6 Reasons to attend Tech4Africa

Speakers from: World Wide Creative, Techstars, Sw7, Parcelninja, Discovery Health, PayFast, Microsoft, Junk Mail, Opera, Datawind, Gumtree, SA Florist, Nic Harry, Barclays, Memeburn and Thoughtworks. Covering disruption, eCommerce, IoT / Makers, Leadership, Marketing, Mobile, The Next Billion, Social, Startups, Tech, UX & Women in Tech.

Bigger & Better
This year we have 12 tracks, 4 event days, with 79 excellent speakers in 70 sessions.
Tech4Africa is the largest tech innovation, startup and entrepreneur platform in Africa.

Covering topical, relevant subjects you won’t find in Powerpoint sales pitches
Disruption, eCommerce, IoT / Makers, Leadership, Marketing, Mobile, The Next Billion, Social, Startups, Tech, UX & Women in Tech

Networking on Steroids

We congregate the African tech industry. Expect to meet: marketeers, entrepreneurs, technologists, opinion leaders, business strategists, start­‐ups, educators, corporates, journalists, tweeters, bloggers, developers, VC’s and more. So there is plenty of opportunity for meeting new people.

Skill up, Hack on, Start up, added learning opportunities

On the two days prior to Tech4Africa there will be a Random Hack of Kindness, and the day after Tech4Africa, we’re putting on a Startup Day By Entrepreneurs, for Entrepreneurs.

New location
We’re now in the iconic FNB Stadium, and we love it!

Always fun extra stuff
We are going to race drones in the FNB Stadium!

Lots of networking opportunities before, during and after.
Did we mention lots of FREE coffee?
After-parties both nights.
Over R25k of prizes, lots of tech schwag to take home!

Don’t miss out. Get your tickets now.

Food available on-site
No need to worry about finding local eateries for your breakfast and lunch. We’ll have food available at the venue.

Who goes to Tech4Africa?
Account Manager, Africa correspondent, Blogger, Campaign Manager, CEO, Chairman, Chief Sales and Marketing Office, Co-founder, Communications Officer, COO, CTO, Corporate Communication Specialist, Customer Experience Lead, Developer, Digital Brand Manager, Digital Platforms Manager, Editor-in-chief, Enterprise Architect, Executive Editor, Founder, Group CEO, Group Communications Manager, Hacker, Head of Analytics, Optimisation and Usability, Head of Digital Communications, Head of Digital Media and Marketing, Head of Engage, Head of Optimise, Head of PR and Communications, Head of Social Media, Head of Technical Operations, Head of Technology, Head: Digital Marketing Campaigns, Head: Digital Presence, Head: Product Development & Portals, Managing Director, Managing Editor, Managing Partner, Marketing & Commercial Manager, Marketing & Sales Manager, Marketing Director, Marketing Manager, MD, Online Manager, Operations Manager, Owner, Partner, Product Development Manager, Product Manager, Project Manager, Researcher, Sales Director, Senior Business Analyst, Senior Manager: Strategic Contract R&D, Social media evangelist, Software Engineer, Technology Solutions Manager, Surveys Editor, Systems & Devices Manager, Talent Development, Technical Director, Technical Evangelist, Technology Editor, Technology Strategy, Usability expert, User Interface developer, Writer

Quotes from previous attendees:

@rudshep: Really an awesome day at Tech4Africa conference. This level of energy and optimism I have not seen anywhere else. SA Tech Rocks!
@ShawnGraaff: @Tech4Africa has reached out to over 150 cities, mostly main cities in Africa, this is how you empower and innovate a continent #T4A
@liambeeton: We have come to the end of @Tech4Africa #T4A. I really enjoyed myself, met some great people and am taking so much info away.
@imel: @Tech4Africa great being here, fantastic optimism in the air #t4a
@glenbvuma: Made the right choice by attending @Tech4Africa instead of marching with Malema. Really learning a lot from the guys. #T4A

Don’t miss out. Get your tickets now.


Podcast of the unscripted radio interview on Tshwane FM about the upcoming RHOK at Tech4Africa.

SoundCloud embed:
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Tech4Africa Jonathan Smit of Payfast – Interview

Gareth talks to Jonathan about Payfast, the journey, what they actually do, and where they are going.

