A Tech Policy ‘Starter Pack’ for African Innovators and Techpreneurs

I know…policy is a put off for many. It’s that space for the old men and government types that we love to hate.

Bears repeating, however, that failing to engage – worse, ignoring- the unfolding ICT policy space is myopic for all ye techpreneurs. I bet you it will only come back to bite you in the derrière.

Think of it this way. You’re building this tech platform/company/solution that will do wonders if/when it takes off. You’ve got a solid proof of concept, and spend your days and nights dreaming of its taking off or achieving unicorn status.

But, there are hurdles. Crazy ones. [Insert them here].

As the tech innovation hype across these developing markets starts to wane- and the very real challenges of scalability and sustainability increasingly nudge the builders and investors alike – I see a couple of paths being taken.

  1. Several entrepreneurs opt to double down on their hustle, and challenge the odds stacked against them, by pivoting or sticking to their identified course, fingers crossed for a breakthrough. The market will sort itself, basically.
  2. Others have taken to articulating these challenges, by writing/speaking about them in various fora, venting the frustrations in the hope that they’re addressed by someone. Often, that ‘someone’ is unidentified, or not well defined.

That someone, and the processes behind the ever-mounting stack of challenges and hurdles is that policy maker you may or may not know. The one currently consuming some report written by some consultants somewhere in London about how they should prioritise government interventions for tech innovation and entrepreneurship. S/he [i.e. the (un)known policy makers) have the crucial keys to improve or completely mess up the market you hope to tap into, especially if your target consumer base is from these parts.

Any way you slice it, policy engagement is unavoidable. As I’ve argued before, many of the frustrations and challenges emerging from the entrepreneurship space are policy issues; bad policy at that.

Yet I understand the challenge and frustrations; why, for many, it’s better or easier to just focus on the hustle.

Policy is murky, long winded, and frankly, quite frustrating. However, I am the first to acknowledge that it’s not up to entrepreneurs and innovators alone to navigate that space, and it’s rather unfortunate to see the push back to the very people building, to also step into the policy formulation/reform game. In an ideal world, the tech policies in respective countries should be a path of minimal resistance; sadly, it is anything but in most cases.

That is why I have been keen on how support functions for our promising tech innovation ecosystems can step in. It is why I have been involved with two processes I will now list here, as an attempt to capture some of the perspectives that tech innovators, entrepreneurs, innovation hubs and others have articulated in varied ways.

In both processes, I was involved in conducting the research. I don’t think the outcomes here capture all the issues and opportunities, but I hope they are a start. In how we have presented and packaged them, the aim is to showcase these insights in formats that policy makers can appreciate, and hopefully read.

None of these are particularly representative, rather, they are indicative, and with additional input and contextualisation, can be taken up for policy engagement in various countries (or so we hope).

Behold, the proposed tech policy starter pack. Comments, additions most welcome (including in the comments section below).

I would also love to hear thoughts and ideas on how tech entrepreneurs and innovators envision support for engaging in the policy/regulatory shaping spaces, both national and international. That’s my jam, fam, so hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter: @NiNanjira! 

Here goes:

Continue reading “A Tech Policy ‘Starter Pack’ for African Innovators and Techpreneurs”