Celebrating local stories at this year's Tech4Africa

Conference promotes South Africa's tech ecosystem with successes and learnings from local entrepreneurs


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SA's tech landscape was the focus of this year’s Tech4Africa. Held at FNB Stadium, the first day of the event brought together thought leaders and technopreneurs to share their insights and challenges. 

Described as the largest tech innovation, startup and entrepreneur platform in Africa, the 4-day event featured over 55 speakers that included technopreneur and founder of Nic Harry, Nic Haralambous; co-founder of iAfrikanTefo Mohapi and CEO of World Wide Creative, Fred Roed.

The local ecosystem

Tech4Africa founder, Gareth Knight, says it is important that the conference continues to focus on the local tech scene. 

"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."

Knight says there needs to be an ecosystem to create success in technology. "Our local eco-system is poor and Tech4Africa is aimed at improving that," he says.

The speakers' topics ranged from 'The tech scene in Africa' by Keith Jones of Sw7 and 'Women in tech: All talk no action' by Samantha Perry of WomeninTechZA  to 'Open source technology for non-techies' by Kristien Wolmarans of Flickswitch and 'How startups can work with government to make citizens' lives better' by Craig Rivett of Happimo.

Nic Haralambous spoke about operating a men's fashion e-commerce startup.

"The way they world is now is that technology is everywhere, you can’t afford to ignore it. So you need to integrate it from day one."

Speaking on 'The evolution of social media', digital strategist, Tavonga Musingarabwi of Flint Studio says the role of social media cannot be ignored.

"When social media began it was kind of like a black swan in that we didn’t know what it was going to do but when you look at it now it has disrupted everything we do and the reason every entrepreneur would need to take it seriously is that social media is going to be a market and it makes sense for businesses to be in that marketplace."

Ones and zeros

Knight describes South Africans appetite for events such as Tech4Africa and technology, in general, as 'mixed'. He says the market is small and people are relatively oblivious to what they don’t know.

"So we tend to attract the early adopters, innovators and the people who think slightly differently and that’s a good market because those are the people that we want to attract ourselves to."

"But it is frustrating that people are more interested in watching the rugby than they are in improving their careers, improving how much money they make, improving the reach that they have and the work that they do. You can watch rugby anytime, but you don’t get to change the number of zero’s in your salary very often," he says.

"It is frustrating that people are more interested in watching the rugby than they are in improving their careers"

 

Knight says the relevance of this event, particularly for SMEs, is simple – "We’re at this inflection point – there’s 750 million plus mobile devices in Africa, the 50 dollar smartphone has landed in most of the big markets and it’s going to become ubiquitous. Never before in human history has that been possible with such a large number of people. I think that there’s an opportunity to seize that and really do cool things."

The conference ends on Friday 9 October with a Startup Day. 

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