Where are all the young black tech entrepreneurs in South Africa?

By Mongezi Mtati

Disclaimer: This is by no means a racial post, or one that separates people in the tech space by race. There are quite a lot of innovative products that are built in Africa for the African context and Tech 4 Africa is proof thereof.

But it is

While having a chat with one of the delegates at Tech 4 Africa, after the start-ups pitched for the $5000 grand prize, it became evident that we do not know many black tech entrepreneurs. Both of us attend a fair number of events, at least we think do, and are quite active in the social web. We hardly ever see young black entrepreneurs building useful platforms.

Is it access?

During the conversation, one of the possibilities we considered was access to events and platforms. As I said earlier, we both use and met on the social web, which minimizes the lack of access to information. Most of the people we met at Tech 4 Africa and other social technology events; we met through Twitter and Facebook.

One of the things cited was lack of education, where the assumption is that most enterprising South African minds do not study technology. In most instances, when we read articles about technologists, the same people are mentioned. When we spoke with Lebogang Nkoane, it turned out that we only know two people.

The burning questions

There is a possibility that most black South African technologists and developers work at blue chip companies and never attend community events. Do they?

We also thought that there aren’t enough communities that expose emerging local talent and those minds go unnoticed. Is this the case? If so, why don’t we at least hear about them?

We may be networking within closed groups that allow only the people we know to flourish. Should that be the case, how do we find out what is happening outside our immediate network?

Do you know some emerging start-ups that are new and promising? It would be interesting to see what the possibilities are, and how they intend to positively change the local and African technology landscape.

It may just be lack of information, in which case I would really like to hear your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Where are all the young black tech entrepreneurs in South Africa?”

  1. For me, I think it has mostly to do with 1) capital priorities and 2) your point about exposure. It’s not about race, but if it has any influence on my response, I’m white and quite active in the tech developer scene.

    1) For me, the biggest balancing act in a start-up is capital. Usually tech innovators have broken away from their guaranteed paychecks and are trying to code away at their big bang ideas from garages, bedrooms etc. Sure there was a lot to offer at the t4a get together but at up to R6500 a ticket – to me its about priority – 6500 on a 2day ticket to hear some guru speakers or a 6500 on a new device to test that your mobile project is compatible. Just saying that many of the real innovators are not privvy to company sponsorships and this being africa where most developers are not ‘hugged’ as well as they are overseas – events like t4a – they’re just out of reach.

    2) Yes, I think it would be a valuable exercise to re-think your exposure and community awareness approaches. I only found out about the t4a event and actually the entire organisation yesterday via an outdated Samsung Blog post calling for developers with ideas – way to late to do anything about it. And I would consider myself to be quite active in the Tech scene, so I guess one approach for next year is to get more people blogging and tweeting earlier.

  2. This cannot be true. You are not really looking – probably not attending the right events. Go to the barcamps sprawling all over and you will see the tech entrepreneurs. With very little folks like mpedigree – http://www.mpedigree.net, dreamoval – http://www.dreamoval.com, esoko, motech, msimps, cocoalink, and that’s just Ghana alone! pagatech, gyst, flowstyle etc etc etc…if they are doing this with no money what will happen if people like you spend your time supporting those who are actually doing things rather than just always complaining that THEY ARE NOT THERE? But there THEY ARE!

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