Monday, 9 November 2009

African Innovation Comes to London

In the past month or so I have been spoilt for choice when it comes to Africa-focused events here in London. I am always pleasantly surprised by just how many Africa-enthusiasts are based on this little island – there are of course the 2 million-odd diasporans with family links to the continent and many others who have taken a keen interest in the continent for other reasons. I have found both types of people at Africa Gathering and BarCamp Africa UK recently and both events have been buzzing with ideas, entrepreneurialism and enthusiasm for positive change and innovation in Africa.

Africa Gathering in October brought together thinkers and do-ers ranging from philanthropist Bill Liao to the founder of FrontlineSMS, Ken Banks and the eccentric Kevin “Banana Man” Alan. The inspiring rapper Emmanuel Jal gave a moving account of his experience as a child soldier in Sudan and how he is only eating one meal a day until he has raised enough money for his charity Gua Africa to build a school in his hometown to educate young people affected by war.

I was at the first Africa
BarCamp in the UK at the weekend along with a hundred or so other tech enthusiasts sharing some really exciting ideas. Miquel Hudin shared his website, Maneno (meaning ‘words’ in Kiswahili) which is a communication and blogging application built to serve the specific needs of Sub-Saharan Africa. Frederick Wamala from the LSE shared his thoughts on how we must secure Africa’s newly acquired fast internet from cyber crime in order for it to be an effective medium for Africa's development.

I’ve had some fascinating conversations at these events and have been really happy to see just how many people are as excited about opportunity in Africa as I am. Growth and opportunity have been key themes that have come out of both events as well as the African philosophy of
Ubuntu (we are who we are because of others) which I see as fitting for the take-up in interactive and social media across the continent.

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