Friday, 14 February 2014

Can African Tech Startups Catch Up? --by Yimika Ilori

And at the end of the day, the internet is all about software.
-Marc Andreeseen

Research has shown that every company will revolve around software in future. An average person may relate to a smartphone as a proof of technology or a simple device that combines software and hardware together an interesting way. But it is beyond that.

All emerging countries have at least one resource that is a delight of developed countries. Each of them has something that is more important than the basic factors of production namely, land, labour, capital and entrepreneur.
As a matter of fact, when I consider the relationship between emerging countries and developed ones, landmass (or land) and population (which accounts for labour size) do not appear as classifying factors. Otherwise, Britain would be ranked among the least developed countries of the world. Regarding the third factor, capital, a Forrester Research report has argued that corporate software assets will be more valuable to a business than its financials. In order words, software will be the enabler of financial gains and brand growth. And concerning the fourth factor, someone who takes the risk of starting and running a new enterprise is referred to as an entrepreneur and such a person must understand that technological advancement in form of software development has now reinvented the factors of production.

Be it a custom software that needs to be developed from scratch or an off-the-shelf application that requires some tweaking, the primary issue is the ability of the software to meet a required need. Yet, all it takes for an individual to learn the skills includes interest, passion and dedication, provided that power supply, internet access and a computer are available.

Before the era of mechanization and industrialization, agriculture was the economic backbone of powerful countries. Subsequently, there was a move into the industrial revolution and machines and engines became the sustaining components of economies that made countries stand out. Today, what makes a country outstanding is the intangible value that its citizens can add to it and the world at large.

Countries like Israel, Brazil, China and India have emerged with techie startups or small businesses whose activities rely on and promote information technology. Based on the novelty of their creative services, many of these startups are being acquired by huge corporations around the globe such as Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft. But I wonder when African startups will join this league of corporation-acquired startups. For instance, less than 12 months ago, Google acquired 11 startups and none of them was an African tech startup.

Please do not get me wrong, as I am not implying that Africa lacks creative startups. We certainly have great startups. In fact, I have worked and gained priceless experience in more than one startup already. However, I believe that the solution to poor recognition of African startups internationally does not lie with the startups themselves. It lies with the next generation, and precisely, those who are presently in primary and secondary schools.

I think it would be awesome if software and computer security programs were introduced into some primary and secondary school syllabuses and taught to kids who show early techie interests.

The axiom that it is easy for a child to assimilate words, pictures and images faster than an adult readily comes to mind here. If in doubt, you could simply make an easy enquiry through a Google search and confirm these ideas. 

Nevertheless, if a solution cannot be implemented to address this issue and influence the explosion of tech startups in Nigeria and Africa, then it may be safe to conclude that the disruptive innovation and techie gap between developed countries and most African countries will continue to widen.

Yimika Ilori is a techie who takes pleasure in his spare time by writing articles and short stories. His articles have been published on Nuggets for Nobles and CFA Leverage amongst several other e-platforms. He blogs at and can be reached through the same.

Other articles written by Yimika include:

How does “His Excellency” come into play in Nigerian Politics?

Village Mentality: The Chief of Africa’s Problems