Will the Next Generation of Startup Success Stories be Made in Africa?

By David Knight |

San Francisco, New York, London, Berlin, Stockholm… Kigali? In recent months, I’ve had the chance to talk with various different people connected to the growing startup and tech scenes across Africa, and there are some pretty exciting things happening. The next generation of entrepreneurial talent is as likely to emerge from Addis Ababa (or for that matter Manila or Santiago) as it is from any of the traditional tech hubs.

It’s worthwhile, then, checking out just what is happening in Africa, and I recommend you take a look at the Made in Africa project – a documentary film which follows IT trailblazers looking to pioneer innovative solutions to 21st century problems.

Produced by Geraldine de Bastion and René von der Waar, footage for the community-driven film was shot in 2013. It charts the impact of digital technologies and innovation hubs in Africa and is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to fund the post-production phase (Made in Africa also recently won an award at One Spark Berlin).

That impact is perhaps more obvious in Africa than elsewhere in the world. For example, children in the remote Ethiopian mountain-top village of Wenji are using tablets to learn to read and write, while in Kibera – one of the poorest parts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and Africa’s biggest slum – girls as young as 12 who have never even held a smartphone are being taught maths, science and history via 50 donated Kindles.

These two examples, the documentary makers say, provide a microcosm of what is happening across the continent; a digital revolution offering a multitude of new opportunities. In many countries in Africa, the desktop computer phase never happened; people went from being offline to being online on mobile. And it’s a fast-growing trend: One study suggests that nearly 40 percent of Africans will own a smartphone by 2017 in what is the fastest-growing market in the world.

To track these incredible changes, Made in Africa travelled to four of the continent’s capitals to talk to major players in the local tech scenes who are striving to change the lives of millions.

“Every political leader should receive a copy [of the documentary] so that they understand what the young generation wants and thinks and how we are developing our countries,” said Harinjanka Andriankoto Ratozamanana, founder of Habaka Hub in Madacascar.

Made in Africa’s co-director Geraldine de Bastion, meanwhile, said the film is an effort to “show that Africa is not just made up of safari tours, poverty and famine, but innovative stories and people that are really worth learning from.”

Geraldine has also been deeply involved with the Global Innovation Gathering, which I was involved with at this year’s re:publica, and raising awareness in Europe and beyond of what is going on in the wider world can only be a good thing.