Tech Giants Discuss Opportunities and Growth Strategies in Africa

Last Thursday’s Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) panel event, part of their The Next Frontier event series, brought out expert panelists from large tech companies: Google, IBM, and Microsoft. All three of these companies have a presence in Africa (indeed, around the world) and are actively developing strategies for offering their products and services in African countries and other developing nations. The panelists, top executives who specialize on African growth opportunities and Africa’ technology and innovation challenges, were asked “What Is Your Africa Strategy?”

That complicated question—which seeks to better understand exactly how they and their partners anticipate offering products and services to the more than 1 billion citizens of Africa—prompted interesting answers that highlighted why Africa is prime for growth, innovation, and success.

Related: Joshua Stern, Telerivet CEO, at the last MEST event

Africa’s massive economic growth, large working-age population, rapid urbanization and acceleration toward mobility and connectivity, are arguably all important factors for determining a strategy for success in African markets. Given these factors, the panelists shared their insight and unique perspective on how they’re approaching Africa:

  • Wendy Lung, of IBM’s Venture Capital Group, discussed the vast opportunity in Africa. She noted how the prevalence of mobile phones throughout the continent is an indication of how Africa has been able to leapfrog from PCs to mobile devices in a non-linear way. She also discussed the growing need for local entrepreneurs to build local solutions, and how her team is focused on skill building in the local startup community.

  • Ivan Lumala, CTO for Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, shares Lung’s view on the importance of African entrepreneurs building local solutions for their communities and regions. For companies like IBM and Microsoft, one particular strategy is not only get Africans to “consume technology, but to also build relevant solutions.” Lumala said that Microsoft’s initiative focuses on enabling “Africa to be competitive, because it can be.”

  • Kendra Commander of Google agrees that there are great business opportunities for Africa as it becomes more fertile for technological growth and innovation. Google’s strategy focuses on connecting more Africans to the internet. Commander also discussed how Africa serves as a great model for emerging markets to test solutions: if critical issues can be solved in African nations (such as reliable connectivity), it can be replicated in other emerging markets.

Africa is a hotbed for opportunity and innovation and it’s no longer a question of whether the tech space in Africa is significant—few deny the magnitude—but how we best develop, tap, and nurture the space.

What was perhaps most important, revealing, and inspiring theme of the conversation was the universal recognition of Africa’s capacity for local entrepreneurship and innovation.  The road to realization of the Africa opportunity is to enable local businesses and organizations to thrive on their own terms.

MAMA’s global learning course

At Telerivet, we always enjoy sharing our technology with new audiences. So Jesse (our CTO) and I were thrilled to participate in the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action global learning course last week and share a tutorial video we created to show how MAMA programs can create their mobile messaging campaign with Telerivet. Our cloud-based platform makes it easy to set up and deploy a wide variety of mobile messaging programs — including maternal health campaigns, polling, community organizing, sending appointment reminders, and much more.

The video we presented last week focuses on the steps for creating a mobile messaging campaign within Telerivet. For maternal health campaigns, the easiest way is to use any spreadsheet program (like Excel) to quickly generate a schedule of messages to send according to each mother’s due date, then simply copy and paste those messages into Telerivet. To download an Excel template that you could adapt for your organization’s messaging campaign, click here.

View our tutorial video to see how it works:

Update 1/23/14: We just launched improved features for message scheduling, so the above method is no longer the easiest way to conduct maternal health campaigns. See blog post and updated tutorial video

We're rapidly improving and adding capabilities to Telerivet, and we’re always looking to our customers for suggestions on what we should build next — so let us know if you have ideas about new features that could help your organization.

Thanks again to the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action for including us in their global learning course and we hope to work with the MAMA community to support maternal health through mobile messaging!

-Elizabeth

Africa’s rapid growth: 2 discussions

Africa’s massive growth in tech and mobile is gaining attention, and Silicon Valley is taking note of this opportunity. Our CEO Joshua recently spoke on two panels that focused on mobile payments and innovation within Africa.

The first discussion was part of Meltwater’s The Next Frontier Africa event series. The topic focused on how Africa is leading the mobile payment charge. According to Meltwater, “Africa hosts 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies and and has the second biggest mobile market in the world. With rapid urbanization and an ever growing middle class, now estimated at 300 million consumers, there is a large and rising demand for new technology products and services.”

 

Meltwater

 

Joshua commented that "The mobile money opportunity in Africa now is similar to the early days of Diner's Club card in the US."

Joshua also joined a panel on frugal innovation in Africa at m-NEXT at GMIC this past Tuesday. The main focus of the panel was on the rapid growth of Africa’s mobile market and how this expansion continues to present unique business opportunities across the mobile value chain. Panelists discussed how limited resources can lead to extremely innovative and creative ideas. The panelists also talked about how their companies have seen the expansive growth of mobile money and m-PESA within Africa.

 

GMIC

To learn more about a user experience breakout session on Telerivet’s unique opportunities and challenges with designing technology for the developing world next month, read more here.

Hope to see you there!

-Elizabeth

Open House

Last Thursday we hosted an open house event in our San Francisco office for the Mayfield Fellows Program. The Mayfield Fellows Program is a work/study program at Stanford University designed to develop an understanding of the strategy and techniques for growing technology companies. One of our interns, Elizabeth W, is a Mayfield Fellow and helped put the event together.

We love sharing the Telerivet story and our CEO Joshua kicked things off by explaining Telerivet’s mission, why this technology is needed, and how it came to be.


Jesse, our CTO, described some of the ongoing technical breakthroughs that make Telerivet's technology available worldwide. He also touched on the challenges of building software tools for organizations in developing countries.

Jake, our Director of Operations, shared his experience of helping transform our startup from a couple of engineers to a multiple-employee operation with offices in San Francisco and Dar es Salaam. I discussed the unique challenges of communicating our powerful platform to a global audience. And Telerivet's two other stellar summer interns, Aidan and Nafeesa, briefly discussed their experiences with our team in Tanzania and global marketing.

Elizabeth W. gave an interactive demo of Telerivet to the fellows using our polls feature.

It was also the perfect opportunity to show off our newly launched website. Take a look!

-Elizabeth