http://africa2point0.com/2 days ago, i had a very interesting discussion with some fellow members of the cameroonian I.T Community, following a post on africa 2.0 about the Umbono project. In summary, Umbono is an enterprise incubator created by Google, some angel ventures and big companies operating in the I.T Domain in South Africa. They will support south african based startups with finances (from 25K to 50K US $),local connections, offices and tutorals of Google experts. All these advantages worried David Bassock, a cameroonian young startup founder who express his fears on his blog. i readed it, and it finally decides me to come out and show what i consider as good reasons to keep confident.
Google is #1 company in the web industry, with many investments all around the world. Since few years ago, its interest for Africa is going increasily. I think it is just normal that the Google board decided to make some important investments. Why? Africa has incomparable human, agricultural and mining potentials. All these domains need IT tools to help. So Google is just following the stream of making business with Africa.
The choice of South Africa: to deploy such measures, there’s a need of good and top infrastructures, it’s evident. South Africa as the most industrial country of the black continent is obviously the best choice for it. the country is the member of G-20, has a very good higher education system, companies compete with the best in the world…That can logically explain why Google enter in the starting capital with local companies, with no fear.
The Umbono project appears to me as the new technopole of the world. after Silicon Valley in the U.S, Bangalore in India, there comes time of Africa. I will first of all bring out what is to me good points for Africa and secondly i will put an emphasis on the future of african startups of other countries than South Africa.
Umbono project will highlight the African genius. We all know the success stories of african engineers in the I.T Domain: Dr Simo, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, Jacques Bonjawo,…Umbono project is the opportunity to build up and write thousands of I.T african success stories which take place in Africa…isn’t great?
–Umbono will redirect the flood of our brains.They would not go to work and develop occidental countries no more, but they will remain in Africa. I’m convinced that this startups incubator will globalise to the continental level the casting of best young I.T workers to reinforce and bring an added value to that great adventure.
–Umbono will influence (positively i think) the training content of our higher education. There is inadequation of training courses in higher schools and the real needs of enterprises. Umbono will directly and indirectly incubate the changes we need in that domain.
These are some global benefits for the continent. Now, lets go back to the worries of some startups leaders and founders concerning their future.
It is true that South African startups have a great advantage with all their means. But do we have to give up or to face this challenge of successing to grow in this context? with no hesitation, i choose the second option. Why?
1. Umbono project requires to other African startups who wants to stay and grow in this concept to work more than before. i’m not afraid about it, I.T domain is a domain of challenges, hard labour and patience. So I.T Startups are already programmed to it!
2. Umbono project will bring and spread to Africa international standards. African entreprises are suffering a lot of this fact. By Umbono, they will understand importance of respecting standards to success. We know that there is no standard without I.T…Umbono will provoque a shaking that will give birth to needs that will be solved by I.T workers.
Let me define now what are the advantages of local startups considering the Umbono project.
-Africa is 52 countries subdivided in 4 economic and politic areas: central Africa, West Africa, Maghreb and Southern Africa. Each of these areas has their own habits, customs, economic specificities and economic environment. No matter the money and the knowledge startups helped by Umbuno can have, they can’t beat us in our field, because we mastered those parameters which are really importants for business. That’s why local startups have to learn more about their countries, so that they will be able to express usefully their genius.
–local Startups must aspire to professionalism: i have noticed that in our I.T startups here in Cameroon, the founders who are mostly developpers also do what they are not qualify to do: accountancy, marketing,… Yes, i know what they say: they don’t have money to pay someone to do it for them. they’re right…but, do they try to convince some young graduated in these domains to join them? There is some optimism, enthusiasm, imagination and ambition i acknowledge in the midst of I.T community. Let me tell you something: these things are contageous. Let me take the Cameroon I.T community as example. Since 2 years, we are very active. Some pillars of this community are Edouard Tamba, Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, Dania Ebongue, all journalists. Startups need those ability and skills, they will bring what startups don’t have. They just have to share their vision which seems to be crazy, but which is not impossible.
-i don’t have to mention perpetual training. To work in the I.T means to train continuously.
–local startups need to collaborate and strengthen theirselves on common projects. the collaboration 24 labs–Ingenieris is a real example of what i’m saying. initiatives like 9ideas conference, barcamp are welcome. Join-ventures in the regional area will be a very good. i really appreciate the initiative of C-Hill with his Nigerian partner on naijaborn an camerborn projects. Go ahead guys!
Considering all of this, i’m intimately convinced that Umbono is a very good opportunity for local startups. An african proverb says: « rain falls over all roofes« . We will directly or indirectly benefit of the Umbono effect. I’m confident about the future. Guys, we don’t have to be afraid. I was thinking about what the Japanese people had felt after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It Took them 50 years to rebuild all. they did in 50 years what USA made in 2 centuries. How? with Imagination, Creation and Courage. let us do it, with our own manners.
Welcome Umbono, Go ahead Local Startups!