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“A wave of technology rushing into Africa." Interview with #rp13-Speaker Erik Hersman.

2013-04-09 14:00

So you already know that #rp13 will be hosting one of Africa’s most influential tech-bloggers. As the co-developer of the Ushahidi platform he has significantly influenced the way people in current conflict zones can spread messages and news via smartphones and notebooks. He is also the founder of the first iHub in Nairobi, Kenya, where IT entrepreneurship and the online community take centre stage.

Erik Hersman will be attending re:publica for the first time and report on his work at Ushahidi, AfriLabs, and the iHubs. But seeing as we are terrible at containing our curiosity about the technology scene in Africa, we asked him a few quick questions on the matter. His replies suggest a sort of African iceberg and Europe so far has only seen the tip of it. What lies out of sight, beneath the waterline, will be presented by Erik Hersman at #rp13, in conjuction with the Global Innovation Lounge.

Mr. Hersman, what is currently happening in terms of digital change and innovation in Africa? What developments are you most exited about?

We're at the forefront of a wave of technology that's rushing into  Africa and changing the way businesses, government and society works in general. It's made up of a combination of simple mobile phones, an increasing number of smart(er) phones and the internet capacity in each country. From small businesses being able to accept mobile payments from consumers, to big companies streamlining their supply chain using a combination of mobile, computer and web, it's proving to be a very
active time in the cities that have enough critical mass to make things happen. Lagos, Cape Town, Nairobi, Accra - these are the cities in Africa that we're going to continue to see as the focal point of "what's next" out of Africa. It's made much easier to find and see through the rise of tech hubs and labs across the continent, where you can see the entrepreneurs in this space at work.

I'm most excited about African tech companies creating products, services and models that are being exported to the rest of the world, especially since everyone thinks of this continent as only importers from the rest of the world.

What connections between Nairobi and Berlin can be made at re:publica and how can we work together in the future?

There's been an increasing number of tech hubs across Africa. This year at re:publica there are going to be 15 people representing 10 different tech hubs in African countries coming to the conference, all part of the AfriLabs association. For anyone interested, there are plenty of opportunities to plug into the tech scene in Africa through these individuals.

What are you expecting from re:publica? What are you looking forward to?

I've never been to re:publica, but as a long-time blogger and technologist, I envision it as a sort of European mashup of all the excitement and change that's in this space. I end up not getting enough insight into Europe's tech world, so I'm excited to see what's going on and meeting some of the people building the future of the region. Plus, it'll be great to see who's interested in Africa's tech community and try to build the bridges between Europe and Africa in a meaningful way.