THE INFONOMIST: Leaders required for African tech start-up eco-system
The keynote speaker on the first day of the event painted a mixed picture of the African tech eco-system.
Jake Bright is the co-author of a book about the future of the African economy, titled The Next Africa. In his view, the Africa tech start-up environment is one of the toughest environments for start-ups. To illustrate the tough conditions for tech start-ups in Africa, Bright said: “It’s as if African start-ups start almost 20m back from everyone else in the global tech race.”
He mentioned several factors that contribute to the tough conditions when operating on the continent. Among them, he spoke about the quality of broadband and fewer venture capitalists.
At the same time, he highlighted some major gains by the African tech eco-system. Africa had 442 technology hubs, according to GSMA, an association that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
Surprisingly, he said there was improved government support for tech start-ups - a major positive for the African tech eco-system.
Bright had some recommendations for the African tech eco-system.
Although the African tech start-up eco-system is already receiving positive media exposure, he suggested that it needed more exposure.
But currently, he said, the African tech eco-system operated in silos. Tech entities in one African country did not speak to tech entities in other countries. Tech organisations within countries also hardly spoke to each other. To address this challenge, Bright suggested African tech leaders needed to start talking to each other more.
Bright called on African tech leaders to lead and take leadership seriously. Currently, there's a tech start-up leadership vacuum on the African continent, he said.
What the continent had were lots and lots of events and hubs and fewer people taking a lead in advancing the cause of African tech start-ups. Some who appeared to be leaders were just advancing the cause of their own interests, such as universities, incubators, companies or localities.
What the continent needed were leaders to represent the tech start-up eco-system in the government and other key decision-making platforms, he said. Currently, organisations such as Silicon Cape, Simodisa and others were showing leadership.
In Cape Town, there were CITi, LaunchLab, Silicon Cape, Solution Space and others. All of these institutions hardly collaborated on matters that advanced the interests of the local tech start-up eco-system. At the same time, the Cape Town tech start-ups were trying to compete with the Gauteng tech start-up eco-system and vice versa. This was not good for the African tech start-up brand, he said.
Serious collaboration for the advancement of local tech start-ups was needed. When Africa pitched in Europe or America it should do so as a unit if it was to succeed in championing the cause of local tech start-ups. It was time for African tech leaders to stand up and lead.
Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of The Infonomist and the founder of Kaya Labs. You can catch up with him via Twitter on: @WesleyDiphoko
The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.