Soundcloud embed:
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#tech4africa, #payfast, #payment processing, #africa, #growth, #startup, #entrepreneur

Tech4Africa focusses on local content, stories and successes

After 5 years of authentic content, Tech4Africa returns to Johannesburg on the 7th & 8th October for two days of inspiring and engaging talks at the iconic Kalabash. Widely recognised as the SxSW of Africa, Tech4Africa has leveraged it’s community speaker submission platform to uncover and profile local stories, successes and learnings.

Over the two full days, Tech4Africa will be featuring 55 speakers over 12 speaker tracks, a Hackathon for two days before the main event, and alongside the accelerator SW7 a specialist Startup Day “by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs” afterwards. It’s certainly action packed, and there seems to be something for everyone.

Says Gareth Knight, the founder of Tech4Africa: “In 2013 we realised that the local market is very different to the international one, and whilst everyone wants to imitate the Valley hotshots, the reality is that the combination of market size, buying power, skills and access to capital all mean a different playing field for everyone on the ground, and so we narrowed focus on the local stories which make up the local ecosystem.”

Amongst the 55 speaker seesions, Fraser Black and Nicholas Wallander will be talking about the deal behind their investment deal for their ecommerce site “SA Florist” on Dragons Den. Nic Haralambous will be talking about what it’s like to sell a mobile startup and then build a profitable ecommerce business selling socks online and in stores. Steve Evans will be talking about the “Underdog mentaility” and what it takes to bring down established Giants.

Says Knight: “In Cape Town the stories these guys told really resonated with everyone. It’s real, it’s current, and it’s relavant. You’re getting it straight from the proverbial horses mouth, so the learning is fantastic.”

At the end of each of the two days, and as is becoming the norm for Tech4Africa, there is a big focus on networking, having fun and building relationships, so they are going to be putting on a live DJ set, and plenty of free drinks for everyone. Delegates can also expect the coffee to be free!

Says Knight: “This year we’re really excited about the speaker quality we’ve seen start the speaking process. It’s taken a big bet on the ecosystem, and after 3 years it feels like everyone is finally realising that we’re only about good content, not Death by Powerpoint and certainly not snorefests. So this year in Joburg we’re proud to profile a bumper crop of speakers who have amazing experiences to share, and important lessons to impart. We’re ecstatic our speaker submission and voting process is working, and that the local stories are starting to percolate. It’s fantastic content, so we’ll see you there!”

The website can be found at: http://bit.ly/T4AJoburg2015 and anyone can register at http://register.tech4africa.com. Tickets are R500 for the main event on the 7th & 8th October, and R350 for the Startup Day on the 9th October. The Hackathon is FREE, and dates are 5th & 6th October.

Tech4Africa challenges established development teams

This year Tech4Africa is running a Hackathon on the two days prior to the main event. The Hackathon is aimed at imparting workplace skills around collaboration, and instilling the notion that a simple utility value product can be shipped in two days when a team pulls together.

And he’s the rub: Tech4Africa is challenging all tech teams from established companies to send at least one person to the Hackathon, to share their skills, even if for a few hours.

The founder of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight, says: “Our contention is that the Europeans and Americans are going to figure out pretty quickly that the African market is going to be big enough to target once the $50 smartphone reaches ubiquity, and indeed some of them already have, but they’re not local and they don’t understand the local market, so there is a gap. That said, we also think there is a lack of skill around technical execution in the African market. So whilst the Hackathon doesn’t solve it, it will give the participants the confidence to build and release something, so we start the cycle sooner.”

So whilst the Hackathon isn’t aimed at experienced developers, there is definitely a need for skills to be shared in much the same way this is done all over the world. You just have to think of the PayPal & Skype mafia to understand how important it is for anyone to gain industry knowledge from people who have already done it.

Unlike most Hackathons the format will be different and the attendees will all work on the same project, but within their different skill sets and abilities, so there are plenty of opportunities for experienced developers to pass on their skills for the next generation of hackers.

To support this, Microsoft are sponsoring Azure cloud instances which will give the developers the ability to push their code live, as well as FREE online training. Tech4Africa will be running Google Hangouts beforehand to help the developers get up to speed.

