Why shy away from the Silicon Savannah?

Africa-hero
Image: Tech Republic

By Alex Roberts

Look, everyone gets that Nairobi is the new frontier of investment.

Businesses are popping up hand over fist at a rate that was simply unfathomable, even as recent as five years ago. Yet, there are many who sit back on the sidelines, deathly afraid of risking it all and getting in the game. Not long ago there have been many voices calling out their dissent, their innate dissatisfaction with all of the young up and comers, the millennial generation, who are trying to take their turn leaping into the newest phase of the digital revolution.

Now is Kenya’s time as this is ground zero for the Silicon Savannah. Yes, there are other rivals to digital supremacy within the African sphere (notably Nigeria and South Africa) but none have gone as far, as fast and as effectively.

This is the age of the new and Kenya’s own rapidly growing slice of tech through the massive start up space that is invading Nairobi is the way to leap frog into the 21st century. This can spring the country ahead in development to such an extent that it may truly be the way that the country reaches levels of economic development only felt south of the Sahara in start up accelerators in Johannesburg.

Frankly put this situation of intense growth wasn’t around even a decade ago, let alone that prehistoric period known as the 90’s. Any tiny inkling of an idea has the potential to become ubiquitous in Nairobi, something that the general masses simply can’t imagine living without.

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Strange image, but it might not be too far off base. Image: TNooz.com

How is this possible?

Angel investors are flocking in, a sudden light bulb moment seeming to burst forth from the entire business world. Africa is the new market and tech is how to get there, Kenya has the best IT workforce and most welcoming trends for foreign investment in the entire region. Click goes the light bulb.

Now once marginal tech spaces and accelerators like I-Hub and Nairobi Garage (formerly the accelerator known as 88 MPH) are drawing in not only the best and brightest minds from all spheres of Nairobi but connecting them with the biggest and most influential tech players in the entire world. Even Microsoft used Nairobi Garage as an office for some of their employees for a while.

This is going against the grain and doing so in an active and positive way that is largely bringing in Kenyans in their 20s to make their mark.

Tradition and even some theory points to Kenya and other African states being behind, having to play catch up to world superpowers that are miles ahead in terms of digital impact.

This is for lack of a better word, utterly and entirely false.

The old school hypotheses of the world system theory are shifting and have been for quite a while.

Sure, in a lot of realms Kenya is still considered to be a third world country, one that sits and struggles on the periphery of development while others flourish. Digital advances are the great equalizer. Anyone from any country can create something without relying on anyone else, immediately jumping from periphery to core with a singular clever innovation.

That isn’t to say that there won’t be many people who are going to try to hold back whoever comes up with a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime idea, even if it could have an impact far beyond the reaches of the Silicon Savannah and into a global scope.

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With everyone and their mother being digitally connected, the reasons to sit out of the Silicon Savannah are becoming less everyday. Image: Empower Magazine

“Sit back and wait,” They’ll cry, “I struggled for decades before eventually cracking through that ceiling and making it with my own creative vision.” A bigger misconception has never been uttered from the lips of someone masquerading as wise.

The length of the hustle doesn’t negate how hard things were or how much you pushed for your digital dream to become a reality and this is almost more true in the business world of the 21st century. Opportunities these days are made at the end of a finger, the touch of a button and can end almost as quickly

This ‘earning it’ for Kenyan start ups trying to find their corner in the Silicon Savannah is not only ridiculous, it’s a serious detriment to the young and brilliant who might actually find themselves holding the spark of something incredible in their hands.

Here’s a free hint: everyone else is trying to spark that same fire.

Especially when comparing tech capabilities of Kenya against those of say, the US, the first world companies often have more experience, more funding, more marketing reach and better contacts padding their brand new iPhone’s  memory banks.

It’s survive or die time in the digital space and the Silicon Savannah has to keep up with the trend of staying at the crest of the wave. One study indicates that the number of enterprise apps will increase by 100% in many major businesses worldwide. The biggest in business are diving in with both feet into digital and so should Kenya.

Just because Kenya is at the forefront doesn’t mean the nation should sit back on its laurels. One 2014 report indicates from the Communications Authority of Kenya indicates that digital penetration among the population stood at around 52%. Anyone who thinks that figure will reduce in the coming years is dreaming.

