when my sister, my friends, my mom, my dad, I remember each decision distinctly yo, my mom says in denim, which means my child. I don’t understand. And I said, but

Michael Waitze 13:37
you’ve lived this, you have to understand. Yeah,

Thandwefika Radebe 13:41
I understand. This is no I don’t. I put you through all of this. And you don’t have to worry about that. But now you’re telling me what to go back into poverty? I’m just not. I’m not. I’m I know, my dad calls. My dad says, Are you sure about this? Your mom’s calling me. She’s really not happy about this, you know that? That thing was like, No, your mom says like, talk to the

Michael Waitze 14:04
mother seems to be upset. So I’m gonna be concerned.

Thandwefika Radebe 14:11
My sister, the doctor, another one’s an engineer. They both called and said, No, this is done. You need to stop doing this. And I took an hour conversation trying to convince both parties. And the one that got me was my younger brother, because he called me and said, Mom said I should give you a call. So this is me ticking a box. Giving you a call. Are you good? I’m like, Yeah, good. You show right. I’m like yeah, I’m sure it’s like gray as long as you’re good. And you show still love you brother chat next week. Right and you have at least a third of it. So you know they will they concerns came from the point of view of why are you subjecting yourself to poverty when you don’t have to go Got something good going for you to stick stay on that path? Right? Yeah. Whereas anybody who understands is that you don’t go into entrepreneurship, because if you’re going into entrepreneurship to get rich, you should just not do it. No, because you’re not going to get rich within the first five years, just don’t do that. I mean, but if you’re going in to do something that is gnawing at you and is driving you to the verge of insanity, you should probably go and address that thing. And that’s when you get in. Actually, that’s

Michael Waitze 15:29
the best reason to do it. It’s because there is something gnawing at you that says, I don’t want to do this, I have to do this, right. And this gets back to the conversation that we know. But it’s really important, right? Because this gets back to the conversation that you and I had when we did our prep call. And that is, anybody can be good at anything. But to be great at something to actually do that thing that’s gnawing at you, you have to care. And this is the proof, right? That you care, because you’re like, my mom, my dad, my sisters. Don’t think that what I’m doing is like the coolest thing in the world. And my friends are like, Dude, you had it. And use I don’t care. There’s this itching thing in the middle of my back. And I can’t really reach it yet. And I’m not going to be satisfied until I can actually reach it. Get rid of it. No.

Thandwefika Radebe 16:15
Yeah, that’s That’s exactly it. You know, it’s to extend to extend that someone said, What’s the difference between doing something that’s never been done before? Or something that you’ve never done before? Yeah, someone says something. If I see, Michael, it is not possible for you to start a podcast. Yeah, that’s true. But in the same sentence, if you had to say, if I just say, Michael, you can definitely start a podcast. That’s also true. What the only difference is between the two states is that it’s a state of mind. Yeah, that like, your state of mind does not get up for you to starting a podcast. And you’re not passionate about this. You don’t want to do it. So why should you? So don’t? Because you can’t do it. Yeah. But if you think I’ve never done a podcast before, but I love podcasts. I’m freaking passion, because I want to talk to interesting people around the world and let my user base in Asia. Listen to what I have to say. That’s gnawing at me. Yeah. And I got to scratch that. And I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to stop until I do that, then it’s absolutely true that you can start a podcast because that you have the drive to go all the way to the end, right? Yeah. And that’s the only time I think you should ever get into entrepreneur get into entrepreneurship. In that case, it’s just like, it’s unbearable. Another thing, it only extends to entrepreneurship, any real passion.

Michael Waitze 17:39
Agreed? Yeah, agreed. I mean, entrepreneur fee, real entrepreneurship is just it just the surface that the word discussing, but it’s true for anything, right. And that’s why I always say like, you have to really care. Here’s the other thing I want to know, though, right? You’ve gone into this sort of developmental finance thing. And, like, the way I look at it is Africa is like the last place in the world where this type of growth is going to take place, right? Because if you look at every other continent, whether it’s Asia, even Eastern Europe has already gone through a big transformation. Western Europe is a completely different thing. But you know, it’s been modern, which is in air quotes. North America has its own thing, but even Central and South America. They’re still involved. But Africa is a continent, again, with one point something billion people where the median age is only like 19 years old, or 18 years old. It’s kind of the future. So in a way, you have to do this thing. And tech is the way to what’s the right word to enable all of the things that you want to accomplish? No.

