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WRAP: What you may have missed at the Africa Tech Festival

Leo Chen, President of Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa gave his opening keynote for the Africa Tech Festival 2023. Picture: Vernon Pillay

Leo Chen, President of Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa gave his opening keynote for the Africa Tech Festival 2023. Picture: Vernon Pillay

Published Nov 19, 2023


The Africa Tech Festival has now come and gone, and if you did not get a chance to attend the event, then IOL News has some insight for you.

The event is the home to digital innovation and transformation in Africa and was created to provide a space to foster and build the future of Africa's tech industry.

Africa Tech Festival was held from the 13-16 November 2023 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).


South African is looking to create a sustainable digital infrastructure that would integrate with other African states and our tech partners.

Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Philly Mapulane has told members at the Ministerial Forum that major opportunities lie ahead in the digital realm for investors.

Mapulane said government is not just building a digital infrastructure, but is also laying the foundation for socio-economic emancipation in Africa.


A number of ministers from various regions in Africa came together to discuss building a future-oriented, intelligent digital infrastructure for Africa.

The Forum was co-organised by the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), with the aim of advancing the digital transformation agenda in Africa.

The meeting was geared at creating a space where the ministers of communications and digital technologies could exchange their views on the development of Africa’s digital infrastructure.

A key notion was the fact that all digital infrastructure and growth is essential in achieving the socio-economic development goals of the continent.


Shimaylan Singh, the CEO and founder of Humain was invited by IOL NEWS to provide some insight. Singh is a RevOPs and GTM executive that has worked for a number of large star-ups in SA, including Yoco and Groupon.

Singh noted that the keynotes from ministers of communications and leading figures in digital technologies painted a picture of a continent on the cusp of a digital revolution.

He noted that their speeches, while conceptual, gestured towards a future where governance and policy play crucial roles in ensuring digital prosperity.

Singh said that the goal is clear, the continent is geared towards “fostering a digitally enabled Africa where cross-border interoperability isn't just an ideal but a norm”.

“Yet, despite the high-level discussions, a tangible roadmap for innovation, entrepreneurship, or disruptive tech seemed elusive. Instead, the focus was on the trajectory of digital transformation rather than concrete examples of innovation”


Singh notes that the African tech sector has seen substantial funding in familiar and lower-risk areas such as fintech, energytech, and agritech.

He says however, that for entrepreneurs aiming to address higher order African-specific problems with technology, the investment landscape appears exclusionary.

“Garnering the capital to innovate, distribute, receive feedback, and iterate to find something transformational demands an savvy entrepreneurship, grit and a sizeable network. Our approach to pitching ideas and navigating execution in a complex environment that still enables the African experience to investors — is perhaps a narrative that is still being authored,” he explains.

For tech entrepreneurs in Africa, the journey is fraught with challenges, not least of which is ensuring continuity, Singh argues.

“The ability to live, fight and learn another quarter is possibly one of the best assets a young African start up may need and now is not the ideal time to be relying on foreign capital to do so.”

He notes that turning your attention to your revenue engine instead, offers a dual advantage: it extends company's runway and significantly increases valuation.

What he understood from the event as a tech entrepreneur and what he would advice other business enthusiasts to do is to identify how to position your products, your pricing in order to generate sales.

“This is the bedrock of a successful tech enterprise. Yes, brick and mortar is back baby,” he adds.

The good news is Africa is full of entrepreneurial talent and with the rise of AI tools and access to internet so is our technical talent.

He advices tech entrepreneurs to seek companies that can bridge the technical skill gaps within their organisation.

“This would enable more efficient problem-solving and gives entrepreneurs more control over their ventures, aligning with the broader mission of uniting African nations through technology.”