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Morocco investor summit shines light on Africa's tech uprising


In the

 Visitors view an exhibition booth at the the inaugural GITEX Africa in Marrakech, Morocco. [Peter Theuri, Standard]

searing heat of Morocco's city Marrakech, thousands of visitors thronged the inaugural Gitex Africa to join an estimated 900 exhibitors who were showcasing their tech solutions amid an exciting continental revolution.

A 45,000-square metre expanse accommodated 10 dedicated conference tracks, with exhibitions on cybersecurity, digital cities, fintech, connectivity and 5G, startups and investment, among many others.

Among the exhibitors were Kenyan companies Agribora, HelloTractor, Harvesthive, Neural Labs Africa, Opesha Solutions, Duhqa, Fedhatrac, Tawi Digital Health, CIO Africa and Yna Kenya. A host of East Africa's startups also made it to the inaugural expo, buoyed by Africa's rising prominence in the global tech arena.

Harnessing the continent's great wealth of resources using cutting-edge technology, and leveraging on the great numbers of Africa's youth were issues emphasised as government ministers and private sector executives celebrated the continent's collective achievements.

They discussed prospects of advancing the future ambitions of an Africa determined to elevate its entrepreneurial innovation economy.

Babajide Sanwo-olu, Executive Governor of the Lagos State in Nigeria, said Africa is on the fast track to becoming the next Silicon Valley.

He stressed the importance of investing in Africa's youth, who make up over 60 per cent of the continent's population, noting that around 30 per cent of investment in the continent is dedicated to the digital economy.

Mr Sanwo-olu said Lagos is already home to some of Africa's largest data centres, while the state's Start-Up Act 2022 and a technology project in the Yaba suburb are propelling the city and Nigeria into a hub of global innovation.

He asked the rest of the continent to follow suit, after which global tech powerhouses would scramble for local talent. "The Yaba start-up policy will elevate Lagos as a city ready to become a global player. In a few years, not only will Africa be supplying the bulk of professionals required (in the global IT Industry) but it will also be creating a lot of jobs," he said.

"In 10 years, Africa will become the place where major global companies such as Microsoft and Meta, will come to recruit intelligent profiles trained in the technical fields in which Africa abounds."

Fastest rate

Africa's flourishing fintech sector is estimated to reach revenues of $65 billion (Sh9 trillion) by 2030, growing at the world's fastest rate at 13 times over the next seven years.

This presents a unique opportunity for the continent to leapfrog outdated stages of technological development and move straight to more advanced solutions that were being debated and scrutinised at the Gitex Africa's Fintech Summit, one of ten dedicated conference tracks at Africa's most comprehensive leadership conference programme.

An exciting Gitex Africa Supernova Challenge, one of Africa's most valuable start-up pitch competitions with $100,000 (Sh14 million) in cash prizes, pooled a shortlist of 70 start-ups from 31 countries who battled for supremacy in front of a 13-strong judging panel of global venture capitalists, angel investors and accelerators.

At the end of it all, some of the world's most innovative start-ups were poised to take their next steps into potentially becoming the next African unicorn.

The shortlist was selected from more than 300 applications representing nations from across the globe.

Kenya's startup agriBora was showcasing its preparedness to unveil two innovative services on its digital platform, designed to empower smallholder farmers and promote sustainable agriculture practices.

The firm aims to achieve financial inclusion and secure fair prices for unbanked small-scale farmers operating in unstructured value chains in Africa, Gitex Africa said. "The company aims to assist farmers in overcoming challenges, including those arising from climate change, while facilitating their adaptation to new circumstances."

"Already, providing a comprehensive range of services to smallholder farmers and their grassroots business partners through agriHubs, agriBora is excited to introduce the agriWallet and agriPOS solutions," it said.

The agriWallet empowers farmers to manage their finances, transforming farming into a business venture rather than a struggle for survival. Simultaneously, the agriPOS application, tailored for hub managers, enhances small business operations with effective CRM and point-of-sale functionalities.

AgriBora founder and CEO Kizito Odhiambo said the company's aim was to help the often maligned farmers overcome hurdles that hamper production and consequently hurt their livelihoods. "Our mission is to disrupt hunger by empowering smallholders, equipping them with financial management tools, and facilitating their access to credit through their local business partners, the hubs.

"Through technology and innovation, we are confident that agriBORA's transformative services will revolutionise the agricultural landscape across Kenya and the African continent."

Also showcasing its innovations was Rwanda's TechAffinity, which offers a suite of software services including software development, mobile app development, web development, cloud services, digital ops, and data analytics.

Its CEO Jam Nelavai said the continent was now leaping towards a digital realm that would lead to a complete turnaround in its fortune.

"Africa is experiencing a significant digital transformation, and we believe in the power of technology to unlock its full potential. "By showcasing our software services and supporting the development of local talent, we aim to foster innovation, create employment opportunities, and contribute to Africa's digital revolution," he said.

Nabil Ayoub, head of product engineering at Moroccan enterprise resource planning company Agridata, said his firm, which uses manual input data, the Internet of Things and satellite imagery to collate farmers' information and help them with the best practices, hopes to explore Kenya, which he considers to have greater agricultural potential.

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