Miami technology conference can inspire young Africans

TECH CONFERENCE: Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh was one of the judges at the eMerge Americas 2015 late-stage startups competition.
TECH CONFERENCE: Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh was one of the judges at the eMerge Americas 2015 late-stage startups competition. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The flow of international aid to Africa perfectly fits the description of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to fish — he expects to be handed more.

According to the 2014 DATA report, Fighting Poverty and Financing Africa’s Future, aid to the continent increased in 2013 by an estimated 6.9 percent, to $42.7 billion.

Colonialism, the pillaging of the continent’s natural resources and endless wars are some of the reasons touted to justify the continent’s presence at the aid-seeking table.

Several decades after colonialists’ exited, new aspects of development — technology and innovation — are taking place on the world stage. But they are only just now picking up on the African continent.

Africa needs to reach the same pace with the rest of the world, not just in the use of new mobile communication gadgets, but in technology innovation.

Living in Miami for most of this year, I have been impressed by many initiatives — Miami-Dade County’s promotion of Metrorail and having businesses and organizations “adopt” roads, among them. However, one particular conference, eMerge Americas, was so captivating it propelled me into thinking mode.

The technology conference brings together innovators, tech businesses and start-ups from not only the Americas but also from Europe, giving participants a platform to showcase their work and to provide inspiration and networking opportunities.

The plan is to turn Miami into a tech hotspot.

Africa was not represented at the conference apart from a couple of individuals like me.

There are several initiatives in African nations that seek to nurture and inspire tech innovators. However nothing is close to what eMerge Americas does. Africa needs an eMerge. It needs to eMerge with America.

Technological advancement with Africa at the tail end and far from the table is perilous. Not only will the development gap widen, but the growing potential market that Africa presents population wise will not be fully realized. Many will not be tech savvy enough to appreciate the innovations from across the oceans.

According to a new UNICEF report, Generation 2030, the African continent, already the world’s second most populous with more than 1 billion inhabitants, is experiencing a demographic shift unprecedented in its scale and swiftness.

By the end of the century, on current trends, Africa will have almost quadrupled its population to more than 4 billion, and will be home to almost 40 percent of humanity.

That can mean an untapped market for technology that can be fully exploited only if Africans are involved in the tech revolution. It can happen by developing home-grown tech solutions and exposing African innovators to successful innovators and start-ups from abroad.

Encouraging and inspiring the continent’s young and educated population to embrace technology innovation will go a long way in helping the continent appreciate technology and its people spend money on it — as investors and consumers.

Technology is Africa’s future. Well-paying jobs will only be for those who are technologically empowered. Politics and governance will be affected by tech innovations.

That is the reason I chose to start the eMerge Africa initiative to do just what eMerge Americas does for Miami, and the tech businesses and innovators in the Americas.

The idea has been positively appreciated by many in Miami and back in Uganda.

The journey will start with showcasing Africa’s tech potential to the world come next year’s BlackTech Week and eMerge Americas conferences.

If technology innovation and startups are encouraged, many young men and women will be inspired to tap into the global opportunities that technology innovativeness brings.

In the 21st Century, moving forward, Africa’s educated young people need not relocate to foreign countries in search of greener pastures. They should plant and water the pastures back home. Good thing the political and economic weather is promising.

Initiative such as eMerge Africa will help provide them with opportunities for growth and synergize with the outside world to not only impact Africa, but also the world.

The Americas, and indeed the world, should eMerge with Africa.

Isaac Imaka is a Ugandan journalist spending time at the Miami Herald as an Alfred Friendly Fellow.