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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

An African Startup Mecca

America: Startup NationI was reading Paul Graham’s latest essay on what makes America a great place for startups. It’s definitely worth a read, even if you don’t agree with all of the points. My suggestion is to read it, then read some of the comments on a reddit post about it.

Anyway, after reading the essay, I started to think of other cities and nations that could do the same as Silicon Valley. I’m sure that there are some places in Europe that could fit the bill. What about Australia or New Zealand? India would make sense in time.

Is there anywhere in Africa that would foster a startup culture?

Cape Town comes to mind as a possibility, I don’t live there and have never been, so it’s hard to say. I’m sure many of the attendees of the upcoming BarCamp Cape Town (June 16-17) could tell us if it’s a viable option. Are there any other cities worth mentioning, or is the infrastructure to low and the government regulations to high?

Where in Africa would smart people like to congregate, study, work and live? What countries would be open enough to ideas about less beauracracy and more immigration? How about open financial markets and low tax rates?

Thoughts?

6 Comments

  1. I think with cheaper infrastructure options, places like Stellenbosch or Grahams Town could both have tech startup potential. Lots of students, many enjoying the net access the universities afford.

    Cape Town might be a good option, but suffers from accommodation being damn expensive, but I suppose that’s similar to London!

  2. San Francisco and Silicon Valley aren’t cheap to live in either. I wonder if just having tech startups and venture capital groups in one location mean that it ends up being an expensive place to live.

  3. I think before we can start picking cities in South Africa, we need to look at some of the larger issues mentioned in the USA article – like our immigration policy which seems to be designed specifically to discourage the most skilled and enthusiastic of applicants. And the stranglehold that labour laws and trade unions have on small businesses! Both of these factors will militate quite strongly against a start-up culture. The one we don’t have to worry about is being a police state as there seems to be precious little policing going on 😉

    But if we were to pick cities, I woudl plump for somewhere in the vicinity of Stellenbosch – close enough to haev access to two excellent universities and a part of the country that is generally considered to be very desirable to live in. Grahamstown suffers, I think, from not being in a particularly desirable place to live in (even if you only compare facilities in Grahamstown and Cape Town you will see that I mean!) Another option would be in KwaZulu Natal – either north of Durban or somewhere betwen Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

    As I said, though, we’d first have to sort ouf the bigger issues mentioned above!

  4. Jeanne, great points. I’m not a South African, and have never been there, so input from someone like you is very educational. So, S.A. looks like it’s not the best place either. I wonder if it’s still the best possibility in Africa though?

    There seems to be a good deal of money as well as high educational standards in the major universities. Those are important components. Imagine what would happen if they were to open the country up for more qualified immigrants, loosen the business laws and diminish the red tape.

    I stilld don’t think any other country in Africa can hold a candle to it, but I’ve been wrong before. 🙂

  5. Jeanne, I think you are being a little to harse on the Southern Tip of Africa, grass is always greener?

    More important than the economic situation and what not, is the culture and passion to embrace advances in technology under the local digirati.

    Spending this weekend at BarCamp Cape Town it was exciting to see the pride and excitement around Open Source development and spreading the general love. I think if we can get organised, we can ignite the flame.

    Hey, Amazon is betting on us? Had dinner with one of the newer developers over there recently and he seemed about as passionate as any!

  6. Hi
    South Africa is no different to any other country when it comes to opportunities for wannabe entrepreneurs.

    However, the best chance of success is undoubtedly in Gauteng, simply because the market is so big there in relation to the rest of the country, that even an iffy business will have some level of success.

    Rob Smorfitt
    main-spring.blogspot.com

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