• Nitc, “Africa is a pioneering continent”
  • Nitc, “Africa is a pioneering continent”

Nitc, “Africa is a pioneering continent”

“If the Ivory Coast has missed industrial development, it must not miss the computer revolution,” warned Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Almost 25 years after his death, it is clear that Africa has fully entered the digital era. ICTs revolutionize the continent … despite the tremendous challenges. A few days before the second Afrobytes event, the RDV of the African Tech in Paris, Haweya Mohamed, co-founder, assures: “the revolution is on!”


Interview by Lilia Ayari

You are going to organize the second Afrobytes event on 8 and 9 June in Paris, what is the concept?

From the Silicon Valley and Tech players in emerging Asian countries, to European players, the world of Tech is now aware of the tremendous opportunities offered by the new connected African consumer. Afrobytes proposes to all these stakeholders to accelerate their strategy in Africa by offering them a real “MarketPlace” throughout the value chain, to enable them to position themselves on the digital transformation of the African continent. It will also be a question of going beyond the issue of sectors and of talking about the women and men at the end of the chain and their needs. 

The African Tech is at the moment honored. How is the sector evolving? 

It is not easy to assess the number of startups that emerge each day in a continent of 54 countries. Nevertheless, the trend is for strong growth. In just four years, things have changed dramatically. For example, on the VC4Africa platform, the number of startups seeking funds has increased by 640%, and their quality has also improved considerably.

Does this really contribute to transforming Africa when we cannot get out of malnutrition, energy deficit, etc.?

Actually, the continent has a number of challenges to overcome, and African technological ecosystems first solve dayly problems. They are called “problem solving companies”. One of the major challenges ahead is population growth. Unprecedented in human history, one out of four people in the world will be in the African continent in 2050 and 40% of the under-5s will be in Africa at that time. A large number of people should be housed, fed, transported, trained and educated in a very short period of time. New technologies, digital ecosystems, which are already addressing many problems, will complement and support public policies, especially in large cities. 

How does African Tech inspire the rest of the world? I take the example of mobile banking – in this field, very clearly, Africa is a source of inspiration…

Africa is a pioneering continent on a number of uses. Undoubtedly, the continent occupies a position of world leader in FinTech and in particular “Mobile Money”. In mobile usage in general moreover: in March of this year the central bank of Kenya launched a bond via mobile! Who today pays his electricity with his mobile in France? This is common in several African countries. We measure the gap between usages with the Old Continent which has never so well borne its name. The M-Pesa “success story”, for example, launched in 2007 by Safaricom, the country’s largest mobile phone network operator, which is used by more than 18 million Kenyans and accounts for about 25 percent of the country’s gross national product. M-Pesa even has been running since March 2014 in Romania! And its deployment should continue in Eastern Europe. In Africa, Orange became a bank with “Orange Money” before planning to replicate the same idea in Europe. Africa is the continent of digital transformation and today exports its uses throughout the world. The Kenyan Startup Msurvey, which makes the survey in real time via mobile will be present next June and is looking forward to developing in the Philippines. This means we are moving from the radar of the innovators of the emerging countries and this real issue deserves by itself another article.

Young people, in the meantime, seize the opportunities offered by Tech. It is the vocation of Afrobytes, beyond this event, to offer them a platform for exchange?

As mentioned above, Afrobytes is more than a conference. It is a “Market Place” where all value chains will be represented to promote the business. We believe very much in B to B but for that we must create the meeting. We will therefore bring together, under the same roof, on June 8 and 9, Tech players from all over the world, bringing investors like the Draper fund, which holds Skype, Twitter, Tesla and Space X in its portfolio. This will be an important opportunity, we want to offer the African entrepreneurs the best, and they may avail it: it is not our event but theirs. Allow me to add that Afrobytes is the only conference on African innovation carried by the Africans and this changes everything because as the initiator of the event, we hold our narrative and are therefore able to write the conclusion all together in a spirit of co-creation of value.

What is awaiting us for this Afrobytes event?

The meeting is totally geared towards operational – between Tech players in the most dynamic markets (Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, the Ivory Coast …) and the players of the global Tech in search of new relays of growth – will include workshops, B2B meetings and networking sessions. The investors will exchange views on the future “unicorns” that will be able to profit effectively from a market of two billion inhabitants by 2050. Whether they are urban or rural “Millennials”, the expectations and uses of African consumers will be at the heart of discussion around “business models” – especially those offering the innovative products and services best suited to the needs of a booming middle class. The themes will include market survey conducted via mobile phone and mobile payment. Therefore the entire mobile and digital customer career will be detailed with its various fields of application: FinTech, EdTech, AgriTech, E-trade, Smart Cities … We will also discuss topics that have not yet been explored, but with huge growth potential according to the population sizes: eFashion, Entertainment, Job Tech …


Author: Lilia Ayari // Photo: Haweya Mohamed © DR

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