An open letter to African technologists

by oneafrikan on May 24, 2011

PASSION = BRAIN FUEL.
DUMB BRAIN FULL OF GAS ALWAYS BEAT SMART BRAIN WITH EMPTY TANK.
SMART BRAIN WITH FULL TANK BEAT EVERYONE.

Dear African technologist, hacker, developer, geek, product guy, dreamer, thinker, tinkerer, manager, CEO, multi-national-organisation-in-Africa,

We’re at the beginning of a shift in technology usage, where mobile adoption and usage is quickly going to become more prevalent and ubiquitous than the PC. Bandwidth is getting faster and cheaper for both PC and mobile, despite the monopolies that have held everyone back for years. Infrastructure is now massively cheap and easy to scale. There are toolkits, API’s, platforms, frameworks, services and stacks for almost every technology need you may have. It’s easier now to create something, and innovate, than it ever has been. Not moving forward means you’re being left behind.

The traditional approaches we’ve been using for years are dying. People are looking for authenticity, value, engagement, real’ness for want of a better word.

Dream. Find something that provides value. Help people to get some of that value. Make it great. Remove the crappy stuff.

Stop banging the same drums. Stop thinking you’ve got it all figured out. Approach problems differently. Give your people space to think and tinker. Innovate.

Get massively hyped about your product or service. Tell everyone you know. Let go of any conservativeness you may have, because if you can’t get excited about what you do, then no-one else will. If you’re working for a crap company, leave it. There are better things to do with your precious time.

We can learn a lot from places like Silicon Valley, New York, Berlin, Israel, London, Austin, Chile, Singapore, Ireland and India. We can learn even more from the people who live in those places, how they work, what they do with their time, and ultimately the success they create. We can also learn from the people we live among, by asking them about the problems they face.

There is no shortage of investors or money, only shortages of good people, scalable and executable opportunities. Be the person who can execute and scale, and do it with a product that people will use, and the money won’t be a problem. But don’t use a perceived lack of investors, internal or external, as an excuse.

There are no accidents, only trying, failure, and then ultimately succeeding. As a technologist, today, your greatest asset is the time and technical gifts you have. Use them wisely.

There are many problems people face in emerging markets, and they all need elegant solutions. Find the value. Supply the demand for that value, by doing something that makes you get up in the morning with a spring in your step and a whistle in your tune.

In short, there are no excuses or reasons not to do something awesome, other than the ones we limit ourselves with. Africa has the potential to be one of the largest mobile markets on the planet.

What are you doing about it?

10 comments

This is really great! Thanks for writing it!

by Nadia - CC on May 24, 2011 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

Battery back up power for wireless routers!? When the power was cut in the recent flood I could not access any wireless networks as I can’t afford data package prices. Is this an issue for Africa?

by Michael Swifte on May 25, 2011 at 7:48 am. Reply #

Battery backups are pretty prevalent in Africa now, I think! ;-)

by oneafrikan on June 5, 2011 at 6:16 pm. Reply #

Very inspiring! Thank you

by Damien on May 25, 2011 at 8:38 am. Reply #

Great piece. Right on time too. A thousand thank you’s.

by Ithateng Mokgoro on May 25, 2011 at 10:05 am. Reply #

Let it not be said that we were not warned….

by Idd Salim on May 25, 2011 at 10:59 am. Reply #

If there ever has been a conducive time for an African renaissance, it has to be now. Yes Africa does have a multitude of problems, unique but not the only part of the world with problems nonetheless the solutions for these problems lie within our grasp.

At no point in modern history has Africa buzzed as much as it is now, North to South, East to West, there’s something that is happening. Nonetheless the biggest challenge is how the new breed of African entrepreneurs will co-operate to scale their enterprises within Africa.

by Soud Hyder on May 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm. Reply #

[...] a number of people voicing their concerns about Africa not taking its place (read great post by Gareth Knight) and it was with that in mind that we believed collaborating will add the lots of value to our [...]

by What do you call two Africans who crossed the Pacific Ocean? | 2 Billion 1 Lifetime on May 28, 2011 at 5:55 am. Reply #

[...] a number of people voicing their concerns about Africa not taking its place (read great post by Gareth Knight) and it was with that in mind that we believed collaborating will add the lots of value to our [...]

by Kenya is Calling | RLabs on June 1, 2011 at 1:50 am. Reply #

[...] a number of people voicing their concerns about Africa not taking its place (read great post by Gareth Knight) and it was with that in mind that we believed collaborating will add the lots of value to our [...]

by NaiLab and RLabs in Kenya | 2 Billion 1 Lifetime on June 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm. Reply #

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