File image: Toya Delazy. (IOL).
CAPE TOWN - The third annual MEST Africa Summit kicked off in Cape Town at the Waterfront on Tuesday, driving the message of this year’s theme: 2018: The Year of the African Scaleup? 

The Top 10 Highlights of Day 1

1. Featuring Aaron Fu and MEST’s 10 Year

Aaron Fu, Managing Director of MEST Africa, was in attendance at the Summit on Day 1 – proudly welcoming conference-goers to the third annual MEST Africa Summit in Cape Town.

This year, MEST is celebrating 10 years of investing in, training and incubating startups throughout the continent and focusing on their theme: 2018: The Year of the African Scaleup?

“Over the past decade we’ve trained nearly 300 of Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs, invested in over 50 early stage companies, launched incubators in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa to better support our growing teams, and welcomed some of the world’s brightest minds in tech, venture capital and enterprise,” states Fu.

2. Looking at FinTech for financial inclusion

The afternoon session of Day 1 saw a panel discussion on FinTech for Financial Inclusion. Arguably the biggest tech sector across the continent falls in the category of FinTech. This is a vertical which continues to receive the greatest amount of funding and proven cases of disruption. And according to the panel, FinTechs are the solution the traditional banking sector has been looking for. 

“Banks in the traditional sense and form is a dying species. The largest wealth managers in the world are not banks. This is the space for FinTech to play. Mobile money is the most active in Africa, this is the continent with the highest mobile money numbers. FinTech can drive inclusion for Africa,” stated Rostan Schwab, the Head of Africa FinTech at IFC.

3. Creativity meets Tech

The final panel discussion focused on Creativity in Tech and the link between two concepts such worlds apart, and to cement the topic one of the panellists was Toya Delazy, well-known South African-born independent musician. 

“Yes, it’s easier to distribute your music today but it’s more complicated to understand if it’s reaching the right audience. The music industry in terms of data is very very far behind,” stated Sakhile Xulu, the CEO of Qisimah.

Technology is showing us how in a very basic way it can really open up the world, especially for music. All of a sudden, your audience as a local musician is global.

4. Ecosystem partners driving inclusion for African cities

Africa’s digital cities was a major topic at the #MESTAfricaSummit. The concept of continued development at such a rapid pace has always been an interesting concept for tech innovators. 

The continent's population is likely to double to 2 billion by 2050 and 57% will be expected to live in cities.

“Cities are struggling to provide services and economic opportunities to the vastly growing population in urban centres. 37% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population resides in cities and by 2050 60% of urban residents are expected to live in informal settlements due to resource constraints,” explains Anokhi Parikh, Senior Consultant at Dalberg. 

5. Featuring Toya Delazy

Toya Delazy was featured in the Creativity meets Tech panel discussion and also entertained Summit-goers at the pre-conference evening event with her particular brand of music. 

Toya Delazy is an excellent example of an independent local musician gone global with tech at the helm. 

She is also using other creative means, such as television, to expand her brand into Africa.

“Cartoon Network has asked me to voice the fourth Powerpuff Girl, the first black one. She’s African and this is helping me take this form of entertainment further in the continent as well. Africa is on its way and the time is now,” Toya concluded.

6. Facebook Keynote

The first day of the MEST Africa Summit culminated in a fireside chat between Julien Decot, the Director of Platform Partnerships for Facebook and Yinka Adegoke, the Africa Editor for Quartz Media. 

The two heavyweights discussed the pressing issue of Facebook privacy, WhatsApp and Africa.

In his role as Director of Product Partnerships, EMEA, at Facebook, Julien helps companies of all sizes use Facebook’s platform to build, grow and monetize their products. 

7. Tech Development and Entrepreneurship in Africa

Jason Njoku, the co-founder and CEO of iROKO, advocated for businesses to think Africa. He argued that people need to look at the African market and not just South Africa. 

“Necessity drives opportunity,” continues Njoku. He furthered the idea of Nigeria as the center of focused entrepreneurship by underlining the fact that tech is enabling people to develop in the business space even though they don’t have the educational background, especially in Lagos. 

8. Profit-driven Impact

This debate looked at how companies can also make a profit but still hold corporate social investment as the main aim or purpose of the company.

Saidah Nash Carter, the head of innovation at Thomson Reuters said that innovation ecosystems that can advance a business is the way forward.

9. Women in Tech

Kicking off the Female Founders panel, Baratang Miya said: Ïnnovation by women is starting to be taken seriously, the tech space is starting to accept us.”

Miya is the founder and CEO of WomenInTech Academy and passionate about pushing your passion to make a success.  One of the key take-aways from the Female Founders panel was that women as a collective need to start believing in the fact that the future in tech is female.  

“We need to step away from the segregation between women and men,” comments Ellen Fischat, co-founder and CEO of InnoCircle, “Women need to start investing in women, the misconception is that you need to be big to invest. Females need to empower other females, and men will follow.”

10. Social Impact

The MEST Africa Summit is tackling the pressing questions faced by tech innovators and corporates alike. 

Social Media was alive with inputs from conference-goers and here are some of the standout comments:

“Cape Town is where you can find all the right ingredients to build the base of a #startup before scaling through Africa” – Aaron Fu quoting Lungisa Matshoba, co-founder and Director of Technology and Product of Yoco. 

“If you’re in South Africa, you should definitely attend the #MESTAfricaSummit. Come meet and greet with some of the brightest and most influential minds in Africa! The turnout is already becoming massive. Bigups to the @MESTAfrica team!!! #Africatotheworld – Ingressive