From quitting a legal career to founding a digital nation; here is the story of Eche Emole, founder of Afropolitan 

Temitope Akintade
Eche Emole, cofounder of Afropolitan
Eche Emole, cofounder of Afropolitan

Eche Emole was born in Enugu, Nigeria. As the grandson of the Eastern Region Minister of Finance and Land in the first republic, born into a family of other professionals, he was on the path to becoming a medical or legal practitioner.

However, Eche saw his potential through a different lens entirely. After getting a law degree, he quit the profession and pivoted into tech. Some years later, he co-founded Afropolitan, a digital nation “that enables all Africans to build abundant lives.”

In a conversation with Technext, Eche Emole relives this daring journey, the challenges at Afropolitan’s initial stages and the “abundant lives” the platform offers Africans.

From law school to entertainment 

Eche Emole, who turns 33 later this month, had most of his formative years in Enugu, and he remembers growing up around many books.

There was a library, and in this library, I would just read and read. And I could escape and travel the world through these books.”

In 2001, his family moved from Enugu to Lagos before moving to California, USA, five years later. He had his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science. During college, he helped current A-list artists like Wizkid and Davido organize shows in America from 2011-2014.

Eche Emole, cofounder of Afropolitan
Eche Emole, cofounder of Afropolitan

After his master’s, Eche Emole proceeded to a law school for a chance to get called to the bar. 

“After law school, or while in law school, I realized that being a lawyer wasn’t for me.”

– Eche Emole, cofounder of Afropolitan.

He pivoted into tech and secured a job with Flutterwave. 

At the time, I was one of their earliest employees. I was an executive in their San Francisco office. And so from there, I transitioned to Afropolitan full time, and I’ve been doing Afropolitan ever since.”

He attributes his source of encouragement to becoming a creator to the family he grew up in. 

When you grow up in a family like I did, you’re always encouraged. I was the first kid. They always remind me of the legacy that you have.”

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Eche Emole was expected to be a lawyer because that was his whole family’s profession. His parents were disappointed when they learnt of his plan to ditch the legal profession, but he found a way to reassure them of future success.

There is something about that clarity that comes when you just know what it is that you’re not supposed to do. Let’s even put it that way. You might not even know what to do, but you know for a fact what not to do. I heard like, this one is not it anymore. And at the time, I knew they were shocked.”

However, his parents now feel fulfilled with his strides since he started the journey. Eche Emole has appeared on Forbes, met Presidents and Prime Ministers of different nations, raised funds for Afropolitan, and he intends to send this publication to his parents as another sense of fulfilment.

I don’t know if they would have written an article for me about being a lawyer. So at the end of the day, they just want you to be successful.”

Building Afropolitan

Afropolitan is a response to the painful realities the japa wave currently plaguing Nigeria has brought with it. Due to bad governance, People lose friends and bonds built over the years in the quest for greener pastures.

According to Eche Emole, he got motivated to kickstart Afropolitan when he read a 2021 article titled How to Start a New Country by Belaji Srinivasan, the former CTO of Coinbase. 

“In the article, he lays out what this new country could look like. He’s calling it a network state instead of a nation-state being defined by the physical geographical boundaries that we know today.

A network state is defined by the Internet, which is a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that can crowdfund territory around the world and eventually gain diplomatic recognition from preexisting states.

So I remember reading this thing, and I was just like this theory is nice; this theory is cool.”

The idea of Afropolitan is to leverage the internet to build a country of an aligned group of persons.

What we’re saying is the only place in the world today where an African is truly free is on the Internet. Your government has not created jobs. Nothing is happening. It’s the internet that has given us more opportunity than all the African governments combined since the beginning of independence. And it’s true. 

So for us, what we’re just saying is, let’s leverage that. Let’s leverage that to build something that is meaningful. And instead of waiting for the government to get its stuff together, we find ourselves people who are aligned on the same page and create our own thing. And it won’t invite fighting. It won’t invite protesting. All it will just involve is we organize online, we agree with ourselves, and we move. That’s it. There’s no need to go and beg anybody, because now your country is not defined by a physical border. It’s the internet. It’s borderless at that point. So that’s the thought process.”

Eche Emole, founder of Afropolitan. 

Phase one is building a network of people that are aligned. Phase two is building out the digital economy for this digital nation. This will be done with a super-platform that allows citizens to pay for goods and services online. 

For example, if you want to get Nigerian passports, you have to give them your DNA before you get passports. But imagine if you’re able to literally get that government services done online. It’s just done, and it gets delivered to you and it’s a digital copy. These are things that are possible. These are things that other countries do today, like Estonia.”

Afropolitan wants people to be able to utilise technology to achieve some of the conveniences that are possible today. Phase three is what is called the minimum viable state.

“Our goal is to become a digital nation or a digital country. But we can’t be a country just today because we say we want to be one. So how do you gain the credibility and the legitimacy needed to be viewed as a country? One day you have to show working in Nigerian terms what’s work that you have done.

And so part of our showing-workings is last September, we got recognized by the New York Stock Exchange as the first ever internet country for the African Diaspora. Today, if our citizens want to come to Nigeria or Ghana or Tanzania or Kenya, we have visa and arrival services for them. So, again, it’s just a show-working thing.”

In phase three, any service our Afropolitan citizens go through must be 1000 times better than if they went to the Nigerian government. Phase four is the land piece. 

“In phase four, we want to combine two concepts together. One is a Chinatown, and the other one is an embassy. So take for example, the US Embassy in Victoria Island is a sovereign territory. In China towns, they have their own post office, their own malls. So what we want to do is combine those two concepts together to give us a sovereign Afro town. That is the goal.”

In summary, as an Afropolitan citizen in the future, you can navigate the world with your Afropolitan passport. You can make payments for goods and services using the Afropolitan app and Afropolitan currency. You’re able to gain physical entry into sovereign Afro towns across the world. 

This new nation will be built on the blockchain because, according to the co-founder of Afropolitan, blockchain allows transparency, accountability and immutability which will be needed for funds tracing and project implementation.

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Afropolitan has been around for a year, and Eche Emole describes the brand’s acceptance as positive, especially on the global stage, mostly because there has not been an African project like Afropolitan in the past.

So I would say that internationally, we’ve gotten good reception, but locally, there’s been more skepticism. And honestly, I attribute that skepticism to a mindset we’re used to. First of all, the scamming in this continent is too much. We have scammed ourselves to stupor.”

Also, Africans are wary of anyone coming to offer ‘hope’, no matter how genuine the intentions are, according to Eche Emole. However, Eche Emole believes changing the status quo will take much work.

So for me, if I get skepticism from some Nigerians, I never take it personal because I’m like at the end of the day, until we show working, some people might not believe. We’re just grateful that some people have believed and have supported us. Which is why we’re here.”

Afropolitan has exited phase one and is currently building at phase two. 

We have built the community. We’ve released 500 passports, we sold out. So you really have your proof of concept now. I think we’re on track.”

Eche Emole, Cofounder of Afropolitan.

Be on the lookout for Afropolitan.

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