It has now turned into a song with each of the speakers and self-styled tech evangelist preaching to the masses how they can make it in the tech nirvana. Promises galore! From North Africa to down South, the message is all the same.

“Lick my a** and I will show you how to make it big in tech”

I attended the just concluded Tech4Africa conference in Sandton, Johannesburg. I sought to know from the attendees if the innovation circle gets disrupted in their countries like it is in Kenya and other East African countries. Many were of the opinion that cronyism, nepotism and lick-ass mentality is the norm in most African countries.

It has become very difficult for those who don’t suck up to local officials of mobile vendors assigned to the various countries in Africa to get to participate in the app challenges or have their apps featured in the various stores. To get your app featured in Nokia Ovi store, you have to suck up to the country managers or lick the *** of the marketers however good your app might be. Same applies to participation on Google’s Android challenges and events. It becomes worse when you now have the same officials go round in the companies as each tech firm tries to poach employees from the others.

At the Samsung Breakout sessions at Tech4Africa, developers, bloggers and tech enthusiasts were of the agreement that it has been very hard for them to get their apps featured for optimised visibility to mobile users from their countries. The audience requested Samsung not to make the process of getting apps featured the same as what others are using with three developers saying that the mobile vendor which is so guilty of this is Nokia.

Apparently even SA developers, bloggers and techies have just been forced to lick the ass of Nokia SA General Manager, Gerard Brandjes and Delia Seif who heads communications. You will have to sing praise songs to Nokia not less than 5 times for you to have your app pushed up into the featured apps list in SA.

It is not only Nokia and other mobile phone vendors which are guilty of this. Many of the organisers of Tech events in Africa have turned it into a forum for rewarding comrades of the organisers. You could see that even the awards being dished out for various categories of innovations will never go to the unexpected recipients. They are always the friends of the individual organisers or corporates involved.

There has been murmurs over such practices the problem is that most of the techies would rather not make noise about it lest they annoy the money bank controllers. The unfortunate practices are replicated in almost all the countries in Africa where the tech community has to work extra hard because of the corrupt mentality of the organizers. I just believe that the organizers get mentors-hip from most of the leaders we have around.

As long as cronyism, nepotism and ass licking is the basis of selecting those qualified to participate in tech events and challenges, we will never have disruptive technologies  emanating from the meet-ups. The disruptive technologies will emanate from those who have hidden from the ululations and chest-thumping.

They are busy coding in their small bedsitters and back street offices all over Africa. They are looking at the future longing for success. Nobody sees them now because they are not friends to government officials nor well connected individuals to scoop from the loot being passed around. They want to go through the full initiation and with just few more enablers, their innovation might just launch sooner than expected.

  • I’ve said this before, everything has gone pop and just like music business, social media too has gotten to the level where it’s not about your creativity but who you know and how much you kiss a**. It’s sad but it’s a reality. I urge developers not to lose hope, do your best and again just like music, ordinary people (who are the clients) will notice your hard work and buy your stuff. 

  • Seth Muriithi

    Whoa! Strong words but true. You see marketers have decided they know which technology to feed the masses and at what times. As usual the socioeconomic impact is sacrificed at the altar of ‘numbers’ (insert Ideos here) – if an application doesn’t fit the easy to sell genre it will not be pushed.