One invention could change simply everything for the periphery as far as digital exposure is concerned. Li-Fi internet connection (gaining connection through solar panels and LED lights) could suddenly push billions online. The same is true in Kenya. Those in Turkana, those far from the bright lights of Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah could suddenly become an integral part of the nation’s tech boom.

Check out this explanation on Li-Fi to see some of the future for yourself.

 

The message to all of you dreamers stuck treading water in this digital explosion rings fairly simple: forget about all the naysayers holding you back, you’re much better off on your own.

All those older detractors, pushing heavily down on the dreams that you yourself are in charge of may have already been through their age of golden opportunity and squandered it to the same fears that they’re now projecting onto your Start Up idea for creating an app that can have your phone make cotton candy (we’re sure that’ll be a thing by the year 2018).

This is the Silicon Savannah, a label that Kenya should not only wear proudly but carry forth as the nation’s business banner with a battle cry into the 21st century.

Everyone has their own reasons for doubts. Can Kenya really make it in the space? Will the important tech players be interested in anything that you have to say? Is there a market for innovations coming out of Kenya? Will tech entrepreneurs lose everything and be forced to retreat to live the rest of their lives life in obscurity?

Everything is a risk in this life, but tech is one area that you don’t have certain ‘necessary’ costs that can weigh down and destroy other businesses. It’s just you and your laptop and a multitude of business opportunities: wherever you can find connection others can connect to you.

Why wait? Ever hear that term the ‘golden-age’ of something? Well, you’re living in one right now, the golden age of digital and the Silicon Savannah could be the Midas touch for Kenya. It’s a time in history that is incredibly exciting or the tech-minded, the gifted, those with a laptop and a dream.

 

The investors aren’t at the gates; they’re in office spaces down the road in Nairobi. This is the Silicon Savannah, you might as well jump into the deep end of the digital revolution right now and embrace it, if not you could find your world-changing idea with a lot of vultures circling around it. Whether or not to click is up to you.

See for yourself the potential for digital tech in Kenya.

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The surging power of social media and blogs in the digital era

By Karungari Kahende

The globe is now a connected marketplace that receives, shares and creates messages fit for a cause and with a particular audience in mind. With the advent of the social media platforms, the role of social media as a communication tool has been enhanced. It is now possible to reach different audience simply by creating conversation within the social media scope without having to go through the traditional media (advertisement). According to the dependency theory by Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur (1976), the social media platforms have not necessarily brought about the increase in audience need. Instead, they have presented a variety of avenues to fulfill the audience’s’ needs. The real-time factor has transformed how companies communicate with their audience. Feedback is almost instant, and a company’s rate of response is crucial in retention of clients. The audience wants a quick and timely response to queries posed.

Strangers can quickly become friends due to increase in interaction among different networks. Briefly conversing with a stranger at a party could lead to the formation of a new network when they send you a Facebook request. By accepting the friend request, you will meet new people in the stranger’s Facebook friend list and more strangers. Social networking power is at play. We are connected by a series of friends and their networks. Your friend’s friend could be your friend too, and your friend wouldn’t necessarily need to introduce you. Again, the power of social networks!

 

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http://www.socialnetworking.lovetoknow.com

 

The social network theory, formulated by Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies, examines how people, groups and organizations interact with others within their network. Social scientists’ interests are in the interactions between each of the members of a network, rather than just the networks of close friends, family or workmates. They seek to establish why and how individuals interact as well as the level of connectedness between group members. The theory further explains how random people are connected. The marvel of social network theory is its ability to examine how social media content goes viral in relatively few steps, meaning a small change in one area can have a huge impact on the overall network. Change travels along the nodes and reaches out to the ties within the network and various connected relationships before being pushed out to other networks. This generates change throughout the entire social network. A network is a set of relationships.

