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For the past four years I have seen too many African Tech Entrepreneurs struggling to make a living out their products(Software mostly) and most of them failed and ended up abandoning their dreams of becoming “The next big thing” or think they are cursed being located on the continent.

African youth eager to get connected and be IT wizards
African youth eager to get connected and be IT wizards

Though programming skills are still scarce and luck of venture capital to sustain those nascent businesses, I believe African Technology Entrepreneurs can do big things if they change the market approach most of them(us) make.

The big customer: 

When you spend a whole year trying to build and market this mobile app that farmers will use in a remote area where even electricity is still a problem, I do not say you are missing it but I am saying you cannot easily build a viable business model on it. 

According to Gartner Inc, Government IT spending in the Middle East & Africa reached $ 17.7 billion in 2013. South Africa imports some 80% of its software from the United States, with the balance from Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

Nigeria: Banks Import N1bn Software Annually to name few. And no doubt, with the fastest LTE coming on the continent, the demand in software is going to increase.

African Software developers should seriously focus on this market. Many Africans can live their daily life without using a mobile app or use just one or two of them but no African Government can serve its citizens without consuming software. The use of MIS ( Management Information Systems) is on the rise

Your name not in the news but money in your pockets:

Getting 1,000,000 Users of a mobile app is not easy as many of you have noticed it and even then, your company is not assured of revenues but if you sell one software in the health of Tax industry for example, your company is assured to live at least for two years and VCs will be “willing to do due diligence”.

Tech Entrepreneurs on the continent should stop chasing the dream of being in the news as the next Instagram or Whatspp but focus more on being the next Infosys or Datapro.

Many people say(correctly) that Israel is a successful software exporter. But what they often do forget is that in Recently(in 1984) the Israeli Sofware Industry had $370 million sales from the domestic market and ONLY $5 million sales in exports.

Another major obstacle African Technology Entrepreneurs face is the lack confidence often displayed by the local market towards their products.
Well guess what? they are right to question your products! If you spend a whole year building “The” next big mobile app, well spend a whole year to building and debugging this MIS you want to sell to this Insurance Company in your country!

Also, we need to work together, forums, join hubs and other innovation spaces, create some if you live not near any. The Government is your parent, if they see that you have joined forces to work on producing quality software, they will certainly want to help. No politician or decision maker is happy when they sign on the checks that go on to purchase Software in other places but you do not give me a viable alternative, instead you are busy building “the next big thing” and complaining.

Another advantage of co-working space like the iHub in Kenya or the kLab in Rwanda, is that they can become your channels to break deals through Public-Private partnerships models with public institutions and this will ease tender procedures and thus access to big tenders.

Also, innovation spaces or hubs allow methods of Software Design patterns to be shared and replicated and this has an effect of producing many programmers faster than the traditional schools( Note that I am not against traditional schools).

So, yes I am against the traditional belief of “Two kids in a garage trying to build a system they wanted to use themselves”, that is just not working. Join a community and try to build a system this Ministry or that Public Organ wants to use to serve the population.

At the end of the day, it is about what works and what doesn’t.

Yan Kwizera 

UM– USEKE.RW

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