Tech Entrepreneurship and the future of Africa Part 1

Earlier today I shared an article by Big Chief Victor Osaretin Asemota. He is one of the prominent people pushing for the marriage between technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. His post inspired me to put down some of my thoughts on paper. While this is just to share from my experience, its also meant to serve as a conversation starter for my generation and other like minds. I believe there is more to do be done especially seeing that the fourth industrial revolution is already upon us.

The first thing i did after i learnt how to create a Facebook account was charge people to help create their own accounts. I worked in two computer villages (Maiduguri and Kano) between 2009 and 2016. My tech entrepreneurship journey started with helping people access technology or selling to them tech products (phones, gadgets, accessories etc)

It was always thrilling to create email accounts, recover passwords, change computer OS or even help people with their first posts on social media. As simple as some of it was, that period was the defining moment in my career. Along the line, i learnt how you should and shouldn’t do business, who you should and shouldn’t buy from or sell to. I mastered the art of persuasion; i could sell you a laptop with a broken screen and still charge you to replace the screen (yeah i was that persuasive).

Eventually i picked up other skills like design and started coding (before i quit). I became exposed to the idea that as Africans we can create solutions to our problems. With the entire startup buzz going on in Silicon Valley and around the world, i was convinced i was meant to be part. So I registered my first company in 2015. The idea was to keep doing what i was doing but with new niche of services like web design and graphics. It was my first experience as a founder. I was hit by the truth soon enough, that it would have been easier for me to ride a roller coaster. You can imagine how failure feels, I’m glad i did even though it didn’t like it back then.

The whole technology and entrepreneurship thing was not really clear to me. I didn’t really have a purpose like i do now. So i was always jumping from one job, skill or platform to another. It was difficult to focus when each time you go online you read about a 22 year old kid who built a billion dollar product. It only gets you wondering what you’re doing with your life, and I used to think if nothing happens at that age then forget it. Found out that I was wrong, again.

However, I loved what I do and was addicted to tech. Eventually I met a couple of guys and we started a small company. A year and half down the line, I discovered we weren’t compatible (topic for another post). So I moved on and started another company, also brought in some people who taught me some of the best lessons I’ve learned in business. That is, companies are run by people and people are motivated by interest (Also topic for another post).

I realized, that the cap (techpreneur) I wore needed to be adjusted because I was wearing it the wrong way. I was fortunate to impact thousands of people through communities like Facebook Dev Circles, Google Cloud Developer Community and Code Pyramid Nigeria which I started with a couple friends. I discovered however that I can’t really make the type of impact I want to make with the present system. So now I’m on journey of self rediscovery, trying new approaches.

I love the advice Big Chief got from his uncle, that “you will never become a rich man by putting your chest out and saying that you know everything”. So now I know I don’t know and I’m willing to do what it takes to know better. Its quite a challenge cos I’m drawn to business than tech lately. I’m particularly motivated by some exceptional Nigerians who have done amazing work in putting us on the map through their startups or innovations, yet some of the most successful tech entrepreneurs I know have never made it to the news. There are always in the background smashing things.

The Nigerian tech ecosystem now thrives on PR and as a digital marketing professional I’m prompted to take a step back, so my search continues as I try to reshape my idea of an Africa that builds solutions and products for Africa, perhaps that is when the phrase “Africa to the world” will make more sense to me. Until then, I’ll be on the sidelines watching the growth of our continent and observing how we’re impacting global economy through local innovations.

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