Thandwefika Radebe 18:45
Yeah, you know, you think about this talk of, you know, Asia, why this matters to Asia, we the last frontier, Asia just went through that. So a lot, almost 80% of your population, if not more, has seen this transition that Asia went through, because they lived right next door, what the impact of industrialization and infrastructure did to them. Yeah. And they’ll say, Hey, I remember how we did that. And if they if anybody from the outside, nature’s looking into Africa, what they should be taking note of is saying, I remember that. I remember how when we look like that. And what should be interesting about particularly tech, is that for the African continent, we’re about to do this LeapFrog. Yeah, yeah. So we don’t have infrastructure, that same infrastructure, you guys, Asia, the whole of Asia builds out. We’re about to leapfrog it because technology has progressed past that technology, the infrastructure that was laid down image, and what we’re doing that with a lesser difference between tech in the West versus tech, you know, in my context in Africa, right, is that, too In the West is some level of concern deliver some form of convenience. So I need to get an Uber, I need to get a ride quicker, I need to get to I don’t want to do my banking at a bank branch. So I’ll do it on an app. Or I don’t feel like buying a thick textbook. So I’ll just download the book. Now Africa, did no debate in the background branch does enough bank branches covering a lot of our people, the infrastructure, transport infrastructure isn’t really there. Yeah, the textbooks haven’t arrived. So tech, for us is a way of delivering that infrastructure to our people, not only bringing prosperity, but allowing us to leapfrog another and grow into exactly what he looks like today. So when I think about our frontier, what makes it so exciting, is that you can be part of that conversation as it unfolds. And for someone who’s sitting in in Asia, you know, in a in a in an Indonesia or China or Vietnam, you can say, hey, I missed out on that last curve, a little bit of FOMO. I’d like to actually see what it looks like to recreate that, but in a completely new way. Right? Yeah, using a completely new set of fundamentals. And with a population that’s hungry to deliver, like you said, we’re a team, as a country as a continent, we read, like we listen, we were ready to go and move.

Michael Waitze 21:21
Yeah, I mean, I was looking at some statistics a couple of days ago, right in preparation for this. And I think it was from the visual capitalists and they were like something like 40% of the children in the world are going to be in Africa in like 2030 or 2050, or something. And again, I don’t believe every statistic I read, because that’s that’s predicated on the fact that nothing else changes in the population growth doesn’t change anywhere else in the world, right. But but here’s the thing, though, do you look at Singapore. And I’m thinking about this, really, because I was on I was recording earlier with somebody who works at the imda in Singapore. And I feel like Singapore, which was founded in 1965, right, so it’s only 57, almost 58 years old. It was a fishing village. It really was half a century ago. And now it’s like not just the tech and the finance center of Southeast Asia. But it’s the place where everybody goes to found to, you know, to found their startups as well. But it’s also iterated three or four times in the process of its own personal growth. And you mentioned Dubai as well. So Dubai, went to Singapore and said, We want to build the DIFC, we want to make Dubai the financial center of the Middle East or that part of the Middle East, right for the UAE in particular. And then you have countries like Rwanda and Burundi, which seem like backwaters to most people that aren’t familiar with Africa. But they’re also went to Dubai, and to Singapore to figure out how do we make those small countries in the central part of Africa? Just they’re just Sub Saharan. Do I have that? Right? Yeah. And they said, We want to build that same thing. But when you look at it, do you look at what’s going on? What happened in Singapore? What happened in the Middle East? And think we can definitely do that here? And if we do, what does it look like to you in 15 or 20? years? I’m super curious.

Thandwefika Radebe 23:07
The interesting thing, when I look at like Singapore and Dubai development, you had Singapore, which both of them sort of established themselves as the services. hubs of the respective regions, right. And then Singapore with shipping? Yeah,

Michael Waitze 23:27
I just want to say this first, because how old are you?

