Last week we co-organized a Roundtable discussion on “Using the African digital workforce to propel your digital transformation” at the Booking.com headquarters in Amsterdam. At one point the discussion transcended to the condition of the African technology sector as a whole. The conclusion that a lot is happening in African tech was widely shared. But at the same time there is a wish to more firmly put Africa on the global technology map. This blog aims to give an overview of resources that give insight into the African tech sector.
The African tech sector is young but thriving
Last week’s event was specifically about how internationally operating companies can deal with developer shortages by using African tech talent. It was organized by a group of members of the Netherlands African Business Council (NABC): Tunga, Incentro Africa and Edacy. It was hosted by Booking.com. The idea was to share experiences amongst Netherlands-based businesses on how to source African tech talent.
Booking.com started recruiting African techies around two years ago and shared their insights, which roughly came down to this: the African tech sector is young but thriving, there is a lot of talent emerging and it is the ambition of the company to have a workforce that is reflective of its customer base. In other words, as they see the African continent as a major growth market, there is a need for Booking to invest in hiring African techies.
The other presentation was by Niels Visser of the Telegraaf Media Group (TMG), one of the major Dutch media companies. They turned to African developers as they came to the conclusion that hiring developers locally in the Netherlands was a path paved with too many obstacles: difficult to find, expensive and difficult to keep. The conclusion was that although outsourcing has its particulars, he was positively surprised by the level of African talent.
Sharing key resources
Whereas Booking.com’s ventures into the African tech scene were resulting directly from its business philosophy, TMG — like some of the other participants in the Roundtable — stumbled upon the African developer scene by coincidence. Insiders know that a lot is happening on the African continent in terms of technogical developments, but for others this remains largely out of sight. A missed opportunity…
As a first step we thought it is a good idea to compile a list of resources that allow people to stay on top of what’s happening in African tech. Information about the sector is disseminated and enriched through a variety of media outlets, events and institutions. Taken together, a good starting point for anyone interested to learn more, get connected and share African tech stories with the world.
Here they are:
There are quite a lot of blogs and news sites dedicated to reporting on African technology and innovation, so don’t expect a comprehensive list here. For starters, an invaluable source of insights and stories is the African Tech Roundup podcast run by Andile Masuku. For general purposes, Disrupt Africa and Apps Africa are outlets that have a regular posting frequency with a broad variety of news items. Then there are blogs like Startup Digest Africa, which has a more local, East-African character and does a lot of interviews. Finally, there are more specialized outlets such as ICT Works, which focuses on ICT & international development.
Networks & Communities
The Africa Technology Business Network is a global network based out of London. It brings together innovators, investors, businesses and development leaders from around the world to drive sustainable economic growth in Africa through technology and innovation.
VC4Africa is a platform that brings together a variety of stakeholders in the African startup scene: startups, accelerators, investors, corporations, NGOs and governments. It has over 60,000 members and regularly facilitates events (more than 340 so far).
The African Business Angel Network (ABAN) is a pan African association founded early 2015 that aims to support the development of early stage investor networks across the continent and to get many more (early stage) investors excited about the opportunities in Africa. As of August 2017 it harbours 66 investor clubs, networks and initiatives across the continent.
Furthermore, there are the African business councils on a national level. For example the European Business Council for Africa, which in turn consists of councils on country level (e.g. the UK, Netherlands, Germany, etc all have their local business council for Africa). The US, China and Australia also have African business councils.
Many of these communities and networks organize events and annual summits as well. For example, the ATBN each year organizes the Africa Technology Business Forum to bring together its target groups to collaborate growth and collaboration in the African tech ecosystem. A similar goal is pursued by the Afrobytes conference which is organized in Paris, but has a slight more accent on the Francophone market (although the conference is in English).
The Africa Tech Summit organizes two events in 2018: one in Kigali, Rwanda in February, and then one in London, England in May. It is a two day tech event that brings together 250+ stakeholders, showcases the latest trends and developments and provides ample networking opportunities.
Africa Works is a bi-annual event in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, organized by the Netherlands African Business Council. It is theme based (it’s 2016 theme was Innovation in Finance); the 2018 theme is yet to be determined. It’s a 2 day event that generally attracts 1000+ participants, host 40+ workshops and has 40+ exhibition partners.
African tech hubs
There has been an explosion of tech hubs in Africa over the past years, symbolizing the rise of a thriving innovation and tech scene. The total number exceeds 300 (1). Afrilabs is a network organization for African innovation centers, comprising of 61 hubs in 27 countries and a community network of over 90,000 members.
Afrilabs also organizes an annual event for its stakeholders. Many hubs can be found through Afrilabs and have their own website and social media presence, depending on the countries you’re interested in.
Digital skills & IT schools
Bits Academy is a network of 5 schools in 4 African countries (+1 in Pakistan) that provides a 1-year course in digital design skills to African youths. The curriculum focuses on web development and web design, but is blended with entrepreneurial and life skills courses. Bits Academy has schools in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Somaliland. It is active since the year 2000 and has an alumni network of 7,000+ students.
In addition there are several initiatives that offer coding bootcamp and courses aimed at direct career placement. In Kenya there is Moringa School, which offers 20 week courses and has a network of 50+ hiring partners. Edacy from Senegal (9 months) and Codex from South Africa (1 year) operate under a similar concept.
**This article was first publish on the Tunga.io Blog.