Social networks are your best bet. I'm sure anyone who has a few hundred Nigerian Facebook friends (many of my own Nigerian friends do) and is determined enough can find him.
If the "six degrees of separation" theory is true!
The story is, the person who came up with this theory did a little experiment. He wanted to find out how quickly a letter to some random person would be delivered. He gave it to the first person with the following instruction: Only give it to someone you know. They were in turn to give this instruction the next person. He found that it took a maximum of six 'hops' (people) to get the letter delivered to the random stranger, therefore the "six degrees of separation" theory. I contend that in this age of social networks, it is more like a three degrees of separation world.
Having money also helps: Run a radio ad on national radio in Nigeria and offer a prize to whoever can tell you the whereabouts or last known contact of this brilliant man.
Talking of business ideas, maybe have a weekly spot on a radio program offering a cash prize for this kind of thing. Callers would call in to find long lost friends and whoever is able to help them locate the person of interest gets a cash prize. Sponsors would pay for the prize and callers would enter an auction for the spots.
You would use whatever language the end user understands. Just have them set their language preferences like you do on your computer (or sell them devices with their preferred language pre-set). Your family is well educated and definitely not the norm for most of Africa!
The only problem with that is, in what language would the video be? We have over 2,000 languages in Africa meaning that one would still end up marginalizing a good chunk of the target audience depending on the language picked. Sure, you could use Kiswahili in EA for example but then, those same Kiswahili speakers are probably literate enough to read text-based ads.
BTW - That illiteracy thing is not true. There are a lot more literate people in Africa than researchers would want us to believe. When I look at my own family, both sets of my grandparents were literate and all 24 of my paternal grandpas kids had a minimum A-Level education.
When you look at the telecom companies that are doing roaring business in Africa, they use a mix of video, voice and text. The text portion is done via SMS and they use buzzwords that people know to signal their intention and it works like a gem. I think the article overgeneralizes the situation without necessarily considering the kind of communication that is taking place along the margins.
Interesting piece. Indeed, Nigerians have a natural hustle and drive to succeed even in the most hostile environments. The advantage of this, as "White African" has often said is, if it works in Africa it will work anywhere! I wonder if the planners of Kenya's Konza city know about Tinapa resort? We've been saying that this will likely become a ghost town in a few years and Tinapa has proved it.
Very interesting. I doubt Uhuru Kenyatta will be convicted at the Hague now that he is president and on to a good start. Kenya is too important a country for this to happen. It is a regional economic hub and an important ally, not to mention strategically located, in the fight against terrorism and piracy. I think the powers that be will prevail on Bensouda to go easy on Uhuru. If he is convicted, do you think he will give up the presidency to go to jail in the Hague? No way in hell. And if he doesn’t go to jail then the ICC loses legitimacy. If the ICC wants to be relevant they better not convict Uhuru.
Why not? You can stream high quality videos to users' phones. For example, the scenario you described about your grandfather listening to an ad on the radio then sending you to the shop to check out the product. Now imagine if he watched a video streamed to his phone. In the video there is a man who looks like him talking about the very problem he (your grandfather) is facing. And all he has to do is click a button to buy the product.
The voice instructs him what to do and the money is deducted directly from his m-pesa (or m-pesa like, since Cameroon is still in the stone ages :)) account.
This is so much more powerful than mere voice on a radio. And for many Africans in the rural areas who dont have TVs, this could be a novel experience. Of course, for delivery he'd still have to send you to the local shop to pick up the product.
we still have to keep in mind that even a widespread, free, and unlimited access to Internet is not a solution, because it won't solve the illiteracy issue.
There is a big market for literacy neutral platforms where people can communicate with each other using online images, icons, illustrations and voices, contrary to text-based social networks like Facebook or Twitter.
Interesting conundrum: Most people are illiterate so text based web sites reach very few. But voice and video (which would otherwise work) take up too much bandwidth to be widely accessible. I wonder if internet access/bandwith prices will fall by a factor of 10 in the next three to five years? This should solve the problem.
Great stuff. And don't mean to be racist but when you see a title like that you almost expect it to be white South Africans. I'm glad to see black youth who get technology, software and entrepreneurship!
This is quite odd to learn about. I have some exposure to the tech startup scenes in Ghana and Kenya which I think suffer from too much copying, due to too much sharing. Ironically I think a little more secrecy would help preventy the unhealthy 'group think'!
Kitetu, you realise we've to change the African reality! This means a mentality shift as we start focusing on what will develop Africa -- Education. I know for sure if there's anything any able African family is ready to invest in, it's the education of their Kids. So, yes there has to be an investment to be incurred still.
I don't think we as Africans should be worrying about clean energy at this stage of our development. This is a second order problem that can be solved later--once we are fully industrialized. After all, the industrial revolution in Britain came at a high pollution cost. Recently one Chinese manufacturer famously said, "I'm happy to use your clean energy technology as long as you give it to me for free. You cannot expect me to choose clean energy over profits." I think we'd do well to keep this in mind before we start creating constraints for ourselves!
Funny but also kind of sad! A culture where expecting things not to work is so ingrained means everyone is punching far below their weight and I'm sure there are huge development penalties. But the larger point is sound--startups must be prepared for uncertainty. Your funding won't come through, the big customer you just landed will cancel the order and you've gotta be able to deal!
Good initiative by Google but with the Chromebooks selling for $249, not something that the most in need African kids can take advantage of. At $100 the one laptop per child machines were still out of reach for most families and even where governments bought them, they were the most valuable thing that the family owned. When the dad got sick and could not work, guess what got sold? When the local thugs wanted easy loot, guess who got waylaid on the way home from school?
Natural resources can be good if they're seen as like money in the bank or a long-term endowment. If seen that way it's easier to understand that they should only be mined to help fund broadly beneficial infrastructure projects, health programs, and education.
I'd say a lot of US startups have it easy as they don't even have to think about internationalization to get a foothold on a new app space. Otherwise, I totally agree. Go where the users are and use and create the best tools you can to serve them.
Kimani, if you've an App say like a start-timer, or Twitter App that has a global context...i don't get why a developer should first start with the local market(which is often to small) rather than focusing on the global market. I believe that that's partly our problem here in Africa. Startups in the west roll-out not just for the US(much as it's a big contributant) but to the whole with all the internationalization aspects incorperated into the App. I think, we should borrow that approach too.
It is great to see these tech titans battling it out for market share in Africa. It can only mean that African consumers win! This is the new "scramble for Africa" and for once we get to enjoy the spoils.
Targeting a global market is good in theory but hard to pull off. If all of the English speaking world uses my app, then I have a much bigger market than Kenya or Uganda and a better shot at massive success. The problem is that by trying to be all things to all people early on, you succeed at serving none. Even Facebook started by serving just Harvard students, then US college students before going mainstream three years later.
I think it is still better to target your local market initially because this forces you to server a real consumer and solve a real problem (as opposed to the imagined global market). Once you succeed at this, you can try to figure out how to play on the global stage.
If you just encourage people to build stuff you get the mediocrity and contrived apps most of the hubs are turning out by the hundreds. mNgombe, iCow, mKula, mChapa...There's got to be more to it than just that. I don't have the answers but I do know a few things that won't lead to success!
Really good point about how Africa is not one country. Most outsiders know little of the differences from Nigeria to Kenya to South Africa so folks could probably be aided better by specific information about specific markets when thinking of investing or developing something.