Thandwefika Radebe 23:31
30. Yes, so

Michael Waitze 23:32
30 years ago, it was 1993. Yeah, but so before that, what you don’t know is that in the 70s, in the 80s, Singapore was actually a manufacturing hub for electronics in Asia. And companies like Creative Technologies, were doing this. And this is what I mean about iteration, right. So they said, We want to be a manufacturing center, because that was the thing that mattered. And they took their deepwater port and said, we can manufacture things here and then ship it to the rest of the world, the port thing still stays, they don’t manufacture a lot of stuff there. But what they did was they saw the future and said, We need to move to services, and in particular, financial services, because that’s what’s going to drive our growth. And that’s why it’s so interesting. And if you look at that iteration, that’s what I mean. Because now, if you know all of the history, you can see them change and change pretty rapidly. And that’s why I want to know what the impact you think it’s going to be for what you’re building. Right on the rest of the continent, your country as well. But on the rest of the content to say, we need to have this financial services infrastructure first, because if we don’t have finance, then we don’t have the kind of oil that will make the machinery of of the economy work. Sorry, I interrupted you go ahead.

Thandwefika Radebe 24:49
Yeah, no, no. So exactly. So if you think about that progression, and iterating you have a Singapore or one that is a little bit more Companies issue to me you have a China who industrialize is quickly, very low in manufacturing, yeah. And then what they then do is a progress. And so we can’t be here forever. So they iterate, and they say, we’re gonna go into high value manufacturing. And they say, Look, we can’t be here, even in high value manufacturing was cool. But we actually had to start really developing the tech itself. So we need to go into investing in r&d and deep tech and to really entrench our mode, because you can’t be cheap forever. No, now you see what divided to tax regimes, industrial zones, that favorable ways of working in there at a port that allows you to do very similar things to what I think you know, Singapore did, and then iterate, financial services, sector, iterate, tourism, iterate, whatever it is, I always hope. And what I’m hoping to see him when even with Rwanda, is that we don’t try and do the slow iteration, we almost try and leapfrog all of it if we have the ability to do so. So I am I envision us saying, well, actually, on the African continent, we think we can leapfrog the technology, a few steps ahead, because we can already see where this world is going. Right. And what we think is that we can actually start very quickly establishing ourselves as a tech base for the rest of the world to learn a base where we can have cheap software developers and expert to export them to the rest of the world, which is what a lot of what the work that I’m then is doing and some other companies out there, or by extension, as well is that starting to establish ourselves as a regional as an African player to service other startups who want to do interesting things on the continent. There’s a big emphasis, though, on doing exactly what the Asian Tigers did, which is industrialized, First, create industrial development zones. And then eventually we’ll get an iterate and see where the world takes us. I still think that there’s an opportunity to leapfrog all of that and go in straight.

Michael Waitze 27:20
Yeah, I again, I don’t know what’s going to happen, right. But I do think that technology gives you the ability to do that leapfrogging, right, because there’s no legacy infrastructure there. You don’t have to maintain something that they did in other countries. You could just say we have, we’re starting from scratch. And if we can start from scratch, what would we build? And that is that that’s the key thing here. Is there? An I don’t know this, right. But is there enough of a tech educated population in South Africa to begin with, but in the continent as a whole? To be able to do that leapfrogging? And also, is there a diaspora, right? So if you look at what happened in China, a lot of the Chinese students would go to the UK would go to Australia would go to the US and come home and say, now we can build. And the same thing in India, right? A lot of the educated Indians did the same thing. Are you seeing that same thing happened in Africa, but have been faster in the sense that a lot of your colleagues or peers, went overseas and now come home, or they getting educated at home and just saying we’re going to build here? Because the the possibilities, and the potential is just so huge?

