Last week we co-organized a Roundtable discussion on “Using the African digital workforce to propel your digital transformation.” It took place at the Booking.com headquarters in Amsterdam. At one point, the discussion transcended the condition of the African technology sector. The conclusion was that African tech is thriving. But at the same time, there is a wish to put Africa on the global technology map more firmly. This blog aims to give an overview of resources that give insight into the African tech sector.
The African tech sector is young but thriving.
Last week’s event was specifically about how internationally operating companies can deal with developer shortages by using African tech talent. A group of Netherlands African Business Council (NABC) members organized it: Tunga, Incentro Africa, and Edacy. The host was Booking.com. The idea was to share experiences amongst Netherlands-based businesses on sourcing African tech talent.
Booking.com started recruiting African techies around two years ago and shared their insights. This roughly came down to this: the African tech sector is young but thriving. That is to say, there is a lot of talent emerging, and the company’s ambition is to have a workforce reflective of its customer base. In other words, as they see the African continent as a major growth market, there is a need for Booking to invest in hiring African techies.
The other presentation was by Niels Visser of the Telegraaf Media Group (TMG), one of the major Dutch media companies. They turned to African developers as they concluded that hiring developers locally in the Netherlands was a path paved with too many obstacles. They are difficult to find, expensive, and difficult to keep. The conclusion was that although outsourcing has its particulars, he was positively surprised by the level of African talent.
Sharing key resources
On the one hand, Booking.com’s ventures into the African tech scene resulted directly from its business philosophy. On the other hand, TMG — like some of the other participants in the Roundtable — stumbled upon the African developer scene by coincidence. Insiders know that a lot is happening on the African continent in terms of technological developments. But for others, this remains largely out of sight. A missed opportunity…
As a first step, we thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of resources that allow people to stay on top of what’s happening in African tech. Information about the sector is disseminated and enriched through various media outlets, events, and institutions. Taken together, a good starting point for anyone interested to learn more, getting connected and sharing African tech stories with the world.
Here they are…
Media reporting on the African tech
There are quite a lot of blogs and news sites dedicated to reporting on African technology and innovation. So don’t expect a comprehensive list here. For starters, an invaluable source of insights and stories is the African Tech Roundup podcast run by Andile Masuku. For general purposes, Disrupt Africa and Apps Africa are outlets with a regular posting frequency and various news items. Then there are blogs like Startup Digest Africa, which are more local. In addition, it has an East-African character and does a lot of interviews. Finally, there are more specialized outlets, such as ICT Works, which focuses on ICT & international development.
African tech networks & Communities
The Africa Technology Business Network is a global network based out of London. It brings together innovators, investors, businesses, and development leaders worldwide. They aim to drive sustainable economic growth in Africa through technology and innovation.
VC4Africa is a platform that brings together a variety of stakeholders in the African startup scene. For example, startups, accelerators, investors, corporations, NGOs, and governments. It has over 60,000 members and regularly facilitates events (more than 340).
The African Business Angel Network (ABAN) is a pan-African association founded in early 2015. It aims to support the development of early-stage investor networks across the continent. And to get many more (early-stage) investors excited about the opportunities in Africa. As of August 2017, it harbours 66 investor clubs, networks, and initiatives across the continent.
Furthermore, there are African business councils on a national level. For example, the European Business Council for Africa. This in turn consists of councils on the country level. For instance, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, etc., all have their local business council for Africa. The US, China, and Australia also have African business councils.
Many of these communities and networks organize events and annual summits as well. For example, the ATBN each year organizes the Africa Technology Business Forum. It aims to bring together its target groups to collaborate growth and collaboration in the African tech ecosystem. A similar goal is pursued by the Afrobytes conference organized in Paris. However, this has a slightly more accent on the Francophone market. Although please note that the conference is in English.
The Africa Tech Summit organized two events in 2018. One is in Kigali, Rwanda, in February. And then one in London, England, in May. It is a two-day tech event that brings together 250+ stakeholders. Moreover, it showcases the latest trends and developments. And, of course, it provides ample networking opportunities.
Africa Works is a bi-annual event in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The organizer is the Netherlands African Business Council. It is theme based. Its 2016 theme was Innovation in Finance. The 2018 theme is yet to be determined. It’s a two-day event that generally attracts 1000+ participants. Further, it hosts 40+ workshops. And has 40+ exhibition partners.
African tech hubs
Over the past years, there has been an explosion of tech hubs in Africa. This symbolizes the rise of a successful innovation and tech scene. The total number exceeds 300 (1). Afrilabs is a network organization for African innovation centers. It comprises 61 hubs in 27 countries and a community network of over 90,000 members.
Afrilabs also organizes an annual event for its stakeholders. Many hubs can be found through Afrilabs. Often they have their own website and social media presence. It depends a bit on the countries you’re interested in.
Digital skills & IT schools
Bits Academy is a network of 5 schools in 4 African countries (+1 in Pakistan). They provide a 1-year course in digital design skills to African youths. The curriculum focuses on web development and web design. However, it is blended with entrepreneurial and life skills courses. Bits Academy has schools in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Somaliland. It has been active since the year 2000. And it has an alum network of 7,000+ students.
In addition, there are several initiatives that offer coding boot camps and courses aimed at direct career placement. In Kenya, there is Moringa School. This school offers 20-week courses and has a network of 50+ hiring partners. Edacy from Senegal (9 months) and Codex from South Africa (1 year) operate under a similar concept.
Do you have any valuable additions to this overview of African tech resources? Please let us know! -> email@example.com