“The way forward for work for African startups is in distributed places of work” and different concepts from VivaTech, one in all Europe’s largest tech conferences
At about 5:45 PM CET on Might 14, I arrived on the Gare du Nord station in Paris, France. It was rowdy, with a mixture of completely different individuals who had simply arrived within the metropolis or had been about to depart. A typical sight at one of many metropolis’s 6 giant mainline railway station terminals.
I had travelled to Paris for VivaTech, one in all Europe’s largest tech conferences. Based in 2016, VivaTech has hosted 36,000 startups, 3,300 buyers, and quite a few enterprise leaders and innovators akin to Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma and Tim Cook dinner.
I deliberate to reach a couple of hours earlier for the Viva AfricArena occasion at Station F, however a 90-minute prepare delay made it unimaginable.
My first cease was Rue Montorgueil, a road lined with eating places, cafés, bakeries, fish shops, cheese retailers, and wine retailers. About 100 VivaTech attendees crammed the road chatting and consuming at Viva Night time, a networking occasion.
To fulfill my starvation, I purchased shawarma—beginning with acquainted meals—and a drink, earlier than happening to talk with a couple of startup founders from Africa and Europe.
Exhausted from an extended day of dragging my suitcases round, I made a decision to e book an Uber to my Airbnb, so I wouldn’t need to maintain asking folks for instructions.
Over the course of the 45-minute experience, I had a light-hearted dialog with the driving force who lives in Paris however is from Algeria. His English wasn’t good, however it was adequate for him to dish out some phrases of recommendation on why I ought to get married quickly.
“Je parle Anglais,” was a regular disclaimer I gave to virtually everybody who began chatting with me in French, telling them that I solely converse English. Rising up, I had learnt French at each stage of my schooling however was by no means in the correct surroundings lengthy sufficient to practise talking it.
Later, as I settled into my Airbnb room, I made an try to observe TV however embarrassingly caught myself scrolling via the stations, in search of an English-speaking channel. A lot for utilizing not being in the correct surroundings as an excuse for my incapacity with French. I didn’t trouble turning on the TV after that day.
At 9:59 AM, I arrived on the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. There was a big crowd outdoors the venue ready to enter. I used to be about an hour late as a result of I needed to get a SIM card to wean myself off my dependence on public WiFi.
The convention began on a excessive notice with a teeming crowd and optimistic vitality. After a little bit of queuing, I received inside and was fascinated to see greater than 100 African startups current—most of them serving francophone African nations.
It felt odd that there was no Nigerian sales space on the convention, contemplating that nations like Egypt and South Africa had cubicles. I later discovered from somebody concerned in making an attempt to organise a Nigerian delegation that the present give attention to the 2023 election cycle was a significant motive why the federal government didn’t sponsor a delegation.
Over the following few days on the convention, speaking to many of those startups made me extra conscious of the francophone African tech ecosystem and the completely different folks and organisations working to make it thrive.
Conversations and periods
With startups stationed in shared 3-by-3-metre cubicles all around the convention venue, I walked to completely different cubicles looking for to be taught extra about what they did.
I spoke to Julien Herbin of Kayfo Video games, a startup based mostly in Senegal, who defined that making video games from Dakar had a couple of limitations as he couldn’t monetise the enterprise via in-app purchases as a result of Senegal didn’t have an settlement with Google and Apple on taxation and income share, thereby limiting his income streams to solely promoting.
Discovering a spot to park in African cities can usually be a trouble. Senegalese Lamine Ba of Parcsmart, defined to me that fixing the issue of parking in Senegal and different African cities might result in extra environment friendly use of land and the way parking generally is a important income stream for companies.
Yanick Kemayou of Kabakoo Academies (Mali), whose edtech answer helps youths purchase essential competencies akin to programming and design, for fulfillment in a fast-moving world, was beneficiant in explaining his enterprise mannequin and later serving to me get a metropolis transport card to help my motion across the metropolis.
I additionally chatted with Singaporean-French serial entrepreneur and now investor, Lin Dejean Yun of Transcendence VC, who defined why she’s bullish on francophone Africa: it’s an untapped market.
On completely different events, I listened to a pitch by Lew Kam of Simple Matatu (Uganda)—one of many 3 finalists within the Local weather Tech Awards—on how they’re lowering carbon emissions by streamlining mobility.
Dr Rasha Rady of Chefaa (Egypt) spoke about studying to pitch to buyers as a feminine founder on a panel session about ladies in tech.
Cameroonian tech founder and investor, Rebecca Enonchong, gave a passionate discuss on her struggles as an entrepreneur and why African entrepreneurs are higher tailored to surmount new challenges.
“Startups in Africa, in my view, are much less dangerous than startups in different elements of the world due to our resilience as entrepreneurs,” she mentioned. “We [African entrepreneurs] are very tailored for challenges, and we’re capable of surmount challenges not like some other ecosystem entrepreneurs that I’ve ever met,” Right here’s a 2-minute clip of her speech.