Says Knight: “It’s pretty simple: as an organisation we’re not about ivory towers and fishbowls, we’re about merit, earning success, and acknowleding the realities of the market we live in, so we’re going to welcome anyone who has something to learn, and everyone who wants to share how they’ve learnt. I built my career on that principle, and so we’re hoping that the established tech teams can see the value in it too.”

Anyone interested in participating need only register for FREE on the Tech4Africa site.

The Hackathon website can be found at http://bit.ly/Tech4AfricaRHoK, the main website at: Tech4Africa.com and anyone can register at http://register.tech4africa.com. Tickets are FREE.

Tech4Africa launches the Random Hack of Kindness, focusses on workplace skills

This year Tech4Africa is running a Hackathon on the two days prior to the main event. This is an interesting development since they ran two Hackathons two years ago, and then stopped doing them altogether, until now.

When quizzed about this the founder of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight, said: “The first two Hackathons we ran were great days and I think the attendees got a lot out of it, but we felt afterwards that they didn’t live up to our expectations. And then looking at the ecosystem, we felt that there were already enough events doing that, so why try compete on that basis?”

Which is fair enough… but then Knight says “… And then one event I asked the audience how many of them were using some sort of source control, or CI for deployments, or who worked in teams bigger than 2, and the numbers were shocking poor – clearly there is a lot going on in the ecosystem, but we started questioning whether it was actually relevant. So this year we’ve decided to do something a little different, with the focus on a utility product for the African market, and the core skills taught being code collaboration and shipping product. When you unpack this, it’s basically our mantra of: Want to build big tech product for Africa? Focus on product with daily value for user. Mobile first. Make it easy to share. Make sure cash-flow has you in it.

So, unlike most Hackathons, the format will be different: the attendees will all work on the same project, but within their different skill sets and abilities, and everyone will share the same codebase. The objective will be to release a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) onto Github in 2 days, for anyone to take a look at, and to make sure that everyone attending has the skills to collaborate on software projects of 2 or 20. After that, if the MVP is good enough it will be demo’d at the main Tech4Africa event and to the Johannesburg City Council.

To support this, Microsoft are sponsoring Azure cloud instances which will give the developers the ability to push their code live, as well as FREE online training. Tech4Africa will be running Google Hangouts beforehand to help the developers get up to speed.

Says Knight: “It’s hard to overstate how far behind we are in Africa in some respects, and we think that focussing on developing skills around collaboration and releasing products is the most productive thing we can do right now to help grow innovation in Africa. We’re excited by this approach, and so far the number of signups is validating this. It’s going to be awesome!”.

The Hackathon website can be found at http://bit.ly/Tech4AfricaRHoK, the main website at: Tech4Africa.com and anyone can register at http://register.tech4africa.com. Tickets are FREE.

You can also watch this video to understand more:

Introducing the Random Hack of Kindness (RHoK)


We think that Hackathons in Africa are enjoying mixed results:
There are opportunities which are being missed by focusing on the wrong problems.
There are lack of skills around Shipping Product.
There are also skills gaps around determining the business case of projects / problems etc.

There are of course exceptions to this, thankfully (!), but by and large we’re thinking that by focusing on workplace relevant skills, and problems which can product viable businesses, a Hackathon could have more long term value to the people who participate.

We don’t think that it’s our place to take sides on specific Technologies, and we don’t really want to replicate what other people are already doing.

Which is why the Tech4Africa Hackathons moving forward will do 4 things only:

  1. Focus on one utility problem which is local & relevant
  2. Include collaboration technology and business case skills transfer for everyone
  3. Focus on User Experience – this is the key driver for adoption and is largely ignored
  4. Result in Shipping an MVP Proof of Concept


Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs
Internet Heirarchy
Internet Heirarchy

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the opportunities are in Africa right now, and what’s clear is that it’s not going to play out the same way it has in the “developed” world until now.  The reason is that when you look at the building blocks of the internet, there are clear un-met challenges which make those opportunities both different and harder.

When you dissect the landscape using Maslow as your reference point, and then you overlay that with the mobile market data, we think that the major differentiation will be:

  1. most everything is going to happen on a mobile device rather than on a desktop PC;
  2. whilst the rest of the “developed” world is focusing on top of the pyramid problems around self-actualisation, creativity, problem solving, authenticity and spontaneity (as memes for products), the African market still has pretty much all the layers of the pyramid left as opportunities, with the bottom of the pyramid still largely untapped.

When you dissect the opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid, you’ll find that they are primarily “utility” problems which exist in the lives of people everywhere, every day, in all markets.

For example: most diagrams will show “internet” or “wifi” as the base of the pyramid, and as such is probably the biggest opportunity (which is why the Telcos are so dominant in people’s lives).

Maslow in the Internet Age.
Maslow in the Internet Age.

So this is what has led to our mantra of:

Want to build big tech product for Africa?

  1. Focus on product with daily value for user. This is the utility & viability part.
  2. Mobile first. This is the market demographic & adoption part.
  3. Make it easy to share. This is the common sense part.
  4. Make sure cash-flow has you in it. This is the “Don’t waste your time” part.

So, when you unpack this, we see examples (these are simple ones) coming out of:

  • Education: I want to add to or complete my education
  • Transport: I want to be somewhere on time / I need to inform my employer / I need a lift
  • Utilities: I want water / gas / electricity / housing
  • Personal finance: I want to make a payment / I want to send money to my family who live far away
  • Employment: I want to work to earn an income / I have jobs to offer
  • Information: I want to know what is going on around me
  • Family: Where are my family? Are they safe?

When applied to communities and devices (Internet of Things), some examples could be around:

  • Medical devices which are designed for low-resource hospitals
  • Infant phototherapy / General health issues
  • Smoke alerts
  • Air quality
  • Using 3G to connect communities and make them aware (using something like BRCK – https://www.brck.com/)
  • Tablet devices pre-configured for education and learning
  • Community security via drones
  • Smart metering applications (eg: energy usage)
  • Community / family communication (single button modes, not Group chat)

So we’re not going to be encouraging an “Uber / Facebook / LinkedIn / Buzzfeed / Slack etc for Africa” – what’s the point?


Maslow's Heirarchy of Software Development
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Software Development

So, instead of following the usual Hackathon experience you can find anywhere, our approach moving forward will be different:

  1. We’re going to give clear direction on a product that could become a business.
  2. The RHOK will focus on problems which occur in everyday life (this is where the business value is).
  3. It will solve something which will mean people will talk about it (because it has given them value).
  4. There will be a reasonable vision of adding transactions for cash flow, although this won’t be the focus for the RHOK itself.
  5. Everyone will work together as a team.
  6. The development focus will be on executing for mobile devices.
  7. We WILL ship an MVP product in 2 days.
  8. All skills learnt over the two days will transfer to the workplace.

And instead of focussing on the usual set of development skills (or taking sides on what stack to focus on), we’re going to focus on skills which enable collaboration in teams and shipping code and realising something beyond the Hackathon:

  • GIT (source control)
  • Continuous Integration (CI – easy stress free deployments)
  • App architecture (essential for teamwork)
  • App business case (just, essential)

We’ve engaged with Microsoft who have the vision to believe in what we’re doing, and they are going to help with:

  • Cloud servers on  Azure – The machines will be small but adequate, and limited to the Hackathons.
  • Cloud training help, eg: how to build machines running Linux/Win/MySQL,IoT, etc on Azure.
  • Free online training via Microsoft Virtual Academy.


For anyone attending, this is roughly what to expect:

  • We will announce the problem / focus area of the Hackathon
  • This will more than likely be a single page, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach
  • Explain what viable use & business cases mean
  • Group everyone into teams of logical skill sets
  • Go through application architecture & needs
  • Assign responsibilities
  • Push first code to Github
  • Setup servers to push & pull code
  • Review progress every 3 to 4 hours
  • Setup a booth to record teamwork & results for everyone to see

And the rewards will be:

  1. At the RHoK:
    1. Learn new skills
    2. Learn how to ship  a product in 2 days
    3. Meet new people
  2. Present at Tech4Africa Day 2
  3. From Microsoft:
    1. BizSpark / Azure offers
    2. Demo of Azure Cloud setup for learning
    3. Small Azure instances to attendees who participate in the RHOK.
    4. Free training vouchers for their Virtual Training Academy


We’re really excited by what this will produce, and we’re looking forward to rolling this out across all of the cities we go to.  See you there!