DEMO Africa Day Two: Africa’s Startups Take Center Stage
By Rose de Fremery
Sasa Africa provides local craftswomen with direct access to the international market via mobile phone, cutting out the middleman to ensure that proceeds from sales remain with the artisans and their communities.
Maliyo Games produces engaging casual games with locally relevant content for the purposes of heightening awareness of problems like malaria. Their first-person Mosquito Smasher game was likened to Angry Birds, but it clearly has ambitions beyond the leaderboard and more toward educating players on public health concerns.
ExpenZa tracks your expenses and offers personal finance management solutions in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of Mint. It intercepts SMS messages sent by South African banks in order to populate a list of automatically categorized expenses for later review. ExpenZa also offers tax return and debt relief services.
Evly offers brands the opportunity to socially engage with their fans and customers via Facebook and mobile campaigns. The South African based startup hopes to expand beyond Africa, having set its sights on competitors such as Google’s Wildfire. Founder Eric Edelstein even created an app for DEMO Africa in ten minutes, which he presented during his demonstration at the event.
Of the forty startups who presented, five were honored with the DEMO Lions award, so named in honor of DEMO Africa and the new Lions@frica partnership. mPawa, Flowgear, Qabila, Sasa Africa (who also took home the People’s Choice Award) and Maliyo Games will soon head to Silicon Valley for valuable mentorship and investment opportunities in the very region where the DEMO Conference first began over twenty years ago.
Many of DEMO Africa’s startups secured partnerships and investment opportunities at the conference, although as this article from VC4Africa notes, African investment in the tech sector still has a way to go before it can be considered robust.
The entrepreneurs, for their part, were actively networking, bouncing ideas off of one another throughout the duration of the conference. According to Thomas Debass, Director for Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State, one of the primary goals of DEMO Africa was to provide just this sort of forum for African entrepreneurs to collaborate with one another. DEMO Senior Vice President Neal Silverman expressed his admiration for what DEMO Africa had achieved, saying in his closing remarks that the conference had been a great success.
DEMO Africa Executive Director Harry Hare declared that DEMO Africa will return at the same time next year, noting that he is already being approached by a number of countries who want to host the conference. Given that the first DEMO Africa was organized in an unusually short space of time (six months as opposed to the standard eight months for a U.S.-based DEMO Conference), it is likely that next year’s DEMO Africa will build significantly on the achievements of its predecessor.