Clockwise from top left: Samuel Kitara, Ifeanyi Okafor, Azure Pallay, and William Biko Otweyo

Africa business conferences, often run by MBA students at business schools, are phenomenal networking events. In recent years, however, many have devolved into one-day resume-padding opportunities for students and speakers alike, resulting in limited impact for the grassroots business community across the continent. 

The Yale Africa Startup Review wanted to do more than just that. We wanted to have an impact for the grassroots African entrepreneurial ecosystem across space and time, beyond the walls of Evans Hall, unencumbered by the logistical limitations of a routine weekend conference.

When I reached out to fellow Yale School of Management alum Ifeanyi Okafor ’19 MBA to pitch the newly formed Yale Africa Startup Review (YASR) two years ago, he replied: “During my time at Yale, we had been trying to create a niche at Yale for the Africa [entrepreneurial] space, but we have not been able to. Conferences are saturated and low impact.” 

“But if we can get momentum behind this, we can do some really great things for the ecosystem.”

Ifeanyi Okafor ’19 MBA


To get us started, Okafor, who hails from Nigeria, opened his book of contacts and offered an introduction. Jake Bright, a former reporter for TechCrunch, recommended that YASR join the CrunchBase Venture Program. This was only the beginning. 

Today, YASR is an active part of the CrunchBase Venture Program. Companies featured in the annual keystone YASR30 list are also featured under the YASR CrunchBase profile, providing much-needed visibility for under-the-radar Africa startups within the world’s largest database of startups and investors.

The YASR editorial team quickly realized that many of the nominated startups struggle with barriers to access for basic digitization resources. So, I called on my School of Management alumni network to see if corporations could partner with YASR to fill that gap. Okafor ultimately made the connection with his employer Amazon Web Services. Now, YASR is an official Amazon Web Services Activate Provider and helps nominated startups access a host of free benefits, including Amazon Web Services Cloud credits, Business Support credits, exclusive members-only offers, and access to the Activate Console to help build and grow their businesses. 

Amazon Web Services Activate is just one of several YASR corporate partnerships. That growing list includes Ingressive for Good (I4G), the social impact arm of Ingressive Capital, a pan-African venture fund. With this partnership, YASR-nominated or YASR-featured companies can access I4G’s entry level engineering and design talent database. 

YASR logoA key component of the Yale Africa Startup Review’s process for featuring companies on the YASR30 list is thorough editorial diligence and a review by Africa-focused venture capitalists, angel investors and ecosystem partners. When the review needed to recruit new angel investors to the panel, Azure Pallay ’19 MBA stepped up. 

“I am in Lisbon right now, but am actually launching Zemed Group, an angel investing team focused on African startups in markets such as Kenya and looking to capitalize on emerging consumer trends and demographic drivers we believe in,” she shared. “I’d be more than happy to be a part of YASR. I can also see how this would be a source of relationships for our fund.”

YASR is excited about the Global Network for Advanced Management and newer SOM degree programs that have dramatically increased representation of Africans at Yale and deepened connections with partner schools on the continent. In fact, when Kenyan native William Biko Otweyo ’20 MAM returned to Nairobi to work at the global pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, he wanted to stay involved with Yale. YASR provided just the avenue for him to do that. 

“I know you are recruiting a new editorial team,” he offered. “I did my MBA at Strathmore Business School (Kenya), a GNAM partner school, before coming to Yale for the MAM program. Perhaps I can refer three Strathmore students who are joining the MAM program to YASR as editorial candidates. They can help build awareness of YASR in the Kenyan startup ecosystem overall. ”

The second edition of the Yale Africa Startup Review went live March 30 and the editorial team is excited to build upon the momentum from last year. Yale College African students interested in internships with African startups are actively engaging with us. YASR continues to build its network of corporate partners — a space Yale alumni can really help with. And the editorial team is rallying all Yale Africa-interested alumni and students to engage with this vibrant community and high-impact initiative as investors, corporate prize partners, and as a talent/network pool for startups. 

To get involved, please visit our website, LinkedIn, or Twitter



Samuel Kitara ’20 MBA is the co-founder and co-editor of the Yale Africa Startup Review.