A speaker presents at the first AfricArena event, held in Cape Town this week to facilitate discussions on challenges facing start-ups and entrepreneurs. This was also an opportunity to engage with potential investors. Photo: Supplied

CAPE TOWN – The state of the African tech eco-system was under spotlight this week at the AfricArena event organised by Silicon Cape and LaFrechTech (Frech technology organisation). The keynote speaker, on the 1st day of the event painted a mixed picture of the African tech eco-system.
Bright is the co-author of a book about the future of African economy titled, The Next Africa.

In his view the Africa tech startup environment is one of the toughest environment for startups.

African Tech Startup Diagnosis

To illustrate the tough conditions for tech startups in Africa, Bright said: “Its as if African startups start almost 20 metres back from everyone else in the global tech race.”

He mentioned several factors that contribute to the tough conditions of operating in the continent. Among them, he mentioned the quality of broadband and fewer venture capitalists.

At the same time, he highlighted some major gains by the African tech eco-system. Among them, he highlighted the fact that Africa has 442 technology hubs according to GSMA. He also highlighted major investments by big tech companies towards African tech space.

Surprisingly, he also mentioned improved government support for tech startups as one of the major positives for the African tech eco-system.

Bright had some few recommendations for the African tech eco-system. Although African tech startup eco-system is already receiving positive media exposure he suggested that it needs more of it. More importantly, he highlighted something that requires serious attention within the tech eco-system and that is, unity. Currently the African tech eco-system operates in silos. Tech entities in one African country do not speak to tech entities in other countries. Tech organisations within countries also hardly speak to each other. To address this challenge Bright suggested African tech leaders need to start talking to each other more.

Leading African Tech Startups

In conclusion, the award-winning author Jake Bright called on African tech leaders to lead and take leadership seriously. Currently, there’s tech startup leadership vacuum in the African continent. What the continent has are lots and lots of events and hubs and less people who are taking lead in advancing the cause of African tech startups. Some who appear to be leaders are just advancing the cause of their own interests such as universities, incubators, companies or localities.

What the continent needs are leaders to represent the tech startup eco-system in government and other key decision-making platforms. Currently organisations such as the Silicon Cape, Simodisa and others weak are at truly leading.

Bright perfectly diagnosed one of the major challenges facing the African tech startup eco-system. South African tech startup tech eco-system is a classic example in this regard.

In Cape Town alone, there’s CITi, LaunchLab, Silicon Cape, Solution Space and others. All of these institutions hardly collaborate on matters that advance the interests of the local tech startup eco-system. At the same time, the Cape Town tech startups keep trying to compete with Gauteng tech startup eco-system and vice versa. This is not good for the African tech startup brand.

What will enable the local tech startup eco-system is serious collaboration for the advancement of local tech startups. When Africa pitches in Europe or America it should do so as a unit if it is to succeed in championing the cause of local tech startups. An African tech leader needs to stand up and lead.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of The Infonomist and the founder of Kaya Labs. You can catch up with him via Twitter on: @WesleyDiphoko

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.