On October 11th, nearly 200 people convened at Google for the first BarCamp Africa with the purpose of "building the conversation between people and opportunities in Silicon Valley and Africa." With Google as Hosting Sponsor, this volunteer-run event gathered a wide array of technologists, philanthropists, bloggers, artists and entrepreneurs, more than 20 not-for-profit organizations, and subject matter experts from across the Bay Area and as far as Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
First conceived by Ellen Petry Leanse and Kaushal Jhalla, two Bay Area residents with deep roots in Africa, BarCamp Africa provided the unique opportunity to bring together Africa-focused professionals from Silicon Valley with people from, and doing important work in, Africa. With an emphasis on user-generated content and spontaneous connections, BarCamp Africa let participants to shape the agenda, and provided the space for creativity and idea sharing. As with other BarCamp events held in Nairobi and Kampala earlier this year, Google has helped connect the African technology community with other vital sectors to explore how, collectively, our efforts could make a difference in the region, through technology and innovation.
Topics discussed during the day’s event included emerging technologies, mobile phone growth and opportunities, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Highlights included:
- The need to focus on supporting entrepreneurship and business growth
- The importance of investing in local talent
- The opportunity to promote innovation as the key driver of industry growth and job creation
- The importance of helping strengthen connection to community for disadvantaged students with strong potential so that they do not lose roots (diaspora challenge)
- How giving back to the community provides girls who have received assistance (scholarship support, mentoring, etc.) with self-esteem, and the feeling that they can accomplish great things because of the experience of doing so
- The role of economic development that drives choice and support for women's empowerment
- the founding of Reaspora.com, a web destination focused on resources, connections and support for African expatriates interested in re-connecting with the continent. The name for this website and the commitment to build it grew directly from connections made at BarCamp Africa
- the creation of SquibWib, a web-based educational platform that allows a mentor and a student in different places to meet online and read together, as if they were in the same room
- the establishment of Afridex, the first steps of a consolidator of pan-African tech content
- the launch of Kelele, an annual bloggers' conference that will move between African countries; the wide response to BarCamp Africa inspired a coalition of African bloggers to commit to this ongoing gathering
- the building of connections between Silicon Valley's community of not-for-profits focused on positive change in Africa; these groups have already begun to support one another at local gatherings and events.
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