The Movers and Shakers in Southern African Tech
The SADC region of Africa represents 15 states which fall under the South African Development Community as part of the African Union and united by a motto, “Towards a common future.” Technology is on the rise in Southern Africa and as the internet becomes more accessible, opportunities for innovation are rife. African countries do however face sometimes complicit economic and regulatory challenges, but despite this the startup culture in Africa has been on the rise. And with it, a plethora of startups, visionaries and technology enthusiasts have been born.
To support this growing ecosystem and nurture the talent Africa possesses, spaces are being created all across the continent to support this growth. As countries such as Zimbabwe faced a cash crisis, there has been a rise in FinTech technology with apps such as EcoCash by EcoNet providing a solution to a problem which wont be a stranger to other countries across the region as more companies are looking for FinTech methods for people to pay bills; i.e Ndasenda, a FinTech platform providing solutions to pay for WifiVouchers (TelOne), Electricity (ZESA) Broadband(Africom).
The Internet of Things (IoT) will most definitely be the next big thing in Africa. Resources such as microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi will become more easily accessible across the regions giving more people the opportunity to explore the Open Source world and work with Linux. This will not only create a new surge of innovative thinkers joining businesses, but it also forces these businesses to move along with the times in regards to their systems. TechZim describes a Tech Hub as any physical space that provides start-ups with resources and services to support their growth and also include: incubators, accelerators, co working spaces, fab labs, maker spaces, hacker spaces and other innovation spaces.
This is where accelerators such as mLab Southern Africa are helping shape the future of the continent. Based in South Africa, mLab is an mobile technology accelerator started in 2012 with the aim of, ‘supporting innovative new startups and to unlock the mobile apps economy.’ mLab also offer a program for aspiring developers who want to learn how to code called the CodeTribe Academy. This full-time practical programming course focuses on Android, SCRUM Agile and Cloud technologies. Located in Alexendra, Soweto, Tembisa & Tshwane in South Africa.
PyConZim is a coding initiative in Zimbabwe with a focus on Python programmers and providing resources to support the Python ecosystem in the country. One of their aims is to, “help equip Zimbabwe with a skillset that will enable it to build and maintain sustainable local IT infrastructure and to nurture the skills of local software developers.” In November 2016, they held their very first Python conference in the country held at the ZESA National Training Centre. The event created opportunities for developers to network and learn from each other and to also engage newcomers whilst sharing resources. And as a show of success from the previous event, Pycon Zimbabwe 2017 had 2 more days added to it and will also include a Django Girls Harare Workshop 2017.
Django Girls Harare is part of the Django Girls network where they provide a community that empowers and helps women to organise free, one-day programming workshops by providing tools, resources and support. Since 2014, the Django Girls network has managed to gather 1009 volunteers who brought together over 460 events in 313 cities in 77 countries. A staggering 10,446 incredible women have attended and began their development through Django Girls. Other Django Girl hubs include Django Girls Lagos, Django Girls Cape Town, Django Girls Aba and Django Girls Freetown.
Startup Botswana is an entrepreneur-led support platform for entrepreneurs in the Botswana regions. Providing a platform for entrepreneurs to succeed with resources, opportunities and tools and knowledge they need to be successful. Founded by Ogopotse Olebile, Startup Botswana is an independent private sector entity which started off as group focused on Botswana on social media platform LinkedIn. It has now grown into a platform where entrepreneurs can look to grow themselves, and their product through access of resources and information.
Similar programs are seen across the SADC region but that doesn't mean that in regions where they are not so prominent, Africa is not prospering. Take for example the app Vula, created by Dr William Mapham. A doctor in Swaziland who worked for the Vula Emehlo Eye Clinic in rural Swaziland. He was faced with a problem and he came up with a solution. This problem is shared across Africa; access to medical diagnosis for these who live in rural parts of regions. The app received the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award in 2013 after securing funding from the Shuttleworth Foundation and it now allows medical professionals in cardiology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics and burns to assess remote patients.
With Africa now possessing over 300 Tech Hubs according to Ventureburn, the future is bright! Countries such as Mauritius who are constantly recognised as a competitive place to do business and recently ranked 1st among Sub-Saharan economies in the Worlds Economic Forums Global Competitiveness Report will need to do more to ensure more spaces are being created to capitalise on their position and help invest in their tech spaces.
The GSMA report paints an interesting picture about the development of Africa and space for growth amongst tech communities. If there is any tech space doing fantastic work in Africa you think deserves a mention, connect with us on Twitter or leave a comment below.