Third Africa Tech Summit promise on futuristic discussions on tech

With an increasingly digitizing and tech-savvy world, it is becoming more imperative to hold discussions in the industry that is fast being adopted by almost every sector of the economy. For example, artificial intelligence is fast gaining traction and equally posing a potential human resource disruption in the talent outsourcing world.

Big tech companies despite having setup in Kenya, have been restructuring their staff, with a total of 30,000 employees fired from Microsoft, Google and other big tech companies. Remote work is equally gaining bullish as ad-hoc employers consider giving gigs to talents with select skill sets.

NTV’s Brian George sat with Andrew Fassnidge the founder of the annual Africa Tech Summit on why Nairobi is the best to host for a second time

Africa Tech Summit started 6 years ago but in London. This is the third edition coming to Nairobi, what was the inspiration?

I founded Africa Tech Summit in 2016, really as a way to connect African founders, corporates and investors from all across the continent. I just felt that I was seeing a lot of great innovation all across the continent. I was working in mobile telecommunications company at the time, in VAS services. But in every city, I was going to, I was seeing young startups starting in different cities, experiencing the same problems, lack of funding, like a talent, different problems.

We decided to run Africa take someone away connecting people from the ecosystem. So we have three, three main additions, we have African Tech Summit in London, which is a smaller event, which is much more focused on driving VC and investors.

What areas are attracting the most innovative ideas and investments in Kenya and Africa at large?
We have the decentralized finance (DeFi), which is looking at FinTech payments, crypto and decentralised finance, which is a whole new area and rapidly growing area. And regulation probably hasn’t caught up with where crypto and DeFi already are.

So that’s that’s a big area and talking points. I think agriculture and food security is a big, big issue. So we also trying and looking at that in the climate lens of the event. And we’re looking at tech companies who are solving climate through agriculture through food tech through electronic vehicles. And also another area is electric vehicles as EV’s are fast catching up.

Fintech is always a big area, I think we’ve seen a huge proliferation of FinTech services across the whole continent, and maybe this year, we’re going to see a bit of consolidation.

COP27 was a few weeks ago And one of the biggest resolutions there was to have more financing towards climate adaptation in green financing. Are you seeing a trend towards that area of people still taking a bit of time to catch up?

I’ve seen as a huge step change in the last year. Investors are no longer just looking to invest. For example, some of our investors coming under the Catalyst Fund, have a huge programme on climate resilience, and they’re looking at FinTech solutions, agri tech solutions and looking at reforestation solutions. So, this is a major fund, who’s investing in a range of sectors that are tackling climate. That wasn’t happening two or three years ago. In a lot of forms, they were chasing, different businesses in the electronic vehicle space. Another partner of ours will be are very much into that space, and looking and trying to drive more interaction in that space. So, I would say to your point, yes, investors have definitely taken on climate. And I think that’s the important bit for our event. We’re not COP26. But what we can do is connect really good businesses that are tackling climate, we’re investors who are also have a climate lens.

Amazing. Let’s go back to Africa Tech Summit. This will be the sixth edition in case. Talk to us about your experience in how the markets compare for London UK, Ghana, and Nairobi

A good question. I would say the London scene for African tech is definitely growing. A lot of tech founders are moving into London. But London’s not Africa. So for us, it was like, we need to connect what we who we know in Africa with London opportunity, and we came to Nairobi last year. We also did three summits in Rwanda. And we felt it was time to come to come to Nairobi. It’s a much bigger ecosystem. So that’s why we’re in Nairobi, Nairobi is vibrant. For us, it’s a great place to hold the event.

You probably thinking of going down to South Africa?

I don’t know. I think we’re happy where we are. We’re happy where we’ve done events in Cape Town. We used to run an award ceremony for tech and startups. We also have a media platform in South Africa. But the ecosystem very strong here in Kenya and regionally next door, we have Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia not far. So you know, there’s a lot happening here

To be honest Kenya isn’t where it’s supposed to be in innovation. What is it that we’re not doing right to get to those levels where Nigeria, South Africa, perhaps Ghana, Egypt, those be countries that are fore runners in Africa? And of course, other potential country?

It’s an interesting question. In fact, that was, somebody mentioned it at a mini networking event we had in Nairobi. One of the speakers from Workpay mentioned that, Kenyan founders should be more aggressive. He said, Nigerians are certainly more flamboyant. But I think I think for me, Kenyans are very humble people very nice. They don’t overstate. And maybe that’s a good thing. I think so I think sometimes, if you overstate your position, and you don’t deliver, and then what’s the business? And actually, where’s the traction? Look, I think if we look in Kenya right now, there’s a lot of great companies building in the background noise and slowly and quietly, but you know, Kenya has been a hotbed of great companies. Cellulant, WorldPay, you know, Lami new insurance platform. So I do a lot of very humble founders here as well. And Nigeria has always grabbed the headlines, I suppose, in a way because of its population. But ultimately, you’re never going to target the whole of Nigeria with a service with a population nearly 200 million. If you can target Lagos that’s a big enough market.

Next month is Africa Tech Summit. Nairobi will be hosting for a second time. What will be different?

This year is we don’t have COVID. Last year was it was a logistical side last year, we had just came out of Omicron. Yeah, we had a lot of companies that had trouble bands. But on a conference level, I think this year, we’re going to see a lot more frank discussions around investment. If we look at valuations last year, we had a lot of companies were able to raise money very easily, we’d come out of Omicron and COVID. A lot of investors had capital that they needed time to allocate.

There was investment rounds happen, I’m going to do due diligence. And Andrea from TL came to the network meeting she shared about how they were writing big cheques and people weren’t given the board seats. For follow on capital, were doing eight to 10 million dollars may be in an investment, not to have a board seat. But the market last year was moving so fast, that investors were just getting involved in deals and leaving deals that normally they wouldn’t have touched.

So I think we’re going to see a lot more discussion about realism this year and investing valuations. There may be some a lot of down rounds, I think this year as well, in the money and defy and crypto space. FTX is obviously been a huge and huge bombshell for the whole area of crypto and decentralised finance.

But I think within the crypto on the foil side of our event to steal a lot of very good companies who are building really good products and services that are great Kenyan startup Caetani pay grid lists encouragements startup as well as doing hydropower for crypto mining.

So not everything is about FTX. And they’re under any exchange, but I think the industry is also going to grow and this is a step change towards that. And then climate is obviously a big thing. So climate we feel needs to get more of a focus in terms of businesses that are profitable and sustainable. And investors give them opportunities. And as he said, pitch live is open to all startups to apply to pitch live. And they come on stage and they can give it to investors and partners.

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