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Information Revolution in Africa – How We Can Quick-start It

The information revolution in Africa will be successful if we put in place the right technology development strategies. Small teams of entrepreneurs in their bedroom or co-working spaces can build products for millions of people across the World. They just need the right skills and investments.

The rise of the Internet and related information technologies is probably one of the greatest things that have ever happened to mankind. They brought unprecedented changes to our global society. We’re just getting started integrating these technologies and witnessing their impact on our everyday lives. No one can for sure predict the future especially since the pace of changes itself is accelerating. But we cannot fail to notice how this information revolution is important across the World. The information revolution in Africa is even more important as it brings new hopes to the continent.

The Information Revolution in Africa Brings Unseen Opportunities

In the global marketplace, organizations, companies and countries are competing in their ability to create, acquire and use new technologies. New rules, not those of the industrial era, drive the global economy. Africa has missed most of the benefits brought to the World by the industrial revolution. And we’re at risk of missing those of the information revolution. The african continent simply hasn’t kept the pace with technological advancements.

As the global marketplace becomes increasingly liberal and competitive, African countries can benefit. They can reduce their technological gap with the rest of the World and increase their growth rate. This information era is very different from the earlier industrial one. African entrepreneurs have many opportunities never available before.

As the Internet develops, the transfer of technology is easier. African entrepreneurs, builders and technologists can easily and quickly – almost in real-time – look at what their counterparts from other more developed continents are doing.

Technology, Education and Skills Development Is The Biggest Challenge

The Web has enabled anyone from anywhere to share their experiences and learn from others’. It’s a huge opportunity for African people as it offers ideal conditions to import technologies, upgrade existing ones and export what we create. We need to put in place effective technology development strategies that go beyond importing tools. We need to use these tools at their full efficiency.

  • We need to acquire and develop new technical skills and management techniques.
  • We need to create links and exchange ideas with other organizations across the World.
  • We need to adapt imported technologies to local conditions and practices.
  • We need to develop deep technical capabilities and a solid information base necessary to make the right choices.
  • We need to develop the ability to upgrade and improve acquired technologies.

This is only a subset of what we need to do to build world-class capabilities and master new technologies.

One of the often-cited issues hindering Africa development is infrastructure. In the industrial era, one needed a lot of infrastructure to run competitive world-class factories. They were complex and very expensive machines and other infrastructure elements like buildings, roads, seaports, etc. In the information era however, a small team of entrepreneurs in their bedroom can build and sell products to thousands, even millions of people. Companies like Instagram, WhatsApp, Dropbox, MongoDB and plenty of others have reached billion dollars valuations with only a handful of employees.

The infrastructure required to create a startup is mostly limited to computers and Internet access. And even if you need other things like hosting for the apps you build, collaboration tools, analytics, etc. they don’t cost millions of dollars. You still need an investment but it’s not that huge. You’re not building an industrial factory.

The biggest challenge for African entrepreneurs in this information era are technology, education and skills. They are the most important requirements to create successful products and companies today. That’s where we’re focusing our efforts and that’s how we’ll win the information revolution in Africa.

Introducing TEKXL

When I started cooperating with Ulrich (Co-Founder and CTO of TEKXL), my goal was to use his great technical skills to build a visualization platform for a client. I soon realized he was more interested in big ideas and solving problems than coding. It was a match made in heaven. Soon, we were looking for the best approach to accelerate the startup scene in Africa. Our early concepts included an investment fund, an incubator, an accelerator and an idea lab. We opted for something that would combine all of the above and TEKXL was born.

TEKXL was founded to make products the world would want to use. To achieve that goal, we are developing an environment to facilitate the emergence of successful startups offering innovative, profitable and disruptive solutions for Africa and the World.

First, we identify ideas with the potential of solving problems and creating value for individuals and businesses. Second, we hire talented people to transform these ideas into products. Finally, we create startups ran by the very teams that worked on the products to take them to market.

Ideas are important in the development of successful products. We are not interested in doing what has been done. Instead, we welcome ideas that are innovative and disruptive. We trust the youthful instinct of our team members and our own experiences as founders to build pathways to solving problems and creating value where there was none.

Training is a key aspect of our model. We have to introduce our recruits to the advanced technologies and practices necessary to develop successful products. By hiring dynamic and talented young people, we are able to move very quickly in covering new concepts in design, coding and marketing. Most of our training is done on the job.

Teamwork is the foundation of our model. Our objective as stated previously is to hire talented young people to develop new products and then let them manage the startups resulting from what they created. This requires building solid teams, including the right combination of core people, skills and temperaments. It is a challenging feat for one startup, let alone the 3 per location that we strive to generate every year. We embrace that challenge because we have a program to identify, train and mentor young people. We pay team members competitive salaries and provide funding to cover operating and marketing expenses until startups go to market. In addition, team members get equity that will vest over a period of four years, provided they stay until maturation.

On average, we invest $30,000 USD for the development of each product/startup. When our startups graduate from the accelerator and go to market, we help them secure additional investments from various sources.

We currently have 3 teams working at ETRILABS in Cotonou (Benin). We are finalizing plans for 3 other locations in 2015. In mid-February 2015, we will open our Abidjan (Cote D’Ivoire) location and by the end of the same year, we will begin operations in Dakar (Senegal) and Lagos (Nigeria).

We welcome your contribution and input. Talents interested in joining us can submit their resumes on our website. We also welcome inquiries from investors and ideas for great products. We invite you to try our current products and help us improve them with your constructive feedback.

Thank you!
Senam Beheton Co Founder and CEO TEKXL