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MEST Africa Summit Kicks Off in Cape Town

by Eva Rose Tesfaye on June 20, 2018

The MEST Africa Summit kicked off yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa. The summit will bring together leading global investors, executives, and entrepreneurs to discuss start-ups in Pan-Africa.

MEST stand for the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, who is hosting the event and has been active in Africa for about 10 years now. This is the first year that the summit will be pan-African. The summit used to be called the Africa Tech Summit and has previously taken place in Ghana and Nigeria. This year the summit will take place from the 18th of June to the 20th.

“The MEST Africa Summit is the Pan-African tech conference. The Summit brings together top entrepreneurs, investors, executives and ecosystem players from across Africa, Silicon Valley, Europe and Asia to explore the latest innovations in the tech and startup space on the continent,” says the description on their website.

These attendees will come together to discuss trends, challenges, and opportunities affecting markets across the continent, with a focus on techonology. The theme of this year’s event is “The Year of the African Scaleup?”

The speakers include MEST chief executive officer (CEO) Jorn Lyseggen, Thomson Reuters head of innovation Saidah Nash Carter and Facebook’s development programmes manager Emeka Afigbo. In addition, various African startup founders and CEOs will also give talks at the summit.

Tech Debates

While Lungisa Matshoba, director of Tech and product at Yoko, was focused on pushing the South African market to tech entrepreneurs at the summit yesterday, Jason Njoku, the CEO of iROKO advocated for an African market and not just South Africa.

Matshoba argued that “Cape Town had the right ingredients to foster and develop my business,” and this is why he decided to come to Cape Town for his business. Njoku emphasized the passion and ambition of Nigerians. “Nigerians know how to hustle, they are driven and focused to making money, I have never seen a country and people so focused on chasing the money,” he said.

He also said that tech is helping those with less opportunities and less education develop their businesses, especially in Lagos.

Female Founders Panel

The conference is also highlighting women with its female founders panel which kicked off with Baratang Miya, founder and CEO of WomenInTech Academy, who said “Innovation by women is starting to be taken seriously, the tech space is starting to accept us.” She is a big advocate of using your passions to become successful.

One of the key take-aways from the panel was that women as a whole need to believe in themselves and that the future of tech is female.

“We need to step away from the segregation between women and men,” comments Ellen Fischat, co-founder and CEO of InnoCircle, “Women need to start investing in women, the misconception is that you need to be big to invest. Females need to empower other females, and men will follow.”

Nigeria has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs, which was pointed out by Lexi Novitske, Principal Investment Officer of Singularity Investments. She also added that, “The best project managers are female because they understand how to multitask from raising kids, to taking care of husbands, to building businesses.”

MEST Africa Challenge

The second day will announce the winners of the MEST Africa Challenge. Four startups will pitch their companies for the change to win up to US$50 000 in equity investment and well as a home in any of MEST’s incubators. This is the first edition of this pan-African startup pitch competition. MEST has chosen startups who are looking to scale into new markets and shown why they should be taken seriously as a leader in their space.

The regional winners are Cowtribe, Accounteer, Data Integrated, and Swift Vee. Cowtribe is a Ghanaian veterinarian-finder whose mission is to deliver for an affordable price life-saving animal vaccines and other services where they are needed. Accounteer is a Nigerian accounting and payroll management software. Data Integrated is a Kenyan fintech company dedicated to developing payment solutions for small African businesses. Swift Vee is a South African agricultural trading platform.

“The MEST Africa Summit serves as a meeting ground for pan-African entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem partners, and this year looks to ignite discussion around the real challenges and opportunities businesses face when reaching scale, as the startup space in Africa continues to mature,” says MEST managing director Aaron Fu.

Featured Image via Pixabay

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Eva Rose Tesfaye
Eva Tesfaye has traveled around the world her whole life but thinks of Africa as home. She loves reading novels and watching plays (especially ones with people of color in them). She has a love-hate relationship with her big curly hair.
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