Much has been said about the rise of Nigeria as the leading tech hub in Africa, a fact that should worry ICT policy makers in Kenya. Nigeria is now seen by some venture capitals and investors as a better bet than Kenya. According them Kenya has been destroyed by NGOs money. Look at the following statement by Kirsten Buch, the founder of 88Mph
“The plan was always to cover Africa and you can’t really say you’ve got African coverage, if you’re not in Nigeria… Kenya has been destroyed by the impact of NGO funding. On the media side, it’s been well exposed and there’s a lot on the surface. Real substance, companies that are successful? There’s not a lot. The Kenyan business community have also become discouraged by that…The bigger, serious investors lean more towards Nigeria. It’s mostly about market size. You can scale something here.”
Whether, that statement is true or not is a story for another day and I will do the NGO part soon. At the Gitex, Nigeria is the official country partner for the event. As the official partner I was looking forward to seeing some of the emerging technology from Nigeria being in display at the exhibition area. So far I have seen nothing, and seriously i have been disappointed, not just with Nigeria but by the fact that there is no cutting edge technology emerging from Africa in display. It is clearly show how misleading the excitement about African tech is, at the moment.
In the last few years my point has been, the space is still young, that it needs time to grow and time to mature. But this excuse will not last forever. Again, it goes back to how tech in Africa has been covered all a long. For the international publications, tech in Africa is about Mpesa and Ushahidi. In the last few years the likes of iHub has been mentioned more regularly, but it is important to note that iHub is a space and therefore the talk should be about companies being created from the space. The problem is some of the great figures who operated in the space and founded some great start-ups either failed or just gave up and got employed in different places. At the moment some of the start-ups which we were talking about in 2012 are nowhere to be seen.
Start-ups failure is not new and many are expected to fail with time. The problem with Africa tech space is that people fail and move on. For that African nations have remained more of tech consumers and not tech producers. Probably that explain why Nigeria is not displaying anything at the Gitex and instead is calling people to go and invest in Nigeria as seen on this statement by Techweez.com
Nigeria calls for investments in connectivity infrastructure development across the country and within the far-fetched towns, setting up of local training zones for technology skills by multinationals like SAP and Cisco, local partnerships that will see the country have a win-win situation between local and foreign players in ICT and also development of local content to ensure development of the ICT sector in the country.
I am not saying that calling for investors is a bad thing, actually Nigeria is an attractive investment destination. With 170 million strong population and 48 million active internet users, there is no better place to put your money in Africa. But it is another thing when you walk around at the Gitex and see countries like Malaysia, Japan, China, displaying many cutting edge technologies at the event and none from Africa….