This past Saturday, for the first time ever, I live-blogged. I attended Digital UnDivided’s FOCUS100 Conference and listened to several great panels discussing topics like how to develop tech talent and how to start a tech company, all the while typing and tweeting as fast as my fingers could move in order to capture all of the interesting tidbits I was hearing. Normally I probably would have found myself gravitating more towards participating in the Global Mobile Hackathon put on concurrently by the conference so live-blogging the panels was a brand new and eye-opening experience for me. I learned about the many exciting movements happening in tech around the world, specifically in Africa (though, of course, I couldn’t help myself and ended up spending a chunk of the day hanging out at the hackathon to see what people were up to and debate Linux vs. Windows, but that’ll be discussed in a follow-up post).
As we’ve seen recently, tech is booming in Africa. From our fellow BlackFemaleCoder Martha developing her own version of Hacker School in Nairobi to a Ugandan software dev team placing in app competitions to the first African designed smartphone, there’s been a lot going on. This boom was expounded upon at the FOCUS100 conference during a panel entitled “3 Great Tech Companies Redefining the African Continent.” The panel featured Blessings Oyeleye, Rebeca Enonchong and Nneka Obiudu as speakers and Stacey Morrison from BlogHer as the moderator. Oyeleye, a chemical engineer turned fashionista, runs a company called Makers Crew, which focuses on delivering high fashion to Nigerian women; Enonchong is the founder of AppsTech, which is a global provider of software solutions and also an Oracle Platinum Partner; and Obiudu founded Africa.com with the goal of dismantling the myth of Africa being a monolithic, under-developed society. These women spoke on the incredible potential the continent has already displayed and how it is in fact leading the way in mobile app development. What I found most interesting from the discussion was learning that desktops had never been a primary platform. Instead, many use their phones as their primary means of connecting to the world around them. Mobile banking has exploded and people use their phones to pay for nearly everything, including taxi cabs and college fees. Imagine being able to pay your semester tuition on your phone! That’s awesome (or maybe not so awesome, seeing how expensive college is these days…).
The speakers also mentioned that over 62% of the population of the entire continent is under 25 years old, implying that the majority of the continent is thus incredibly tech literate. They argued that this is a huge opportunity to reach an under-served and often underestimated market and that, often times, the reason American tech companies fail when trying to establish themselves in the region is that they attempt to apply an American business model in Africa instead of adapting. The speakers also mentioned that non-Africans still tend to think of Africa as a “country” rather than a continent, which also leads to a complete misunderstanding of the diverse and ever-increasingly dynamic market.
All in all, it was an incredibly interesting discussion. I found both the work and the words of these women inspiring. There’s much to look forward to in regards to how Africa will continue making its mark in the tech scene and these women have made that future sound even more exciting.
For more information on the FOCUS100 conference, check out some highlights here.