Earlier this year, technology news website Mashable posed the following question: “Is Lagos Home to an African Tech Movement?” In the article, writer Monty Munford bolstered this consideration by pointing to the West African nation’s innovative residents, emerging tech hubs like CC Hub Nigeria, the Mobile Web Africa conference and the latest development project, Tinapa Knowledge City.
“For all intents and purposes, the city should not operate at all. Its chaos outstrips that of Cairo or New Delhi,” wrote Munford. “But within the insanity, a new type of region is emerging.”
And Munford is not alone. A global interest in the rapidly flourishing information and communication technology (ICT) industry and the growing penetration of mobile phones and Internet in Africa has been on the rise, as seen in similar articles penned by intrigued journalists and industry leaders at Forbes, Businessweek, the Economist and other leading publications.
South Africa, Ghana and Kenya, particularly Nairobi, have been dubbed Nigeria’s main competitors in the race to build the continent’s response to Silicon Valley.
Each nation has seen tremendous growth in various areas of their ICT industries, in addition to producing some of the biggest names in technology including HopStop founder Chinedu Echeruo, Ushahidi co-founder Juliana Rotich and Africa’s youngest billionaire, Ahsish Thakkar.
Matthew Dawes of Mobile Web West Africa spoke with us about some of the unique advantages that places Nigeria above the rest, while also etching out where the nation’s technology industry could possibly improve.
“The one massive advantage that Nigeria has is the size of the existing and potential mobile market compared to other countries on the continent,” said Dawes. “Whether you are targeting smart or feature phone users there are a much higher number in Nigeria and that domestic market is very useful to have. At the least, it means your initial launch can just focus on the local user base.”
“On the downsides, countries like South Africa and Kenya you could argue are more matured markets both in terms of how mobiles users use their phones but also in terms of the maturity of the local mobile industries, so there is more experience there which can be used.”
Given that Africa’s first Social Media Week took place in Lagos, Nigeria last year, those who attended the landmark 2013 event can attest to the area’s thriving tech scene and groundbreaking entrepreneurs and innovators.
At the same time, the speakers, panelists and attendees hailed from all corners of the world, their palpable, shared passion demonstrating the crosscultural power of technology and extinguishing any competitive notions around one’s homeland being the leader of a movement.
As we prepare for Social Media Week Lagos 2014, we will speak to top officials and foremost experts from Nigeria and abroad to gain exclusive insights and spark frank and revealing discussions on the current global dialogue around Africa’s pioneering ICT industry.
Patrice Peck is a self described pop snob with a penchant for race talk. A multimedia storyteller always on the move, catch her on Twitter and say ‘hello’.