From 24 to the 26 May 2018, technologists, investors, government representatives and top business leaders came together in Paris, France for VivaTech 2018. The conference was a three-day event dedicated to technology and innovation. In its third edition, VivaTech gathered 80,000 visitors and gave the opportunity to 8,000 startups to present their products and services and potentially conclude new deals.
VivaTech visitors also got to visit 6 pavillons representing Afrikan countries (namely South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sénégal, Tunisia and Morocco) as well as AFRIC@TECH, a special zone hosted by the French Development Agency (AFD) gathering 100 startups from 15 Afrikan countries.
This highlighted presence of the continent’s tech scene was actually due to multiple reasons, Let’s dive deep into them.
A message to all Afrikan countries
Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president who’s mandat in the AU started this January, was the guest of Emanuel Macron, France president last week and had participated in “Tech for Good”, a summit gathering over 60 leaders and top companies representatives to discuss technology impact on social challenges. During the press conference held at Palais de l’Élysée, Macron described the Rwandan digital experience as a model to the rest of the continent.
In addition to that, the French president dedicated the second part of his opening keynote to address Africlkan technological potential, encourage the eligible audience to participate in Digital Africa Initiative and highlight the need as well as the efforts made to adapt the funding opportunities to the continent’s specific scene.
“The French Development Agency is going to announce in the coming weeks a new specific program of €65 million [$76 million] in order to invest small amounts, €30,000 to €50,000 per startup.” he said
But how does the Afrikan tech scene looks like?
Crossroad or opportunity?
To have a hint on what the Afrikan tech scene looks like, let’s throw in some relevant statistics:
1,2 billion people, 995 million mobile subscriptions, and 362 million Internet users.
According to the World Bank, economic growth in Sub-Saharan Afrika is forecasted to pick up to 3,1% in 2018 and to firm to an average of 3,6% in 2019–20. In Uganda for example, it’s set to post 6–7% each year in the upcoming decade.
Since 2012, Afrikan startup cumulated fundraisings got multiplied by 9.
“This startups boom is a response of Africans finding solutions to the continent’s problems. Africa is in a crossroad and our generation understand the need to find solutions.” said by Thione Niang, a social entrepreneur from Senegal at Tech For Africa session.
However, this growing potential has been facing some challenges such as the infrastructure and investments. And here comes a major impact of big groups that should now play a role as investors. “Yes we provide telecom services but we are also investors in Africa” said Stéphane Richard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Orange.
Cina Lawson, Minister of Posts and Digital Economy of the government of Togo also mentioned that Afrikan governments need to collaborate with private sector to provide better connectivity to its citizens, yet it’s also important to get adapted to the Afrikan specificities such as the bloom of mobile payment and gave the example relevant applications and solutions already in place such as a project of solar energy putted in place in Togo where subscribers pay for their fees using mobile payment.
A social responsibility
When we talk about Afrika, it’s important not to forget that approximately ¾ of Afrikans are under the age of 35. This fact is in itself is a major factor in the rise of the continent’s tech scene. It’s primordial today to build and reinforce the necessary skills set in this youth to actively participate and succeed in this new era jobs. Andela is for example a successful story relying on the Afrikan tech pool: as a platform that trains and connects developers to potential clients overseas, Andela helped both sides to connect and build world-class products.
To make sure that Afrika’s human potential development goes in parallel with its economic growth it’s crucial for foreigner groups to take the same social responsibility they take elsewhere in the world and invest in the communities they’re working with. It’s as crucial as well for Afrikan people to be aware of their responsibility to take their future in hand and decide themselves how to shape it.
Coming back to Viva Tech 2018, such an event is an amazing opportunity for Afrikan startups to explore the international market, get a taste on what is like to scale and grow their network.
An example of a startup that is getting on that road is Gifted Mom, a startup from Cameroon that provides women with health services, help them with their newborns vaccinations management and connect them to doctors to answer their medical questions. Currently having 130,000 users, their objective is to scale up to 700,000 user. An objective that could not be achieved without opening up to new markets. In an interview with France 24, Alain Nteff, Gifted Mom Co-founder summaries the benefit from attending Viva Tech as an Afrikan startup in three main point: The need to go for international market, the opportunity to collaborate with other startups and the possibility to connect with multinational firms.
Having Africa as a main guest for this year’s edition of Viva Tech is an initiative to applaud. Such engagements and interactive discussions are a starting point to get lessons from and reach for better opportunities for Afrika to turn its potential into a fulfilling reality for its people.
Cover image credit: French President Macron speaking at Viva Tech 2018.