The future will be built in Africa

I decided I wanted to create what has become The Innovators podcast quite some time ago. Life, commitments and a whole bunch of things that make us say “we’re too busy” got in the way, but I finally managed to get to the point where I realized the time is right and it’s now happening. I’m in, and with three interviews down, the ball is officially rolling.

A few people have asked: “why?” I’ve been told, “there’s no money in it”, “it will take up so much time” and “will anyone even listen to this here?” as reasons to shy away from the project, but that’s not why I start projects like this. And all the comments got me to thinking about the “why” and that brought me back to a post I wrote here on medium a while back, but never published. A post on why I agreed with Mark Zuckerberg; that the future will be built in Africa. It’s something I’ve believed in for a long time, yes, I have my doubts at times and like most people, I often feel like we’re climbing mountain after mountain, but strangely, that’s why I believe it’s true…

We’re a continent of roughly 1.2 billion people — yes it’s a continent of hardships and struggles, most left behind by generations of colonial mismanagement, abuse, and downright oppression.

But

Above all it’s that we’re a continent that features an unrivaled spirit of determination against all odds — you see it every day if you look closely. From a father/mother working two jobs to allow their children the dreams they were never allowed to materialize for themselves, to the young Malawian, William Kamkwamba, who at the age of 14 dreamed of bringing electricity and running water to his village and did, or the boy Siyabulela Xuza who dreamed of building rockets at Nasa and now does. These are only singular examples of the countless stories big and small of innovation, perseverance, and success against all odds. It’s these very challenges that we face as a continent that has built a population of people that strive for better things, that push to defeat the status quo and break the molds into which they were born and where they have been told to stay.

It’s sad but it’s our very position at the back of the “developed” pack that gives us the drive to innovate and solve “real world” problems; the very problems 80% of the world face every day. It’s in solving these problems that the greatest opportunities lie, where real change for actual people that need it to survive will be the outcome. Innovation takes many shapes and even the smallest thought can lead to massive change — people who are innovators see things differently and it’s that thinking and their process that I’m hoping to highlight and delve into.

After sitting through the fist five hours of interviews my brain raced for days -Nic Haralambous telling the story of how he started NicHarry for R5,000.00 in 30 days, why R5000.00? Well even if you’re paid minimum wage there is a good chance you could save R5,000.00 in a few years and start a business — a business that can go global. It’s thinking like that, that I hope to spread-with the hope that it will inspire any number of young thinkers to go out and build what they’ve got floating around in their heads. Even if one business is brought to reality by listening to these stories, then it was time well spent.

The guests on the podcast will be varied and of course not all will be working on ideas that will change the lives of billions, but it will be their thinking within their chosen industries and their outlook about Africa as a continent that I will be trying to unpack and publicize to as large an audience as I can reach. From Design and Technology to Business, I’m hoping to highlight their journeys and how they adapted their thinking as African innovators and how they built their products or business on the continent we gratefully call home.

I, for one look, forward to our future, knowing that many of the solutions that will impact and improve the lives of the largest amount of people will be built right here.

This is an open post and I would like to update it with inspiring stories of people changing the world with their ideas both big and small. Share your stories in the comments below or Tweet them to me and I’ll add and hopefully get them on the podcast for a deeper conversation.

I hope to make the guests on the podcast as diverse and interesting as possible and that will also require input from as many of you as possible. A single person’s network only reaches so far and finding those true stories of innovation will take a community to unearth.

Comment below, suggest a guest on the site or tweet at me @tkennedysa

Stay tuned to theinnovators.co.za for more on the Podcast and episode releases