Osiakwan: Africa’s Time is Now

Eric Osiakwan stated this at the Africa Technology Summit a couple weeks ago, and from what I hear the Summit was a great success. Something of a debate broke out on what sub-sector of the technology industry was the next big thing in Africa. Eric pointed out communication, content and commerce and their impact on health, markets, and education. Another panelist, Pat Wilson, argued for trade finance, supply chain finance, agriculture, and women’s content (would be interested in hearing more about this).

Along the lines of the infrastructure-related solutions mentioned by Eric and Pat, I have questions like what are the latest technologies for road pavement so tractor trailers can move goods more reliably? Who is working on oil valve technology that enable oil companies to deal with oil theft a bit better? Who is developing technology to better manage port traffic?

If you have suggestions of folks with whom I should connect who are working on this stuff, let me know!

From my perspective, I think Africa’s time being now will become more tangible when conversations tackling these sorts of infrastructure questions are happening. I’ve been thinking about these questions ever since watching Something Ventured earlier this year. Watch it and let me know what questions come up for you regarding Africa’s technology sector.

Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, posted a tweet that I haven’t been able to track down. It said something to the effect of Silicon Valley is the product tester for the world. I bristled when I saw this, though it may be true to some extent. For Africa, mPesa has been the flag bearer for taking some of that market share away from Silicon Valley, but there has got to be more of this across the continent.

Bright Simons made a good argument in a post from years ago on leapfrogging being a set of tools and techniques that will enable Africa to hack infrastructure. Framing leapfrogging that way opens the door to systematic thinking about this: the end goal is “X”. Here is the road map to get there. Events like the Africa Technology Summit, Demo Africa, among others help get us to that systematic thinking. At least I hope they do.

This was a bit of a ramble, but I am interested in what you think about Africa’s technology sector. Leave comments below or email me.

 

Build Something From Nothing

Paul Judge has a mantra – build something from nothing. It’s amazing to watch folks I have met along the way live this out.

Jehiel Oliver’s startup Hello Tractor was profiled in Fast Company today. It wasn’t too long ago when we sat down at Chinatown Coffee and he told me about this idea he was working on. At the time, the concept of using technology to lower the cost of mechanization for small-scale farmers made a lot of sense. He’s raised a couple million dollars to prove out this idea. If Jehiel is right, Hello Tractor is going to catalyze the productivity of a whole lot of farmers across Africa. McKinsey will owe him thanks for making their projection that the continent’s agricultural productivity could reach $880 billion by 2040 look right. As an aside, I hope the continent can generate a lot more productivity than that. I really don’t want to be eating Soylent.

Several years ago, my friend Odini Nwakuche told me that he was going to make ties. As an aspiring dandy, I was super excited about the idea, but could not have imagined where Odini and his partner Josh Moore have taken Res Ipsa.  Some time after Odini told me that they were going to try and make shoes. Res Ipsa now has its shoes in several stores in the southeast and they are just beginning. This weekend, I got to hang out with Josh and Odini (pictured above) as they manned their booth for the MRket New York Show, one of the premier menswear trade shows. Everyone from the convention center set-up staff to fellow exhibitors to buyers were checking out their booth. I found myself grinning ear-to-ear with pride at what Odini and Josh have built and look forward to watching them make their mark in menswear.

Several months ago, Angelina Darrisaw mentioned that she was considering stepping out on her own after distinguishing herself in stints at ESPN and Viacom. I was thrilled to get a LinkedIn notification not long ago indicating that she was Founder of C-Suite Coach. Over the years, I watched Angelina go outside of her comfort zone – joining the track team at Davidson, reach the finals twice in the Miss New York USA. Now, she is stretching herself again as she helps underprivileged millennials achieve professional success.

My brother, Kwadwo, is a builder. As kids, this man lived at Michael’s, convincing my parents to buy items for him to try out different ideas. To this day, he continues to build things – a carbonated juice company. A production company. SapidMedia Productions, has been a labor of love for several years now and he is scratching the surface. He landed his first corporate client and released a short film in the first six months of this year. Look out for more cool stuff from him this year, and the next, and the next.

That goes for all the people listed here. This list could be much longer – Cherae Robinson, Eric Osiakwan, Maame Boakye, Nana Ama Afari-Dwamena, Nina Oduro, Eric Guichard, KJ Blackwell, Billy Fennebresque, Robert Long, Whitney White, Bobby Pittman, my dad.

Who else? Who are some people you know building something from nothing?