The morning session, chaired by infoDev’s Maja Andjelkovic, heard from Jessica Colaço, the manager of *iHub_ in Nairobi, which was recently awarded an infoDev grant as the host of a regional mobile applications lab in East Africa. Jessica described the journey that led from a volunteer initiative (Ushahidi) created to develop crisis mapping in the aftermath of the 2008 Kenyan elections, to a community-based pre-incubation and innovation centre (*iHub_), to the new mobile applications lab. Other speakers included former Finnish Prime Minister, H.E. Esko Aho (now with Nokia), South Africa’s Ambassador to Finland and Estonia, H.E. LMS Mngiqana, Hossein Moiin (CTO, Nokia Siemens Network) and Marlon Parker (Founder of the JamiiX Social Exchange).
The afternoon session put the spotlight on entrepreneurs, with a series of brief pitches interspersed with a Dragon’s Den style mentor panel, which included infoDev Lead ICT Policy Specialist, Tim Kelly. The concept is very much in line with the business co-incubation that infoDev supports as part of its SME internationalization initiative. Among the African start-ups pitching were:
· Xstralgenius, from Kenya, offering a tracking system for Matatus (public transport buses);
· Jalumba, a joint-venture between Mixem of Finland and a Ugandan company to offer social networking with a focus on agriculture, healthcare and social communication;
· Sibesonke, a joint venture between Finland and South Africa offering classified ads, chat and an online community, based on a mobile platform;
· Ushahidi, the Kenyan-originated crisis-mapping service that has now spread worldwide, notably being used in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake;
· Suntrica, offering solar-powered mobile chargers in South Africa, Namibia and South Africa;
· Pajat, offering the POI Mapping tool for point of interest mapping, operating in East Africa and Finland;
· Otasizzle, researching the use of social media in Kenya and other cities around the world;
· Arada Services, offering a mobile tool for booking long distance bus journeys in Ethiopia.
· Pamoja Cleantech, a Swedish company offering an “energy in a box” solution for mobile base stations, using biofuel and solar power.
· Acme Consulting, a Ghanaian consultancy offering software development, e-commerce, outsourcing advice and hardware support.
Mobile Africa Start-ups and Judges
The day ended with a live link between the Mobile Africa Summit in Helsinki and the Mobile Web event in South Africa. The real action happened in the corridors of the event where spontaneous meetings took place between start-ups, solution providers, mobile equipment manufacturers and hardware providers and financiers. As an indication of the networking opportunities, the one-day event generated some 20,000 tweets on the hashtag #MOBBafrica. More information is on the Mobile Brain Bank Africa website.
But the real success of the event will be measured in terms of the new and improved business ideas that are implemented when the start-ups return home.