News from the conference room: this is a series of blog posts in which blogging experts briefly review key Tech4Africa 2010 talks and panels from Day 1 and 2.
By the time we got to the closing remarks at the end of two fantastic days at Tech4Africa, the atmosphere was a mix of exhaustion, inspiration and eagerness to get to the after party and then beyond into the world, to start applying the learning’s and following up with new connections made.
I had already started asking people what their number one take-away from the unconference-conference had been, so was delighted when the panel opened up their closing remarks along the same lines.
Hearing what other attendee’s pick out as their number one take away, is a great way to summarise the key points and highlight any trends from all the information that was imparted.
So here are some of the take-aways that were shared with me and that I picked up from the panel:
Simon Dingle declared that “Tech4Africa has arrived!”
Duncan McCleod is “going to make it a priority to come to next years Tech4Africa”.
Ivo Vegter felt that “our (as in South Africa’s) engineers and developers are at the top of their game”.
Andy Higgins said his take away was “to build small and good, rather than big and mediocre”.
“Only Africans are going to solve African problems. The international context is a great wake up call, but it needs to be applied to the African context by Africans. It’s only a matter of time before Tech4Africa is dominated by the rest of Africa’s start up’s and speakers. The time is now to look forward!” exclaimed Mark Kaigwa from Kenya.
Dustin Diaz was a man of few words, all he could say to me was: “Blown away!”
Whereas Darren Smith was a bit more verbose with his points, being: “T4A take-away: Seedcamp and Tech4Africa was an eye-opener, in as much meeting the local and international innovators brought home just how fast the world is moving, yet how small its boundaries have become (something that Clay Shirky alluded to in his keynote). What it brought home to me though, was the difficulty in bootstrapping a genuine tech start-up in this country. There seems to be a massive gap between the bootstrapped start-up, and genuine VC investment in a BUSINESS. Most of the entrepreneurs I chatted to and listened to during Tech4Africa were long on tech, passion and ideas, but short on business acumen. And in the absence of a degree of working capital, these start-ups simply will never start-up. Its simple economics.
Sadly, I left Tech4Africa with little semblance of sufficient support structures for entrepreneurs other than ‘family and fools’. It seems to me that most so-called boot-strapped business successes in South Africa are actually extensions of established businesses, products/services … and are funded through the working capital of their benefactors. VCs are looking for much bigger investment opportunities than offered locally (they’re looking for global scale, and 60% plus returns). Yet many of the innovations NEED to serve South Africa needs, and if that’s all they do, it doesn’t make them any less valuable.
So, a few mixed feelings. On the one hand, a tremendous fillip for tech innovation in Africa, but again a sobering assessment of our ability to harness the capital needed to put this innovation to work.”
Ashley Shaw summed up his take away as “solutions to challenges and meeting people”.
“I had a take away pizza last night” was what came to Gordon Greeff’s mind when I asked him, while Mongezi Mtati felt ”the conference has raised the bar much higher than before, the perception that innovation originates from somewhere outside Africa no longer holds true. The challenge is to transcend the needs of a select few who know what the web is about, and create applications that change lives.”
Renier Meyer asserted that “Tech4Africa was an awesome experience and all the panel discussions and presentations were very inspiring and made me think differently about lots of things and also made me think about things I’ve never thought of before. One thing that I realised is that we as South Africans and Africans, are different. And we do things a lot differently here than in the rest of the world. How we do things here even differs from how they do it in other African countries, I’m especially thinking about the mobile market. But even though its a lot different it works well for us and there are entrepreneurs that see opportunities to make these things that make us different, better for us.”
Jonathan Smit’s primary reason for going to Tech4Africa was to hear and meet the international speakers who we would normally not have access to. His take away was: “It was fantastic to hear from some of the great Internet minds from around the world and to connect with like minded Africans. The skills necessary to create, run and grow great Internet businesses abound within Africa and the learnings from our international colleagues can be readily applied to our context to achieve great success both locally and internationally.”
Irene Walker had this to say as her sum up: “The difference between good and great digital solutions lie in their consideration and implementation of satisfied user needs.”
My take away? I think that there is a lot of innovation in Africa, and the sharing of international best practice mixed with the out of box thinking from Africa which is driven by need, is going to see a lot of exciting new developments originating from Africa.
So what is your take-way?
Share your nugget with us here or tweet it with the hashtag #myT4Atakeaway.