Dawes discussed what is new at this year’s conference and why Africa continues to continues to develop at a rapid space in the mobile space.
HumanIPO: What is All Amber's experience of organising events around the world?
Dawes: I've organised events in the UK, Europe, the Caribbean, India, and of course Sub-Saharan Africa, so it's been quite a journey work-wise.
In terms of subject matter, they've all focused on communications and technology, with the end users varying from unmanned drones to soldiers to radars to hurricane-hit villagers on a Caribbean island to African mobile users.
What have you learnt from organising events in Africa?
It's a lot of a hard work, but it definitely makes it more satisfying. If it's easy then you're not stretching yourself enough.
One of my main reasons for starting All Amber was that I saw a shortage of high quality conferences on the continent.
Can you give an overview of next week’s Mobile Web West Africa conference?
For 2013, we’ve got a completely revamped speaker faculty with lots more international and continental speakers and I’m expecting big things.
From the look of the make-up of the delegation, which is important as we have so much interaction at the event, I think it is going to be even more business focused and more senior level.
I’d also like to highlight the quality of the contributors on the Mobile Marketing West Africa Focus Day, which is a new element this year, as an illustration of the event maturing.
What informed the choice of the speakers?
A range of different things. I keep my ear to the ground in terms of new and exciting case studies and basically work throughout the year on targeting individuals and companies to speak.
I always say that if you strip a conference down to its bare bones – even if you were just to run it in a car park – then the one thing that needs to stand up is the quality of your agenda and the contributors.
What is your view about the mobile sector in Africa, West Africa and Nigeria?
On the sector itself I think there is an increased rate of maturity. I think that the information need is being revealed and realised. Whether it is personal, social, entertainment or professional there is a huge need and the mobile device is the platform to enable that gap to be filled.
In terms of West Africa, I know most about Nigeria and Ghana. Nigeria is accelerating at a rapid pace and I think is benefitting from being fairly insular, with not a huge amount of international involvement when compared to say Kenya.
Also, startups in Nigeria don’t really need to look externally for a market or scale as they have it all available nationally – the size of the market in Nigeria is staggering.
Ghana is obviously a smaller market, but for example, if you take the work that they’re doing at MEST, some of the companies that are emerging from there are seriously impressive and have international ambitions.
On a wider perspective my view is that the wider world is slowly beginning to pay attention as well. People’s heads are being turned and with that the perception of the continent is changing and I think that is brilliant.
What is still lacking and how do you think the lapses could be best tackled?
The obvious answer is smartphone adoption, as the rates and predictions aren’t really massively encouraging.
Having said that, it does easily segment the market. Smartphone users generally have more disposable income and therefore are a better target market for companies looking to monetise.
However, the scale of feature phone use offers a fantastic opportunity and it is one that people are realising. How to convert it into profitable content and service delivery is another matter, but companies like biNu are delivering staggering results.
They’ve got 500,000 people reading books on feature phones and using their platform to access content and services. Filling the gap between now and when smartphones are more prevalent is a massive challenge, but the information need is still there.