Written By: Mark Brian Semakula
I am sure by now most of you have heard of the concept of a hackathon, a collection of young developers who get pitched against each other in teams and tasked to develop various apps, prototypes and e-solutions.
The majority of apps that win “Hackathons” and other app challenges however never go on to become viable businesses in Uganda and Africa in general. It’s almost as if the goal is to create businesses that sound sweet on paper but are far from being applicable in reality.
There is a new wave of “Tech-preneurship” in Africa that seems to be hell bent on rewarding “theory based tech ideas”. Prizes include a couple of thousand dollars, press interviews, heck some even end up with features on CNN Africa and countless other places all except the one place they need to be… their intended or target markets.
Tech disconnect between Uganda and the Western World
There is clearly a big disconnect which I believe stems firstly from a gross misconception that Africa and the Western world are at par in terms of their readiness or current ability to absorb all sorts of “tech based innovations, apps and websites.This misconception creates a fertile ground for people to think they have unchecked creative license to develop a buffet of solutions whilst disregarding factors like the economy, culture, religion, way of life etc making most solutions utterly out of touch with their intended end users despite seeming extremely plausible on paper.
My second reason hails from inadequate support both financially and mentally. The few great ideas that do manage to beat their way to the top of the pile, receive so much praise and adoration, get handed a dummy cheque with dollar figures bound to excite their young creators but consequently go on to be buried as soon as the next full moon because no follow-up support is actually given past the theatrics, flashing cameras and hashtags.
Don’t get me wrong, I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and Africa’s road to development also has to start from somewhere, it’s just that we are going nowhere fast with a culture that doesn’t support winning ideas to tangible fruition or one that rewards ideas that have no scent of actual applicability on them.
We should all appreciate the immense scale of resources and strategies needed to enact successful paradigm shifts that create mass acceptance of better and more innovate ways of doing things.
Financing, tonnes of research and mentorship needs to be incorporated into all innovation hubs. I am not talking about a tune of a few thousand dollars or three-hour annual seminars or one-page surveys, I mean a couple of million dollars, full blown 360 curriculums and adequate R&D programmes without which I think everyone’s time is being wasted with all the “Tech-preneurship theater”. This will steer us away from our current global position of the continent with many entrepreneurial pregnancies but just as many miscarriages, so much potential yet zero fruition.
The West wasn’t built on a million good ideas, rather a few great ideas that were supported and backed with serious financial muscle until those ideas became full-fledged businesses and authorities within their respective industries
I only hope Africa can wake up and call itself out on some of these futile ventures that if tweaked just a little would actually foster and empower the younger generations to adequately prosper.