Notes from Pan-Africa Tech Conference

samfloy~15 June 2019 /East Africa/East Africa Business

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week I was at a conference in Nairobi showcasing tech businesses from across Africa.

It was a good opportunity to see some of the initiatives being taken by startups on the continent and also listen to discussions by enthusiastic panelists on the role of technology in the development of the region.


The conference was organised by MEST – a not-for-profit program affiliated with a company called Meltwater. Meltwater is a mega-Silicon Valley company doing data analytics.

The founder (Jorn Lyseggen) is an interesting guy, who I ended up sitting next to for lunch on Tuesday.

He’s originally from South Korea, though he was adopted by a Norwegian family when he was young and grew up on a dairy farm in a remote village near the Swedish border.

At some stage, electronics entered the equation, and he soon started “geeking out” on all things computers. 

When the internet came along he got a couple of good jobs and then started his own business (Meltwater) in 2001. 

Eighteen years later and the company is headquartered in San Francisco, employing 1,500+ people and annual revenues of $250m+.

MEST (Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology) is Jorn’s way of giving back, and so far the organisation has invested in 60+ startups across the continent.

Sexy tech in Africa

The past year or so I’ve been a bit disconnected from “the start-up scene” in East Africa, but this event was right on with the narrative of the power of technology companies to transform the continent.

There were various panels on all of the usual suspects (AI, Blockchain) as well as <insert industry>Tech discussions, and pitches from companies who are part of the MEST programme.

The whole operation did a good job of glamourising tech entrepreneurs, and there were many young people from the Nairobi scene who, no doubt, were inspired that the route to glory is building a software business in the region.

People to interview

As well as attending the talks, the conference was a good opportunity to meet people running companies in the region.

As a result, I’ve been able to line up some people to do interviews with for The East Africa Business Podcast which I’ll be starting up again soon.

A full list of the companies on the MEST program can be seen here: MEST Portfolio

More information

If you’re interested to learn more about the program that MEST runs then take a look at the following:

In other news…

Outside of conferences I’ve begun fleshing out a few business-related projects, including one to offer “Podcasting as a Service”. 

If you or someone you know is interested in starting a podcast (either as a personal project, or for their business) then let me know, it’d be good to chat with them.

Also, from last week, there are 13 countries that the equator passes through. They are: Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Maldives, Indonesia and Kiribati.

Anyone get anywhere close?

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