Meet the Boss: Mbwana Alliy, managing partner, Savannah Fund

Mbwana Alliy, managing partner, Savannah Fund

Mbwana Alliy, Savannah Fund managing partner

Mbwana Alliy, Savannah Fund managing partner

1. What was your first job?

When I was 16 I worked for a company in Dar es Salaam called CATS-NET, one of the first ISPs (internet service providers) in Tanzania. I was doing data entry – a very boring job.

2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

After completing university in Bristol in England, I worked in aerospace and had a boss named David Tilley. We bonded over the coffee I brought back from Tanzania. He wasn’t an expert on every system, but he knew how everything interconnected. I continue to use that thinking today at Savannah Fund.

3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?

Finance and cash flow.

4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?

I have a passion for what I’m doing and the ability to connect with people across borders.

5. What are the best things about your country, Tanzania?

Zanzibar. There is also a place called Kitulo Plateau in the southern highlands that is known as the Serengeti of Flowers. It was the first park in Africa to be set aside for its floral beauty. It is an unusual and cool place to go.

6. And the worst?

The socialism hangover. People are still referencing [former president Julius Kambarage] Nyerere but we should be moving on because we are now a democracy and a market economy.

7. Your future career plans?

Just more venture capital – more funds, more sectors. There is a chance that I might do my own startup one day. It would also be nice to join the boards of a few companies.

8. How do you relax?

Reading, listing to music and photography. As of next month I will start kitesurfing in Zanzibar.

9. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring businesspeople and entrepreneurs?

Get out more, travel more. You might find an opening somewhere else if you can’t find it in your home country.

10. How can Africa realise its full potential?

African countries need to trade more with one another. It pains me that East African countries don’t trade with each other, and spend more time doing business with other continents. Many economies around the world have grown a lot by trading with their neighbours, particularly Asia.

Mbwana Alliy is managing partner of Savannah Fund, a seed capital fund specialising in US$25,000-$500,000 investments in early stage high growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Alliy was born in Tanzania but is currently based in Kenya.