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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Thinking About Africa 2.0

Africa 2.0TEDGlobal: Africa, the Next Chapter is a good catalyst for the idea of “Africa 2.0”, the meme started by Ethan Zuckerman. If I could sum it up, I would say it’s the thoughts and actions around the idea that Africa is coming into its own. That the “Cheetah Generation” is starting to take control of things, not waiting for government or international aid organizations to tell them what to do and get started on changing Africa themselves.

Of course, I believe this is best embodied in the tech sector. Specifically, we see it on the web and in the mobile space. Companies are building new web applications, web sites and mobile tools that connect Africa in ways not previously seen.

There is a new drive, I saw it in the 4 different countries I visited in the last 2 weeks. Individuals are striving to take charge of their own little part of Africa, I talked about it with the technologists from 40 different countries at TEDGlobal.

In South Africa, we see the traditional media (The Sunday Times and Mail & Guardian) embracing new technology to reach a younger audience. We see startups web apps like AfriGator, Zoopy and MXit creating the next level of web interaction for South Africa.

In Kenya, the designers, developers and business types are talking. Skunkworks is a weekly meeting started by Riyaz Bachani, Michuki Mwangi and Josiah Mugambi that opens discussions that cover the spectrum. The ideas expressed there for mobile applications and locally-hosted web apps are incredibly innovative.

In Tanzania I talked to developers that were working on local solutions that weren’t being met by the big global companies (much like what Softtribe does in Ghana). In Uganda there are some soon-to-be-announced capabilities in the mobile space that will drastically affect interaction between individuals in East Africa as well as in the diaspora.

Overall, we’re seeing Africa come into its own. In my area of expertise, technology, I see it more than most. What TEDGlobal did was allow me to see this same innovation and desire to control Africa’s destiny showcased in a number of different fields. From media to medicine, Africa is stating that it can create it’s own wealth. I have no doubt that we’ll see this trend continue and come to fruition in the coming years.

11 Comments

  1. Bravo, yebo and VIVA, Hash!

    Africa is buzzing – and, as our local SA TV ad goes, the entire continent is ‘alive with possibility’. Wired, wireless, online and mobile, we’re seeing the future materialize day after day – and it’s EXCITING, isn’t it?

    We’re thrilled to be doing our bit and there’s loads more coming with Zoopy version 2. More coming in our Skype catchup soon!

  2. Hey Hash, this is the same kind of thinking I told you about in Kenya Airport with Simphani. This is an exciting time to be in tech.

  3. Omosigho Eson

    June 12, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Hey that is very true. Africa is shaping up and there is a drive to move forward especially with youths without the painful setbacks of government and corruption, poverty or otherwise. Services like Zoopy and Afrigator are signs to show for it in the Internet sectors. Similar services are springing up and I see you didn’t visit Nigeria from your post. Anyway to add a little to what you said, for NIGERIA there are cool services also. One of such is Meshedlinks – http://www.meshedlinks.com an African Web 2.0 Social Bookmarking Service. Check it out and give some feedback

  4. True, BUT! this applies to technology and not environmental consciousness.

    Just because Dr Ayittey has the right formula and because these few IT applications and services are relatively simple to realize/implement, we must not forget that the majority of ppl still lives below the poverty line and has a hard time fighting for a sustainable income while a few hip visionaries are celebrating their forward thinking.

    I mean, let’s be honest: you can’t eat mobile phones and political ideas – as great as they are (and yes, these are great times, I am feeling you on this spirit and i am damn proud being part of it 🙂

  5. Exciting times indeed Hash. To quote the now much used, and threatening to be overused by me at least, yet relevant cliché, African solutions to African problems.

    Africa 2.0 is exactly what it is about. Yesterday I was telling a bunch of people with a bunch of money that Africa had basically skipped web 1.0 meanwhile 2.0 is practically built for Africa. All this talk about interaction, online communities, knowing your neighbours, tools to bring us together, to share ideas, to laugh together, what is more African than that?

    JKE we may not be able to eat mobile phones and political ideas yet both communication and a politically aware electorate and politically awake electorate are vital for the growth of a country and that brings about a rise in the standards of living and more food. For example, in the last “famine” in Kenya there was more than enough food to feed everybody. The problem was, a.) information about where the food was did not get to the relevant people in time. B.) once the information was received our government was more concerned with declaring a state of emergency and asking for food aid than getting the food out to people. That situation handled different could have lead to mobile phones and a progressive political strategy playing a big role in feeding the nation.

  6. That meshedlinks site looks like a digg clone.
    Anyways i give props to anyone whose trying to represent Africa doing their thing whichever way.

  7. Eh eh, true, Mentoolz, and me thinks that your example should also include point c) patriachalism (= waiting for someone to give orders on how to distribute the donations).

    As for the talk interaction, sure, that’s 100% Africa 2.0, and we must not only look at history and the role an oral culture has played in the past to understand its importance. Only: me saying that as a mzungu would generate debate, you saying that = accepted. Ama?

    I really hope that all these quick and vivid commuinities and their cluetrain-alike style of communicating one day reflects on other parts of society.

  8. JKE, the reality of many fighting to survive was something brought up by some of the speakers at TEDGlobal. Of course, that question goes beyond realm of just technology, that’s a fundamental issue for this idea of Africa 2.0.

    The proponents of putting business first are still understanding of the very present needs that some regions of Africa are in. They argue that wealth creation is the best way to fight poverty, hunger and disease. I agree.

    However, I think that while we’re going through a time of building that wealth, there is still a need to fill the gap with some aid. It would be great to move to a point where it is all business-driven, and I think we’re getting there. We can’t overlook the time to build that infrastructure though.

  9. I agree totally that web 2.0 was made for Africa. I mean web 2.0 has brought about a whole new way for Africans to express themselves. The entire concept of collaboration or more so, democratization of tools of production suits well in Africa. Anything African, original or a slightly altered concept is definitely welcomed. I am impressed with South Africa’s video sharing site. Not an utterly new concept, but yet powerful. I took a look at that http://www.meshedlinks.com, and I think Al is right. It probably is a digg clone. But what I think I like about such concepts is the fact that they are African powered. Just brilliant. Africa Web 2.0 keep it up.

  10. Ha ha,

    we are moving forward and I think the pace will only pick up. I have been a true believer that most of what is available for Africans hasn’t even been utilized since most keep on their own enclaves. There are already solutions on the ground in different countries and communities that need a vehicle to be transported to others.

    Instead of repeating the search of solutions and reinventing the wheel, Africa 2.0 is bringing about the sharing of these knowledge bases and experiences and it will bring about new ways of doing business, combating disease and famine and raising living standards and social consciousness.

  11. JKE perhaps you saying it as mzungu may cause some heads to turn. That knife cuts both ways though, you get away with saying some kyuk jokes that I would be hounded out for saying! Don’t ask me which ones!

    Nice post Hash, we almost hijacked it!

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