Event: Mobile Brain Bank Africa – Helsinki 30.9.2010

Mobile Brain Bank Africa

Image by petrasoderling

This week I had the privilege to attend to Mobile Brain Bank Africa event where people interested in doing things mobile in Africa gathered together to network and hear some pretty interesting presentations and pitches on things about the mobile scene in Africa.

What made this really special for me was that I was able to attend the event with my partners and friends from Tanzania who just happened to visit us at Tampere at the same time. Special thanks goes to the organizer Petra Söderling. I hope we can spread the MoBB message further.

But, I’m not writing this post just for chitchatting. I’d also want to share some ideas and thoughts on the event and from the later discussions with my Tanzanian partners (who found the event very interesting and useful).

African + (your country here) Collaboration

I believe that, if we Europeans or who ever who want to do business in Africa and create those awesome mobile or other successes, we ought to listen to more of the people who actually live there and understand the local culture[s]. We should also try to do more joint ventures with people who know the local markets and have real passion for business.

And with ‘passion for business’ I’m not referring to some negative force driven by greed or the need to exploit. Like I believe Esko Aho said so nicely in his presentation (which was actually a lot better that I could’ve thought this kind of corporate presentation could be) “People tend to feel that ‘business’ is always something nasty or dirty, but it doesn’t need be that way”. And I believe this too. The times are changing, for example things like CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) are slowly raising their head and the social media driven openness doesn’t keep people quiet anymore.

I didn’t want to say anything about the aid issues in this post, but these things go together so I have to say this: I believe that international collaboration with local entrepreneurs and developers who really want to do business and have the capability or potential for this, is more sustainable way than any plain aid can ever be. And after what I’ve read and talked with many people, I’m not alone with my opinion.

Africa is (your version here)

I sometimes get a bit frustrated when talking to people who seem to know or have strong opinions what Africa is, even without ever being there.

What is Africa anyway? What is Europe? As there is no one Europe, there is no one Africa. Visit Morocco, Tanzania, Nigeria or South Africa. There are great differences in everything, from culture to business, even inside the countries themselves.

I love the writings of Anver Versi, the Chief Editor of African Business, and advice everyone to read them. Not just people who live outside Africa, but also Africans themselves. You can find many interesting articles from his profile for example the branding Africa – but there’s more in the AB magazine. Like said, perception is many times in the eye of the beholder.

Cross-field Networking Events

In order to create innovative new products which can actually benefit wider public [than just the geeks], we need more cross-cultural networking events like MoBBAfrica. One question from the audience stayed in my mind. It was about “I’d like to see health care apps and services in Mobile”.

This clearly presents one problem we often face: people of same feather flock together. People among us who are not so tech-oriented, don’t often know what’s out there and sometimes developers who have the ability to do things don’t hear about the needs these people could convey. We need more cross-pollinating in this.

Every innovation and creative guru and book out there can tell you this same thing: innovations are often born when different fields, different kinds of people with different interests and personalities come together. This is also a key thing that larger corporations of the modern world should take heed of: if your professionals are grunting to each other instead of talking and creating, you are in trouble.

Here were some initial thoughts that I was left with after the event. If you’re interested in reading more about the event and the topics, here’s the direct URL to the Mobile Brain Bank Africa’s site where you can find more blog posts and interesting links: www.mobilebrainbank.org/Africa.html

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