Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey returned from a trip touring African startups ready to go back.
He said in a Twitter post last week that he’ll spend three to six months somewhere on the continent next year. Dorsey had spent much of November meeting with startups and people in the tech industry in South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana.
But investors have appeared less convinced of the executive’s intentions over the following days. Twitter’s shares have declined since Dorsey announced his plans — down about 2.4% since Nov. 27 — and his other company, payments firm Square, has fallen almost 4% compared to a 1.3% drop in the S&P 500 Index.
The continent is one of the fastest growing regions for tech adoption thanks to a young population and an emerging middle class. People there have become early users of new technology, such as payments apps. Funding of African startups more than doubled last year to $1.16 billion, mainly driven by fintech investments, according to a report from venture capital firm Partech Partners.
Dorsey’s Square fits in well with Africa’s embrace of mobile payments, though the company doesn’t currently have an office there.
According to the GSMA industry association’s report this year, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest growth in wireless adoption, with a large number of jobs and economic growth tied to mobile. African leaders are also working to establish the world’s largest free-trade zone, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which would cover a market of 1.2 billion people. The deal is set to kick in next year.
Jack Ma, the co-founder of Chinese tech company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., said last month that African entrepreneurs will find countless opportunities in e-commerce, logistics and e-payments as the continent prepares for the start of a the deal.
Some large companies from the continent have started to go public. African e-commerce platform Jumia Technologies AG listed in New York this year at a value of more than $1.9 billion. South African giant Naspers Ltd. spun off its Dutch technology investment unit, Prosus NV, in September.