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http://www.socialnetworking.lovetoknow.com

 

Presently, there are more people than ever before, and they move around more often. This makes it hard to control them, altering the distribution of power. This change is termed as the mobility revolution. As proposed by Naim Moises, the rise in Diasporas has altered business, religion, politics, education and even culture. Migrants bring with them their culture and perceptions, which alter our stands. Some become our spouses, work mates, and friends. International mobility increases interaction among people. This move affects voting patterns, business strategies as well as interaction patterns. The success of long-serving monopoly companies is being threatened by innovative start-ups, the youth are actively pursuing politics while citizen journalism is being led by charismatic citizens. Loosely organized activists are setting the public agenda for interaction with the masses using social media platforms. This all contributes to the decay of the former power held by structures and even police force. In this article, I will be highlighting two social media movers that have shaped online interaction. I intend to link them to the mobility revolution in the digital era.

Humans of New York

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http://www.humansofnewyork.com

Brandon Stanton, the bigwig behind this blog, focuses on stories of the human race. The project began in New York, 2010. The photographer desired to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The dream soon grew and with it came a little over 12 million enthusiastic followers. Brandon has transcended New York and now travels to other nations taking photos and accompanying interviews to form stories. The photographer acts as a medium of interaction by posting stories shared by his subjects. Be it a life changing experience or a funny encounter one had, the photographer captures the subject in their most natural environment, along the busy city streets. Brandon has transformed social media interaction by acting as a medium for people to share real-life experiences to drive interaction and create awareness on issues too.

 

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http://www.humansofnewyork.com

Prisoners have had their cases reopened due to the mass support received from viewers of the blog who transform into activists. The masses are more empowered now than ever before, and so they act as agents of change. By voicing their opinion on a worldwide platform, the public is able to effect change, for example through online campaigns. Also, the mass audience is democratically empowered to voice their opinions without fear of government power. Humans of New York audience have been able to rally behind Brandon on his campaigns that have successfully been executed. The mass support received compels the policy makers to act, where necessary. This surpasses the power that was once concentrated on political leaders and the decision makers.

HumansofNewYork1
http://www.humansofnewyork.com

Muscle power has lost its essence as citizens are empowered more than before and worldwide mobilization has been made easier due to the significant internet users who are connected through networks. When injustice is being practiced, and you need to mobilize the public to enact change, all it takes is knowing the right opinion leaders within the internet sphere to share your story with. Brandon’s unique perspective in his storytelling is as a result of mobility revolution. Having traveled to several countries, the photographer has gained a wider perspective on life, which has contributed to his creative approaches to his work. He does not restrict his work to his native country but travels beyond, all in search of stories to share with the rest of the world. With this movement comes along experiences and improved skills as well.

Boniface Mwangi

Boniface-mwangi
http://www.bonifacemwangi.com

The Kenyan award winning photojournalist and a social-political activist is not a stranger to many. In fact, he is known to be more vocal on controversial issues than political leaders through his initiative, ‘Kenya Ni Kwetu.‘ His brave actions have hoarded him a significant Kenyan following both on his Facebook and Twitter pages. He is popular for his images during the post-election violence that hit Kenya in 2007–2008 and is also the founder ofPicha Mtaani’, a youth-led peace initiative that primarily seeks to create space for young people to reconcile and become agents of reconciliation to their respective communities. Boniface is an embodiment of courage as he is known to be vocal, speaking blatantly on the government’s failures and its leaders. Having been imprisoned severally due to his sharp remarks, Boniface is viewed as fearless both locally and internationally. People considered voiceless or insignificant to the media feed Boniface with news on issues within their communities which he, in turn, shares with his public acting as a medium for disseminating news and advocating for action. His posts are widely shared across the social media platforms channeling awareness across the masses and encouraging a call to action, most times in the form of a peaceful protest or response from the policy makers.

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http://www.bonifacemwangi.com

 

He is well-traveled, and so his perspective on things is seen as revolutionary. Reigning from a country once considered to be rigid in its customs and leadership, Boniface acts as a voice for change encouraging Kenyans to speak out against corruption and other injustices to drive the nation forward. This is attributed to the mobility revolution that has broadened his perspective on life thus allowing him to share his knowledge with the rest of Kenyans. There is a change in the distribution of power as it’s hard for policymakers to bar him from traveling to nations, detailing his experiences and exposing his country’s injustices. Moreover, his projects are all donor-supported by international organizations, which the government has little control over. With substantial funding, this social activist has power in his hands and mass support.