Africa's tech challenge

What are the promises and obstacles of Africa's budding tech sector?


  1. This year's DEMO Africa conference aimed to connect African startups to the world. The conference hosted some of the most innovative companies from across the continent and gave them the opportunity to present their work.
  2. Below, Amiri Mziray gives a talk about, a Tanzania-based online shopping hub for vendors that do not have their own websites: 
  3. Amiri Mziray presenting 'Kivuko' at Demo Africa 2012
  4. Entrepreneur John Karanja explains CrowdPesa, a location-based mobile shopping app developed by Kenyans:
  5. John Karanja presenting 'CrowdPesa' at Demo Africa 2012
  6. However, transforming an idea into reality is not so simple for all startups, especially when it comes to financing. Erik Hersman, also known as the "White African", attests to this. He writes in his blog,
    "There is precious little innovation in the funding space, even as these same funders look to find the next organization that will turn the world on its head....How many “social impact” funders actually fund anything? In the social entrepreneurs world, it’s a lot less painful to get funding from traditional VCs and angels than it is this new social impact investor type".
  7. Some startups have been able to grow their companies, despite not having funding in the beginning. An example of this is Ushahidi, a well-known open source company which allows users to crowd-source information during crisis events:
  8. An important element in the sector's growth are tech hubs which serve as spaces for techies and other like-minded Africans to network and develop their work. Tech incubators like Nigeria's Co-Creation Hub and Kenya's iHub have spread across the continent.
  9. Many are suggesting that now is the best time to invest in tech startups:
  10. Mfonobong Nsehe contributing for Forbes wrote: “Africa is undergoing a technology renaissance. More than ever before, the population is becoming more technologically-inclined, more web-dependent. With the right financing, our entrepreneurs can put Africa on the global map of technological innovation. But until its financiers and the self-proclaimed ‘venture capitalists’ are easily accessible and listen to these entrepreneurs, Africa may never have its own answers to such internationally famed corporations like Google, Facebook, Zynga and the rest of them.”
  11. Mbwana Alliy, founder and managing partner at the Savannah Fund, talks about the benefits of investing in startups despite initial setbacks:
  12. When you angel invest you are going to have failures. Out of failure comes good learning. We want to help build the technology scene, but a lot of entrepreneurs don’t understand how things work. I have seen failures in Silicon Valley all the time. Sometimes you fund an entrepreneur who has failed twice and they succeed a third time because they have learnt a lot. We expect maybe even half of the 35 companies we hope to fund will fail. As we continue to invest in the successful ones, the risk will become less and less. One thing we need to change in east Africa is that there is no shame in failure.
  13. Demand for technology is growing in Africa and mobile phone use is a major example of that. According to this video by the Praekelt Foundation, 50 per cent of internet connections in Africa come exclusively from mobile devices:
  14. Spotlight on Africa - Mobile Statistics & Facts 2012
  15. Mobile Phones in Africa
    Mobile Phones in Africa
  16. Mobile Subscriptions in Africa
    Mobile Subscriptions in Africa
  17. In September, the DR Congo-based company VMK launched the Elikia, the first smartphone designed in Africa. This clip shows some of the phone's functions: 
  18. Smartphone elikia en action (Fonction Hotspot Wifi)
  19. The same company has also developed Africa's first tablet computer, the Way-C (meaning "starlight" in a dialect of northern DR Congo):
  20. The Way-C: a tablet computer for Africa
  21. Online, The Stream's community discusses the prospects for Africa's tech industry: