Build and sell for Africa: Snapshot of Herman Chinery-Hesse’s talk

By: Mongezi Mtati

Ghanaian entrepreneur, who I can easily call one of Africa’s leading minds in technology and business, Herman Chinery-Hesse blew away the Tech 4 Africa audience. Unlike most conference speakers, Herman Chinery-Hesse entered with a piece of paper as his talk and described it as doing things African-style.

Apart from known as Africa’s Bill Gates, Herman Chinery-Hesse co-founded, among others,  SOFTtribe limited, one of Africa’s leading software houses. He has built and developed technology startups and does so for the African context. He asserts that African entrepreneurs should build for the market and build partnerships with companies that offer services to compliment theirs.

Here are some are key points from his talk:

  • With the rise of the web, they had to reinvent themselves.

He described that the rise of the web led to how software can be managed remotely, without selling and managing it for different branches.

  • The average African had no way to sell products to customers abroad, they built a product that acts as an international shopping mall.
  • The root of Africa’s poverty lies in the inability to sell their products to international customers.
  • Selling products in Africa requires that you also package them for Africa.

Most large companies develop solutions that do not meet Africa’s needs, and in most instances, African businesses are small and want a solution that suits them.

  • When you have the technology, rolling it out makes borders irrelevant.
  • Building for the African, or any, market requires experimentation and adapting to what the market wants.
  • It is no longer about programming, but the model you build around products.
  • It is no longer about the tech, it is now about what people want to buy. They are not techies.

Questions from the audience:

  1. In your view, what are some of the most important reasons to use the cloud in Africa?
    1. Europe and U.S don’t have power failures, Africa does.
    2. Bandwidth limitations.
  1. Would you sell your African company to a non-African buyers?
    1. Yes, but we want Africa to own the majority.

Herman Chinery-Hesse cited a lot of very relevant reasons and needs that can only be solved with African technology solutions.

What are your thoughts on where Africa can contextualise technology?