Partnership, Mastery and Mentorship
“Africans need to be more proactive and share insights with each other.” Menem says, speaking further with respect to technological advancement.
“European countries boast of more technological advancement than Africa because there are available resources and a sense of collaboration there. We need something similar here.”
The idea of partnership and collaboration is not new. In fact, a lot of the innovations and changes that have graced the African tech ecosystem have come on the back of viable partnerships. However, like a McKinsey study notes, partnerships should not be rushed but approached deliberately and methodologically.
Now, while the above study speaks more towards Joint Ventures in the tech and business world, the sentiment still resonates even in terms of talents. As established, a lot of young talents are joining the tech ecosystem and ideally when speaking of the next decade, these are the minds that are likely to shape the tech world. However, it is paramount that these new crop of talented developers and coders ensure they are not rushing into tech just because it feels like the next goldmine. And to those who are on the verge of creating the next unicorn, it also means understanding what sort of partnership works and is likely to yield the fruits of innovation that Africa as a continent needs.
Abdu, when asked for his advice for the new crop of tech talents says, “The first advice would be: pick a hustle. Be clear what you want and that would be driven by your passion. I sucked at art and even though I know CSS I won’t be able to create a frontend design that would rival someone who has a passion for UI/UX. So, pick a hustle. Be patient and practice and practice and practice. Tech is rewarded based on skill.”
In one of Tunga’s recent articles, this author writes about the value of proficiency in building a tech career. Abdu’s statement buttresses that point and although not mentioned in the article, another valid point that Menem considers towards ensuring that Africa continues to establish itself as the next tech frontier is mentorship.
“There is a lack of mentorship in Africa for African talents,” he states. “Lack of mentorship has been one of the reasons why there have been a lot of migration of African talents abroad for better opportunities and what we have is that our biggest talents are leaving and those coming up are not necessarily having the right guidance.”
The wave of migrating African talent is documented in a March 2022 article on Tech Economy. Written by Emmanuel Otori, the tagline for this article basically sums up Menem’s point: In the quest of developing a region, the impact of human capital cannot be overlooked as it suffices to make the whole process work.
Emmanuel Otori hints at a few solutions to curb the mass migration of tech talents and while not specifically mentioning “Mentorship”, the culmination of his solutions hits close to the idea, nonetheless.
Web 3, Mental Health and The Future
Briefly, I spoke with Abdu on the new phase of Web3 and blockchain technologies. When asked if he foresees African talents also being a reckoning force in this movement, he was somewhat skeptical.
“Majority still do not understand what web3 is. I do know that there would be some talents from Africa that would go on to make great strides in web3, but for now, I think it is not necessary to jump into every wave that comes. There’s still a lot that African talents can leverage from web2. However, if as a developer, you believe that is where your passion lies, then by all means pursue it.”
Menem on the other hand was not keen on speaking about Web3, rather he pivoted our conversation to something he feels has been hugely ignored in the African tech space: mental health.
“I think people fail to realize how tough it is to be a software developer, sitting in front of your screen for hours, especially when working remotely. This can take a toll on mental health and I feel developers need to find more ways to unplug.”
Prior to my conversation with him, Menem had told me he would be offline for about four days as a bid to unplug and focus on his mental health. I suggested he champion this discussion on mental health in the tech space, especially in Africa and he assures me he is doing his bit.
“When I get an opportunity to speak to young tech talents I make sure to mention this. I make sure to advise that they build more human interactions that ensures they can step away from their computers. It is very important.”
In an article on Iqmetrix published in 2020, Kirsten Barkved writes about the growing mental health crisis in tech. She states that according to OSMI data, 51% of tech professionals have been diagnosed with a mental health condition; with founders 2x more likely to suffer from depression and 10x more likely to suffer from bi-polar disorder.
No doubt these numbers have risen over time but this speaks to an important factor that should be keenly addressed if the African tech ecosystem is to maintain a lead position as the new tech frontier. If more discussions on mental health are championed then we are certain that the new crop of tech talents are provided with the sort of information and resources that were not readily available for folks like Abdu and Menem when their tech journey’s began.