I additionally listened to a panel on the way forward for work. Greg Schweig, CEO AfricaWorks, prompt that possibly Africa doesn’t must depend on Western concepts of going totally distant resulting from its present infrastructural issues. The long run he prompt is in distributed places of work: slightly than having one workplace, corporations might have places of work all-around cities, nearer to staff. The thought rings good to me, however I ponder how reasonably priced it’s.
Because it was launched in 2018, the Délégation Générale à l’Entreprenariat Rapide des Femmes et des Jeunes (DER) has granted 60 billion FCFA (~$96,424,000) out to startups and helped remodel the Senegalese tech ecosystem. Mame Aby Seye, Normal Delegate for Youth and Ladies Entrepreneurship, spoke in regards to the achievements of the Senegalese tech ecosystem and the help given by the DER to make this attainable.
After consuming shawarma on my first day in Paris, I had extra sandwiches, croissants, and pizza over the following 2 days, after which I began craving Nigerian meals—I used to be bored with meals with flour. Happily, I ate sea bass, Turkish meals, which made my style buds come alive.
On Friday night, I received to eat some Nigerian fried rice cooked by a Nigerian pal who was additionally on the convention.
Exterior African tech
India was recognised as Nation of the 12 months at VivaTech, a particular recognition given because of the contribution of Indian startups to the world. India has 100 unicorns—one out of each 10 unicorns comes from India.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and different notable innovators and leaders had been additionally current on the convention.
4 years in the past, Huawei launched its app gallery to the remainder of the world, making a concerted effort to maneuver past Google and construct its personal ecosystem of merchandise that tie collectively. Throughout a session by Huawei, the corporate shared that it has over 432 billion downloads and over 580 million month-to-month common customers (MAU), as of 2021—and that lower than 10% of these got here from Europe. The variety of customers from Africa wasn’t shared, most certainly as a result of the session was extra related to a European viewers. The Huawei working system has 5.4 million registered builders and over 187,000 apps are already built-in into it.
That’s a small determine in comparison with Google, which had 3.48 million apps on Playstore as of Q1 2021, and 111.3 billion apps downloaded as of 2022. However nonetheless, it’s a signal that Huawei has made progress through the years. The corporate additionally displayed a few of its machine studying capabilities. Right here’s a video of a demonstration of that.
Trend and tech
Amid the two,000 exhibitors on the convention, I discovered that style and sweetness manufacturers like Fendi, Bulgari, and Dior had been doing extra than simply creating outfits within the metaverse. Bulgari had an interactive display that enabled purchasers to create a 3D picture of a chunk of jewelry within the metaverse, which might then be minted into an NFT. Christian Dior partnered with Lucibel, a French firm that designs and manufactures new-generation lighting merchandise and options based mostly on LED know-how, to create this mask that makes use of chilly purple gentle to stimulate and regenerate pores and skin cells inside 12 minutes, with out the chance of burning. I didn’t get to attempt it, however somebody who did talked about that it’s like an alternative choice to Botox, provided that it tightens the pores and skin and straightens out wrinkles.
Fendi teamed up with a startup to create an interactive game that gave customers the flexibility to recreate a restricted version bag with a view to expertise the way it was created by craftsmen in Italy. It took 900 hours to create one bag.
A few of these demonstrations had been a technique to get the eye of passers-by, and others had been meant to construct affinity with the model by asking customers to create style objects nearly.
Saturday, Might 18 was the most well liked day of the 12 months thus far in France, and I felt each diploma of it. Many individuals stayed indoors, and those that went outdoors had been dressed frivolously. At its peak, temperatures rose to about 32°C—Lagos was 26°C. I couldn’t assist however surprise how the warmth from Lagos adopted me to Paris.
Saturday was largely devoted to convention periods held in French—most periods with out translators, presenting me with the proper alternative to go to extra cubicles and meet extra folks.
Later within the night, after 4 days of studying about tech and showcasing tech services and products, VivaTech 2022 got here to an finish with music from French DJ Hadrien Federiconi, higher identified by his stage identify Feder. The Africa Tech part hosted ace Congolese guitarist Olivier Tshimanga, who dished out some melodic tunes. The Congolese delegates positive do know methods to finish a convention in model.
VivaTech 2022 recorded about 91,000 in-person guests and 300,000 on-line visits from 146 nations. There have been 1,800 startups and 700 funding funds.
After an exhilarating week, the following day, I made positive to go to the Eiffel Tower earlier than leaving Paris.
As I received nearer, I didn’t discover the Eiffel Tower spectacular, seeing that it was one tall construction made up of related metals. However as quickly as I made it to the highest, my opinion modified; the expertise was stunning.
Au revoir, mes amis!