Africa’s innovators are open for business

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO

“Africa is on the move,” US President Barack Obama told the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya this summer. A new generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs with a “can do” attitude is injecting dynamism into Africa’s start-up scene, which is skyrocketing. The continent is abuzz with innovation and entrepreneurial activity. Tech hubs, incubators and other initiatives are popping up across the... (see full summary)


What is DEMO Africa?

DEMO Africa is a launchpad for new technology start-ups. It is a place where Africa’s most innovative companies can launch their products and tell Africa and the world what they have developed. Each year, technology start-ups from across Africa apply for a chance to promote their innovations at the annual DEMO Africa conference. We identify 40 of the most innovative start-ups to participate in that event. These are businesses that are solving real-world problems with high potential to succeed.

The DEMO Africa conference brings Africa’s tech ecosystem together in one place. It’s an opportunity for Africa’s top start-ups to pitch their innovations to venture capitalists, investors, technology buyers and the media from across the region and beyond, and to secure investment and attract publicity for their inventions.

What makes the African technology sector so interesting?

Africa’s tech space is fresh. Africa’s new entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do. They are skilled and ambitious and have a lot of energy. This is a potent mix which is generating a great deal of enthusiasm and belief in Africa’s potential to join the global stage.

The continent has a diverse and talented pool of young people and now we are beginning to see a commitment on the part of governments to utilize this massive source of brainpower to bring about positive change, especially through technology. Africa has many problems, from education to health and infrastructure, and the technologies that are coming out of Africa are solving real problems – this is what people are seeing and what they are interested in.

How is the technology landscape in Africa changing?

Since 2012, when DEMO Africa launched, the start-up scene has really taken off. The quantity of these businesses is quite remarkable, as is their quality.

One thing that really excites me about Africa’s technology landscape today is that for the first time in a long time, we are seeing technologies being built in Africa, by Africans, for Africans, but also usable anywhere in the world, and especially in other developing countries. Until now, Africa has been a net consumer of technology, but now we are seeing people developing and using home-grown technologies. We are also seeing African-built technologies being exported around the world. It is a very exciting time to be in Africa and to be working in the field of technology.

Africa faces two challenges which have become opportunities...

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