TED Global Day 2 – The Risk Takers

Florence Seriki: An African woman in computing. Omatek is the first African computing company.

She switched from Chemical engineering to computing where she started by selling hardware and training professionals in Nigeria. Keep doing what you are doing she says. In 1988 Omatek was incorporated and soon her company became a premier partner with Compaq and IBM [>$7mil in sales]. In 1991, she visited Asia she saw the supply chain and noticed the Chinese tech was developed in house. She came back to Nigeria, started Omatek Computers. Despite the ‘clone’ tag attached to her company, she ploughed on. People used to call the Chinese copy cats, see where those companies are now.

The idea of ‘designing down’ does not sit well with Florence, she believes that African computers can be made locally and at high quality. Buying computers for resale can get challenging because of minimum orders to the tune of $700,000. This is a major stumbling block and thus the imperative is for Africans to create their own supply chains.

Challenge 2: Financing from banks who do not see the opportunity.
Challenge 3: Electricity problem in Nigeria. This ties back to the talk by Idris Mohammed that the next big opportunity is in providing power in Africa.

– Lots of SME’s can help with bridging the digital divide.

– Continued Govt support for locally made products.

She took the risk of starting the business and well…what a trailblazer for all women!

ALIEUH CONTEH – Founder of Vodafone Congo

–govt was not helpful at all when it comes to licensing, it was a challenge. besides the lack of infrastructure, it cost so much in capital expenditure. The metaphor would be ‘getting stuck in the mud’ figuratively and literally since the trucks would get stuck in the mud and things were just harder to get going.
He put forth all his savings and built the network over the years, even as the war continued. He had to negotiate with the govt and the rebels. CWN Started out with 30,000 subscribers and grew to 3 million subscribers growing by 1.5 to 2 million a year. Current valuation of the company is $1.5 Billion.

Ainea Kinaro – 3 minute talk on Organic Waste – The ignored Resource. He showed pictures of the Human waste is being collected into huge systems to produce methane gas. The other by product is fertilizer which is used in rwandan coffee farms. He reviewed the benefits of using renewable energy, especially something as abundant as human waste.

You can find more over at Ethans’ my battery is done for.

Opinion: Spoke shortly with Tom Rielly the Director of TED partnerships. “TEDGlobal is the kind of conference Africa deserves” Indeed!

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