Q&A: Europe is missing out on Africa, says AfricaHackTrip

A group of eight to 12 European software developers will tour Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in the second half of 2013 on an African-tech fact finding mission.

HumanIPO spoke to founder Martynus Gregor, also an app developer, about his AfricaHackTrip initiative and what motivated his interest in the promotion of technology on the continent.

HumanIPO: Where did the idea start?

Gregor: The idea came originally from this BBC article by Erik Hersman. I ran into it by chance and I was really surprised, as it is talking a lot about all the tech hubs across Africa. I work a lot with creatives from all around the world, but never with one coming from Africa, that made me curious. I tweeted the idea to visit some of the tech hubs and got a lot of positive responses from friends.

What surprised you the most about African technology?

When I thought about Africa, I just had a different picture – like most of us (Europeans). It made me very interested and wonder: why not Africa?

Why would you say people are ignorant about Africa and technology?

I wouldn’t say the people are ignorant. My friends and the communities where I work – they are very open minded, it is just that they had not heared about it yet. I think when you are from South Africa…or Kenya, you know about it.

We just want to change that and we think it is really time to put it in everyone’s mind that there are a lot of great developers in Africa and we are missing out if we do not collaborate with them and exchange with them.

How has your view changed since, regarding Africa?

Now I have a very different picture, given the fact that there are so many people who use the Internet through mobile devices and so many things are happening around mobile devices. It is very interesting for us because it is something that I think Africa is ahead in. I also follow HumanIPO and read some magazines.

Do you feel reading about these developments in Africa has given you a better scope of what is going on?

I don’t expect to have a real picture of the current state. There is obviously also a big difference between the countries.

Have you ever been to Africa?

I’ve been through Ethiopia for Masters pieces, most of us haven’t been to Africa yet. There is one girl on the team, Anya Schmidt, who lived in Kenya before. But we have all travelled.

Why have you selected these four countries in Africa?

Reason was the simplicity. The number one goal is to make the trip a success, and to increase its chance, we try to keep it as simple as possible. Travelling through the East African Community is perfect because of proximity, English language, similar visa regulations and existing contacts. Nairobi was one of our favourite communities we wanted to visit. Other countries that’d we’d love to have visited are Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Senegal, and more. Maybe next year?

Are you open to partner in business with African start-ups or developers?

We are more interested in the people and what they have to say than in dealing with companies.  If we find good creators that have a skill set for markets here we will definitely recommend it.

Do you think there will be more AfricaHackTrips to follow?

We try to keep this small and simple to increase the chances that this will be a success and if it is a success it will be great if there is a second hack trip.

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