SJ31 – Tech and Entrepreneurship in Africa with Mannie T’Chawi and Jason Israel

We were honored to have two very special guests on Startup Jab this week: Mannie T’Chawi and Jason Israel joined us to talk about tech, entrepreneurship, and Africa.

Mannie T’Chawi is the co-founder & CEO of LayerCake; a social enterprise that promotes financial inclusivity and security in Tanzania. He also serves as the Director of International Outreach and Business Development for CULTIVA Solutions, a DC-area education consultancy and brokerage. In addition, Mannie consults on international development efforts helping to strategize, execute, and build partnerships between US and Sub-saharan Africa based organizations.

Jason Israel is a dedicated public servant, naval officer, and educator with over 15 years of experience in military and civilian leadership positions at the federal, state, and local levels. Currently a Commander in the Navy Reserve, he recently deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa where worked in Somalia toward a more stable and secure future for the east Africa region. Jason is passionate about educating and empowering youth to rise to their full potential and has spent his free time teaching and mentoring students in each community he’s lived. A native Marylander and resident of Baltimore, Jason served as Director for African Affairs for the National Security Council at the White House until earlier this year.


  • Mannie: “Thanks to the success of mobile banking platforms in Kenya, for example, Africa has started moving towards mobile banking, which is really mobile transfer. It’s the equivalent of having your money in Verizon or AT&T rather than a a bank… Mobile transfer works for people fairly well, but you can’t exclude banks from the process. There needs to be unity, and less friction, and [my company LayerCake] hopes to provide that… You’re allowing them an opportunity, in a predominantly cash-based economy, to actually grow their wealth and savings rather than it literally being cash under their mattress.”
  • Jason: “What Mannie’s doing is really the driving force behind the change that we want to see in Africa. It’s a great example of looking at the institutions, the strengths and weaknesses that are in the country, and trying to build the capacity of the local banks in order to confront a challenge that is uniquely Tanzanian.”
  • J: “One of the greatest parts of my jobs [at the National Security Council] was hearing all of these stories about what entrepreneurs are doing to solve these unique problems.”
  • M: “People don’t realize that there is a lot of entrepreneurial expertise already in the market… Africa is a market that has always been wrought with necessity and is full of inventors.”
  • M: “The strategy for winning in Africa, no matter the vertical or industry, is being the connective tissue.”
  • J: Regarding “brain drain,” “I think it’s a myth that it’s just, ‘I can make more money in New York or London, so I’m going to head there.’ There are a ton of talented people leaving [Africa], and either a nation lacks the capacity or desire [to keep them in the country], or there’s a corrupt reason where somebody’s getting some money to allow people to leave.”
  • M: “We don’t just need big, bold moves, but we need a lot of big, bold moves all at the same time.”


Some of the cool efforts going on in Africa:

And check out: Somali Entrepreneur Raises $100 Million For Money Transfer Startup WorldRemit

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