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Telecoms World Africa Conference, May 22, 2012, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
The topic that I was given when my colleague was unable to make the conference was: "How to develop localised applications to target and profit from the African market." This seemed straight-forward until I started thinking about some of the concepts contained within that simple phrase. Firstly, assuming localised applications refer to applications targeted at local markets, it is important to realise that the current device landscape in this very large continent of Africa is quite heterogeneous. Secondly, most African countries have a scarcity of developers, more so of good developers. In a recent trip to Nigeria, for example, it was reveled that there are about 2000 independent developers in the country, compared to several hundred thousand in the USA. Many thousands are unemployed, and have very limited experience. Thirdly, while there are purely exploitative opportunities to develop apps and sell into the African market, such opportunities do not lead to the generation of local idea capital - the raw material of the knowledge economy. The real opportunity is therefore to use the growing potential of the software applications market place - both open source and (shudder shudder) proprietary - to create capacity-building initiatives, and by doing so to grow idea capital, and thence to grow the size and variety of the market. I use my 8 years experience in the African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources capacity-building initiative to discuss how this could be achieved while still creating business opportunities and growing local economies.