Cross-post from: http://idibon.com/africa-tech-summit-mest/
I attended the Africa Tech Summit (http://afritech.com/) and gave an invited talk at the MEST school for entrepreneurs (http://meltwater.org/) last week, both in Accra, Ghana and run by MeltWater (http://www.meltwater.com/).
The summit was eye-opening for how quickly technology has been adopted in less developed parts of the world. In some cases, that technology has leapfrogged the rest of the world, with greater adoption and innovation than anywhere else. Mobile payments is one example, with more accounts in sub-Saharan Africa than the Middle-East, Latin America, or Asia:
The two days brought together many people working in technology in Africa: international companies like Samsung who already have a large presence there, pan-African technology companies eyeing foreign markets, and tech startups like you can find all over the world.
The panel on E-Commerce was the standout for me. In particular, I enjoyed Mark Essien speaking about the importance of local connections for Hotels.ng, Tope Folayan of MallforAfrica giving a fascinating insight into how complicated it (once) was for people in Africa to have international products delivered, and Raphael Afaedor talking about solving the time-consuming problems of visiting supermarkets in Nigeria with Supermart.ng.
The strongest counter-point was Haris Broumidis, CEO of Vodafone Ghana, in the first session. While he complimented the innovation and self-sufficiency of African tech companies, he made one observation that was hard to argue: There hasn’t been an African tech company that has disrupted an industry outside of Africa.
If an African tech company will make a global impact, there is a strong chance it will be a company started at the MEST school and incubator for entrepreneurs (http://meltwater.org/).
I gave an invited talk about my path to becoming an entrepreneur and was a guest judge for end-of-semester startup pitches by groups of students in the program.
Not surprising to those of you who know me, I gave a talk about my path to entrepreneurship in terms of how I have learned about the world by cycling across much of it. Rather than talk about the companies I have founded or worked at the past, I concentrated on how I established the global perspective that is core to Idibon’s values:
The startups were exciting. I won’t give away their secrets, but they covered everything from retail to agriculture and education. Every single pitch was well-structured, had a clearly defined pain-point they were addressing, and was delivered with clarity – they were all more polished than most I see in Silicon Valley and more than any pitch I have ever given!
I look forward to seeing many of these pitches grow into companies that I will see at future Africa Tech Summits.