Thandwefika Radebe 28:30
I think just to to almost layer this, let’s start from home. Yep. I don’t think anywhere in the world right now. There’s enough software developers to at the pace that we’re moving at the pace that we’re moving. I don’t think anybody has enough awareness. And everybody has, has this problem. So there’s not enough at home. And there’s a global, there’s a global race for talent. Yeah, including our own limited talent that we do have, right? If we extend that one step further and talk about the diaspora. What’s true to the diaspora, what I’m beginning to see is true for expats, who are bored of being in the developed world, isn’t that we have a stream of capital, but founders coming back to the continent and saying, Hey, I’m from the diaspora, they have the same itch I have. I want to come back and fix this, I want to be part of this change. There’s a lot of there’s a lot of partners and entrepreneurs want to do that, or who are doing that already, and just need to be given room to continue to express themselves to do that. But there’s also an interesting thing that’s beginning to happen where you have Americans Europeans who are saying, I could be part of the LeapFrog. I could actually shape this narrative. This is exciting. Now there might not have a genuine interest in bringing prosperity. I don’t think that really matters. I think what really is, is that we need the human capital to take us to where we want to go. If they willing to offer it. I don’t think we should be turning it away if it’s an unlimited supply anyway. Yeah. And I’m beginning to see, I’m beginning to see a lot of that interesting thing is that a bulk of our funding now in tech, I won’t speak for other sectors, comes from foreign sources, like where doesn’t come from local, mainly the US to a certain degree, Europe, I don’t think Asia has really gotten involved just yet interested. But a lot of our, our, our resource, our the money that we get actually comes from foreign sources, because those people are having the same conversation, basically, saying, This is really interesting, we think we Africans going is that they we could be at the forefront of something really exciting, right, we could be part of a conversation or something really exciting. The sad reality is, is that I think Africa must have depending on what source you you read, raised about between four to $5 billion last year in total tech funding, okay. More 54 degree African countries. That’s how much we raised in tech funding last year, $5 billion. If you look at the country of France, if you look at the country of France, they raise that to excellent. With a population that looks like a rounding error to me, like a rounding error to exactly it’s a small time. And that gives you and that gives you the idea of the scale, or the first nothingness that still exists between between the two of us, right?

Michael Waitze 31:48
How do you solve that? In other words, is there enough money in on the continent itself, to be able to fund the things that you think or that the entrepreneur or the tech entrepreneurs thinks should get built? And even if there isn’t, how do you encourage more people from overseas, right? Because the same thing happened? Look, the whole Japanese miracle was essentially I’m gonna get killed for saying this right was funded through reconstruction after World War Two, for better for worse, right. Japan was in shambles after World War Two. And the Americans came in and said, Here’s a whole bunch of money. Here’s a whole bunch of technology, we’re really sorry about all this kind of terrible stuff we did. And out of the ashes of that mess came Toyota, Honda, Panasonic, Hitachi, Toshiba, all these unbelievable companies that were there before him, but now had access to unbelievable funding and technology. How do you encourage people to do that in Africa’s so that that massive growth can happen? Because you write $5 billion ain’t enough?

Thandwefika Radebe 32:46
Yeah, it’s not it’s a drop in the ocean. So firstly, the first thing that’s always been true, is that there’s too much money in the world. How what money follows this return? Yeah. So this is my finance brain. Go ahead, right now. Tell me and what everybody is chasing is yield or risk adjusted. Yep. Now, the perception out there. And the truth of God, my continent, is that before you light a fire, on on cash, as in, literally build a bond, build a pyramid of cash and light it on fire. You probably the step before, that is probably investing in an African tech startup. And that’s, and that’s just, I mean, that’s just the truth, right? Like our currency devaluation situation, our political environment, sometimes the perceived risk of Africa is high. So people are nervous about this place. And how do you change that? You change that with data. Not to be emotional, not to be an activist, you have to show a track record of return, right? And how you show a track record of return is you exit, you show this exits, you show that companies are being IPOs, you show that you’re selling, you know, companies are returning dividend, whatever it is, but you need to show that so that’s the first step I think to actually solve the problem, right? Is that like interest, there needs to be a track record of exit. Then what happens is that this beautiful thing called form starts to kick in. It’s like we Michael that what is that guy? Yeah, that guy for X return. And all of a sudden capital starts chasing the Savior because I thought Africans definitely it. I always believed in Africa. I was waiting it out.

