by Giacomo Grison
More than 200 delegates from at least 20 countries attended the Third Africa Tech summit on 16 May. The convention aimed to create a bridge between the continent’s growing tech scene and leading global investors.
The one-day event was hosted at the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel in London and featured 35 speakers, including representatives from MTN, Ecobank, Thomson Reuters and The London Stock Exchange Group.
Andrew Fassnidge, founder of the summit and of the Pan-African news portal AppsAfrica.com, expressed satisfaction with the high rate of participation.
“African tech in London is still relatively niche, but more and more people are starting to recognize the huge opportunities that the continent is providing,” he said. “These are two-sided, both for African entrepreneurs and for those who invest in Africa. All we do here is connect the dots.”
Experts and entrepreneurs addressed the latest developments of the African tech scene across a range of sectors, from telecommunications and agriculture to transport and entertainment.
One of the major themes discussed was the importance of nurturing potential in the continent.
“Investing in local talent is essential to address the lack of African managerial positions in tech firms still dominated by foreigners,” said Charlotte Ward of AHL Venture Partners.
According to Sheilah Birgen, leader of Nairobi-based technology centre iHub, the lack of capital with which to attract and cultivate talent is one of the most serious challenges local start-ups are facing when expanding their business’ reach.
Women’s empowerment in the African technological landscape was also deemed an overlooked yet vital issue.
“Economies in Africa cannot grow by playing only with half of the team,” said Tokunboh Ishmael, managing director of Nigerian advisory firm Alitheia Capital.
A study by the International Finance Corporation on venture funding in emerging markets from 2012 to 2017 revealed that only 9 per cent of companies funded were women-led start-ups. The rate falls to 5.3 per cent in Africa.
Barbara Birungi Mutabazi leads Hive Colab, a business incubator that scouts emerging female talent.
“Introducing information and communications technologies into the early stages of education is fundamental if we want girls to build up confidence, which is often lacking,” she said. “Women have an immense potential when it comes to tech. The future belongs to them.”
In the final section of the event, young African innovators presented their project to investors. Among them, Brian Mwiti, who runs a start-up called Hope Tech, stood out from the crowd with a groundbreaking device. The Sixth Sense, a hand-held mobility device, uses echolocation via a sensor with a range of up to three meters to assist visually impaired people in Africa.
“The main problem coming with disability is accessing the physical environment. We aim to correct that,” he said, although he did not disclose how much the device under development would ultimately cost.
Over the three years since its launch in 2016, the African Tech Summit has seen participation rates growing consistently. The next edition of the event is expected to be held in Kigali in early 2019.
Featured Image by Africa Tech Summit/London