Not so dark after all – Technological bright sparks making the continent proud

Technology is not an industry that one would automatically associate with Africa but just like our Western counterparts the continent is producing bright young things, making waves in the industry at home and abroad.

Saheed Adepoju

Saheed Adepoju

Earlier this month, reported that  the 29-year old entrepreneur and Sun-certified Java programmer had invented an Android-operating tablet designed for the African market.  The economical piece of hardware comes in at just $350, (half the price of an iPad) and at only 8 inches it is comparable to  the mini iPad which is rumoured to measure about the same.  Adepoju says that the ‘Inye’ or ‘One’ tablet will be a valuable tool for students and local government, who he hopes to sell the device to.  In addition to all the standard software one would expect to find pre-installed, collaborations with local developers have resulted in the addition of applications to raise HIV awareness as well as information resources relating to water and sanitation.  ‘Encipher’, the IT company that Adepoju owns with co-founder, Anibe Agamah, also have Encipher TV in the pipeline – a destination for African film and television.

Inye tablet

The Sable Accelerator

In an admirable exchange of information, ‘The Sable Accelerator’, a group of  Silicon Valley and London-based South African execs, is providing young South African entrepreneurs with advice, connections and investments to develop their business ideas into globally-marketable products.  Donovan Neale-May, a co-founder of the company tells – “There is plenty of talent and tech innovation in SA. The challenge is the commercialisation of that innovation. Some of it is coming from within companies, some from entrepreneurs and some from universities.”  With first-hand knowledge of how difficult it is to establish yourself in the world of technology, build a good reputation and develop a good product, the company’s wish is to raise the profile of local innovators and give them a platform for good ideas that would perhaps never see the light of day.  Due to go live on 6th August 2012, will showcase hardware, business solutions, social networking ideas and applications, making innovators and their creations accessible to the much-needed venture capital not available at home.

Jason Njoku

Jason Njoku

“We’re the first guys to actually legally reach out in Lagos to the production houses, the owners of the movies… ” – this is what 31-year old Njoku told the BBC of his internet-based film distribution company.  The chemistry graduate was inspired to start the business after hearing his mother complain about the lack of places to find or watch ‘Nollywood’ movies in London.  Njoku’s company, Iroko Partners is currently the largest distributor of the hugely popular films, with  81 employees in Lagos, London and New York.  Keen to keep it all above board, Iroko Partners have signed deals with the production companies, taking some of the power away from illegal DVD businesses that have been the primary distributors of Nollywood movies for so long.  It seems obvious that someone would have already created a platform for the world’s second largest film industry (by volume) but no one had.  Having raised $8 million, so far it’s proving to be a worthwhile venture to say the least.  And one that will have no shortage of material, with fifty films brought straight to his door each week.

“I wake up every single day super-excited about just being in control of my own time, and about having a real impact and change in the world, in my little own way,” Njoku tells the BBC.  He adds, “the biggest barrier is ourselves.”  Wise words from a young man who saw his potential in a local context – there was a gap to be filled in his own community and who better to do it than him.






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