Michael Waitze 34:57
How come no one was listening kind of thing.

Thandwefika Radebe 35:02
Exactly right. FOMO kicks in. And you see this whole lot of people crowding in. But now the people who are crowding in capital needs it can’t be me. Who has limited resources saying, Hey, guys, I just invested $10,000 into the African ecosystem? Yeah. Who’s that guy? But if it’s someone, if you’ve got the guy who got you got to FOMO in is a respected voice in the industry, or some of the some of the people, all of a sudden, it’s okay, why is that guy getting involved? And then you see this natural progression, and people begin to you have signals, or what I called lighthouses around the continent, and that signal to everybody else to say, Hey, guys, this isn’t cute. It’s irrelevant. Yeah. But are you worried that you’re probably taking them? Are you working

Michael Waitze 35:54
on that as well? In other words, do you do outreach is the wrong word, right. But do you work with your peers to say, we need to be in contact with the funding sources in Chicago, in New York, in Boston, in San Francisco, in London, in Tokyo in Singapore, we need to constantly be banging on them to say, you miss that thing in? In Rwanda? Or you miss that thing in Nigeria? Or you miss that thing in in Ghana or in Guinea, or wherever it is? Right? Are you? Are you doing that as well? Are you working with people to tell that story?

Thandwefika Radebe 36:29
You have to I mean, part of why I’m on this podcast today is that my hope is guy who’s listening on the podcast is like, maybe I should take a closer look at this. Yeah, you know, maybe I’m missing out on something. And beyond that, also, it’s about you just need to convert one guy, or one lady who sits on a board or is influential enough to say, Hey, man, I’m actually going to take a look like you guys should really, really look at this. And not a little bit. But and one of the things that I always say is when someone says, I would like to invest $1,000 into Greek, but I’m really sorry. It’s small. And I mean, I don’t care. Yeah, that’s good. That’s why I’m like, because if you’re willing to give that whatever is a consequential amount of money to you into an African startup, someone’s going to ask you why. Right? And I want you to tell them why you did it. Yeah. Why you were willing to put your neck on the line for an African company, when everybody thinks we’re crazy. That begins to tell the story and begins to, to, to relate the message to everybody else that this is. The other thing that I am unapologetic about is that I am willing to always take the time to show investors around, say, hey, look, are you here? Like, why don’t you come up, come up to Cape Town or come up to Lagos or come out to Nairobi? Right, I’ll show you what we saw before. And I’ll show you how big this market is. If we crack this. Do you know what you build? You would have been a part of that. And that’s, I think that’s important.

Michael Waitze 38:10
What’s the what’s the most populous country in Africa? Nigeria, and it’s like 200, and something million people?

Thandwefika Radebe 38:17
Yeah. So closely by Egypt. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 38:21
So this is the other thing too, right. A lot of people when they think of Egypt, they don’t think of it as being African. Right? They just they don’t even know I bet if you ask most Americans is Egypt, part of Africa, the Middle East, you know what I mean? Like they wouldn’t know. But here’s the other thing, too, is that Egypt is actually developing as a center of venture capital, right? Because it’s so close to all this money in the Middle East that the money filters into Egypt, but then filters into the rest of Africa. Do I have that wrong?

Thandwefika Radebe 38:46
No, that’s it filters both ways. But yeah, it does. I think the thing is, is we do no favors to ourselves, calling our comrades non comrades does every bit one of us. Egypt is every one of us. And they might and alienating them to say no, go to the Arab League is not useful. No, because they part of the structural economics in Egypt and not too far from us.

Michael Waitze 39:17
Not really, it’s way more African than it is Middle Eastern. And to be fair, particularly from an economic infrastructure and infrastructure standpoint, right? And you do have people doing this, right? You have, let’s just say you have very well connected and very famous, even MMA fighters saying, well, that guy is not African. And we don’t have to talk about who they are. Because it’s not that important. And you just thinking to yourself in a private moment, like, what’s the upside to you? Or what’s the upside to Africa for actually saying that since that guy is proud of his African NIS or whatever you want to say, You got to let that ride at some level like we can argue about the apartheid, but you know what I mean, right? I agree with you. They want to be part of it. Let them be part of it. Yeah.

Thandwefika Radebe 40:01
I don’t I don’t think

Michael Waitze 40:02
that helps. No, I don’t think so I

Thandwefika Radebe 40:04
don’t think it’s useful. And I don’t think it’s a useful, it’s useful. It’s a useful way to spend our time right to go and tell people, these ones are not African. And these ones are. And this is why I think the thing, I would even get a little bit more extreme. Go ahead. My investors are Dutch. But they’ve lived in Africa for over 20 years. And for me, I’d argue, where’s your heart? And where do you Who do you identify us, right? And the guy says, I identify as Tanzania in and I said, well, then you’re one of us. I don’t understand why you want to say, I’m not one of you. Yeah. I don’t think I think identity is important. And it plays a big role in how we sell our agenda. As to what it is that we want to achieve as a people and how we want to bring prosperity in fighting is the fastest way to look disorganized. agreed and, and the fastest way to detract from the main mission. Yeah, I think we should almost say No, baby, but one of us then then you been any other other African one individual.

Michael Waitze 41:15
Yeah, I mean, I always used to say, you know, I’m exaggerating to make a point, right? Like, I can have a fight with my brother and say anything I want him. But but you can’t, meaning somebody outside of the area cannot right? So and if you’re if that person considers themselves Tanzanian in the same way that like I in there’s part of me, I say this in private, but in public as well. I lived in Japan for 22 years. I’ve been in Asia for more of my life than I lived in the United States. Am I actually Japanese or Asian? Not really. But do I feel like I’ve lived my entire adult and business life in Asia? Yeah. Do I feel an affinity for it? When I see Japan and the World Cup? Am I rooting for them? Maybe? Do you know what I mean? Like when I was in when I was in Vietnam in January, and I watched the Vietnamese soccer team play the Thai soccer team because I live in Thailand. Was I rooting for Thailand? Yeah, I was. Yeah. But you know what I mean, I’m not Thai. And no one’s gonna confuse me for being tired. But it’s kind of the same thing. Yeah.

Thandwefika Radebe 42:18
Yeah, very, very strong similarities to something pulling on your heartstrings. That makes you say, I have to be here. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 42:24
And no Thai person ever says to me, don’t root for the Thai soccer. You know what I mean? And that would be weird. If they did. Yeah,

Thandwefika Radebe 42:30
I think Exactly. Exactly.

Michael Waitze 42:33
I want to ask you this before I let you go. And because I’ve just taken up too much of your time. But I do want you back because there’s so much more to talk about here. Can we talk just like logistically about company formation stock options? Do you know what I mean? And, and bankruptcy and money movement and stuff like that? Because that’s one of the reasons why a lot of this stuff goes to Singapore. It’s it’s managed by what you know, by English law and everything there is dispute resolution is really easy. What is that like for you as well?

Thandwefika Radebe 43:04
This is very contentious. You’ve dived into a very deep, deep, deep, I’m going to I’m gonna give you two answers. I’m gonna give you an answer that represents a political activist statement more than it does a logical statement. Okay, I’m gonna give you one that is logical. So logically speaking, if we just take the South African context, yep. And every other country on the African continent, what keeps people away from our context? Is certainty. We just want a track record of knowing that when things go wrong, we are going to be fine, right? Our money is fine. Our interests are protected. that’s all anybody wants to know, with equality. So everything you just spoke about English law, financial hub, is all saying the same thing that it’s familiar. Yes. Right. That’s why we’re comfortable. It’s comfortable, because it’s gonna feel safe. The truth about the African context as a whole is that we don’t scream. Certainty to a lot of people, right. There’s enough news, go onto Google and Google African news. And I promise you, you’ll see a few scary headlines. And then it’s the truth about the context that we don’t include confidence. The other thing, if you talk about narrowed down to South Africa is that South Africa does a lot of we have an we have a quite a strict exchange control regime, which means getting money in and out of my country is very difficult. Really. It can it can be that difficult, very difficult process that you have to you have to there’s some rules, right. Let me not say difficult because I don’t want to scare people. Yeah, there’s some rules you need to follow. It’s not as easy as doing a transfer to the US because I can Yeah, and that freaks people out. Yeah, people don’t like the idea that I The government can say no, you can’t take your money out. And that’s what contributes to an environment where people get scared. Yeah. If I’m as now, so as an investor coming from the outside looking in, if you don’t want to do a lot of research, it’s probably just make my life easy. Yeah. I don’t want to have to research your contacts. Can I just not send my, I don’t want to think about it, can we just send this money to Singapore, because I’ve done that before Delaware,

