We had the pleasure to interview Mr. Jonathan Gosier, an innovative software developer and entreprenuer based in Uganda.
He is the the founder of software development firm and start-up incubator Appfrica.
TechMasai: What is Appfrica and how did the idea develop?
Mr Gosier: Appfrica is a software company that aims to get East African techies involved in creating some of the solutions to the problems their countries face. NGOs (non-government organizations) spend billions of dollars a year coming up with all sorts of solutions designed by people in their countries of origin.
They spend billions flying people to African countries to deploy these solutions. They spend billions interacting with governments. And whether those ideas work or not, they’ll spend billions doing it all over again.
Appfrica exists partly to help support Africans who have similar ideas and ambitions. Beyond that, we exist to support East African tech entrepreneurs in general. The best way to change the narrative of Africa is in the same way it was changed in developed countries – through business development, hard work and a little bit of trial and error.
TechMasai: Who does Appfrica target and what is your main objective?
Mr Gosier: My primary focus with Appfrica is to do two things. 1) make innovative software for the global market and 2) mentor and invest in Africa’s technology leaders of tomorrow.
TechMasai: What is the start-up scene like in Eastern Africa. Uganda especially?
Mr Gosier: It’s interesting. There’s a lot of companies like Software Factory, Digital Solutions, Beyonic, Node Six and Mount Batten that are all doing amazing things. On the other hand, at least in Uganda, we’re missing that collaborative culture that you’re starting to see more of in places like Kenya with the iHub. But things like the Uganda Linux Users Group and the Google Technology User Group are beginning to change that.
TechMasai: What do you think can be done to help develop and foster the emerging technology sector in Eastern Africa?
Mr Gosier: If people want to complain about the state of Africa, complain about the powerful African diaspora that have ‘made it’ but who are too busy to pass on knowledge to the people coming up after them. It’s not always about money or giving someone a job, it’s more about serving as a good example and helping to create the society we want to live in in the future. For me I want Africa to have a healthy tech sector, that’s the future I want to live in. That’s why I run my business the way I do, I’m trying to create a space that’s favorable to this type of progress.
TechMasai: Local government support in the African technology sector so far been limited. What can be done to help encouage local policy makers to invest and support the sector?
Mr Gosier: I think many governments are simply being outpaced by the private sector. It happens in developed countries to. It’s a generational thing, hopefully we’ll see this change with the next generation of Africa’s leaders. However, we do live in the present and to get people to do something about this now goes to back to the things I said above. Our leaders need to think more about the world they are creating, and not so much about the politics of now. The two do go hand in hand, but I see a lot of short sighted decisions being made that lead me to believe that this simple concept often gets forgotten.
For instance, just this week the Ugandan government passed a law that makes it illegal to import and sell used computers in the country. In a country where a new computer can cost as much as someone’s salary for an entire year. I know they passed this law to try to combat e-waste but even if that’s the case, it’s like taking a hammer to a hangnail.
TechMasai: What lies in the future of Mr Jonathan Gosier the entreprenuer?
Mr Gosier: I’m very much focusing my time these days on building software for the global market. For instance, SwiftRiver (http://swift.ushahidi.com) is my current project. It’s a platform that helps filter and verify real-time news. It’s something that journalists all over the planet could use. There’s a tendency in Africa for developers to only think of solutions that apply to Africa or their countries within.
But we live in a global market and there’s no reason solutions developed in Africa can’t be shipped to serve consumers anywhere on the planet. It doesn’t mean you exclude the local market, but it does mean not limiting yourself. Good software is good software.