November 10, 2015
About the author : Edward is one of Africa’s young software entrepreneurs. He is a co-founder of an Internet start-up in Ghana and loves poetry.
Coffee, lineyards lined with executive titles, Founders and executives chit chatting in the hall way – these are the first elements which welcomed me as I was ushered into the Labadi Pleasure Beach Hotel which hosted Ghana’s first African Technology Summit. From the beginning this seemed like any other tech conference I had attended, it however didn’t take long for me to realize how unique the discussions and content were.
This was no conference to pamper African Tech – Right from the start, the stakeholders admitted a lot needed to be done to boost the creation of innovation from Africa. Investors, tech giants, telecoms and entrepreneurs agreed although lots of strides had been made in tech, the continent is yet to see an innovation which surpasses mPesa in terms of reach, impact and innovation. But, wait! The discussion didn’t stop there. What deepened the discourse was the clear commitment to putting in a lot more to attain relevance. The many panels throughout the two-day summit revealed the areas which needed a boost to get African tech to its destination. Funding was identified as a critical area. One key challenge is the funding gap between seed-funders and VCs considering companies seeking $500k and above. To help solve this problem, MEST in partnership with other players launched the Pan Afircan VC fund. Announced earlier in October, this fund unlike the MEST traditional investment pool, will focus on companies outside the MEST ecosystem as well.
The panelists were not scared to disagree – Remember those conferences where almost ever panelist agreed with the other? Well this one didn’t seem like anyone of those conferences. Because Africa is so diverse, it is expected that each player would have tasted a different side of it. And that is exactly what I observed. One key disagreement the conference spent some time on involved the issue of which type of talent was best for incubators. One side thought engaging the more experienced hands was a better option, whiles the other corner suggested investing time and money in the training of inexperienced talent could yield results in the long-term (cleaning rough diamonds!).
The KINGS (Kenya Ivory Coast Nigeria Ghana South Africa) were ushered in – Eric Osiakwan, one of Ghana’s leading angel investors in tech coined the term, KINGS representing the countries in Ghana making leading strides in tech. I disagree with Cote d’Ivoire though. I agree the country has developed tremendously since in the past 4 years with a growth of more than 8% annually. I however however think that despite the country’s growth in tech, it will take a while for the region to make the kinds of strides countries like Kenya are making. Tech trends globally favor francophone countries a lot more. Translating apps to hit in anglophone countries is still a major challenge.