Michael Waitze 45:26
or whatever.

Thandwefika Radebe 45:29
Or Delaware or the Isle of Man, wherever hospitals, the truth about it. And I’ve said this time and time again, my wife’s a lawyer, is that you probably going to, if you’re an African business, you’re probably going to run into some problems, trying to maintain complex structures like that. And the upside, is minimal. to you as a founder, it’s minimal. The upside to the investor is that he has certainty, right? If someone had to tell me, where would you incorporate? I’d probably say Namibian. So why zero capital gains tax fit, the government loves businesses, so they’ll give you anything you want. And very, very stable, legal environment, extremely stable. But it was good to say, hey, put your money into an Indian bank account, right? Because no one’s really showing that off. So as an activist, I tend to say, there’s nothing wrong with us. People should just put the money in here. Our banks are some of the safest banks in the world. Yeah, my judiciary, my legal system is I org, the best in the world. I would argue South Africans got the best legal and fairest legal system in the world. Okay, and our banks, the safest. I know, we’ve been gray listed for whatever reason, but geese, Avis Banks, and we have a track record for this in 2008, when the world was going crazy. Our banks were fine. So I think it’s a question of time for investors being comfortable. I think it’s not fair when you’re in a capital starved environment, right? I don’t think you have the leverage to go to an investor to tell him where he should be putting his money. If he tells you incorporated in Singapore, that might be the only choice. Right? Yeah. I mean, if you ask me, so to me, I my businesses in South Africa, I’ve incorporated here. Why? Because it’s easy for me, I know how to use it.

Michael Waitze 47:43
But that’s what I wanted to know. Right? Because you’re walking the walk, but also you’re talking to talk but also walking the walk right? You said it’s easy here. The banking system is good here. I trust it. There’s stability. There’s, I like to say visibility, right? In other words, I can look out and think, oh, there’s not a tidal wave coming. It’s just like, it’s a beautiful ocean. And I can die know how to deal with that. And I think that’s really important. Yeah.

Thandwefika Radebe 48:09
The most interesting thing is when STP was going bust, and a whole lot of my founder community friends had the money there. Oh, God, everyone was panicking coming to me saying, you know, where’s your money? Are you safe? Are you okay? And I said, I’ve long never trusted everyone else’s banking system, but my own. I worked on my banking system. I’ve seen the regulation on my bank. I work with this up. I knew but as he became, I was like, Oh, sounds like a you problem. I mean, that’s really selfish to me. But but but I live in a stable environment. And that’s why I walk the walk. Because I know that it works. Yeah. And we’ve taken capital from Japan, from China, from the US from Europe. And no one’s once questioned our decision. Everyone looks at it and says, This looks good. This is sound. This is clear, right? I feel like my money safe.

Michael Waitze 49:06
And you know, that’s what they need to know. Yeah, that’s all you need to know. And you know what, that’s a great way to end. I feel like my money’s safe. I want to thank you, Thandwefika Radebe, I’m never going to get the company.

Thandwefika Radebe 49:18
That’s it. That’s the one that was the surname was perfect.

Michael Waitze 49:22
The name I can get. This was super awesome. You got to come back. And you gotta give me more people to help me tell some more of these stories, right. Like I said before, no one’s gonna know unless we tell them what’s going on. Right. And part of the part of the issue here is getting that story out and getting that message out and I’d love to do more. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.


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