Journey to Paris: Afrobytes and the Rise of African Industry

By Hruy Tsegaye

When one is travelling to Paris for business, in one of the high tourist months, there isn’t much to write about the wonderful city. In a foolish attempt to cover all the attractions, you will run like a crazy dog yet unfortunately Paris is not just big, Paris is just like ‘Quanta Firfir’ hiding countless good stuff behind her common veil. Eventually, the business traveller will give up settling on the common sites. I was the very same business traveller who gave up after The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles and Le Marias.

Exhausted and frustrated, I decided to quit acting like a tourist and I accepted the gloomy fact that 4 days are not enough; I was in Paris for six days and I have tried to arrange my touristic days as follows: 2 days before my business conference and the following two days after the business conference. Yet, it was never enough.

Without exaggeration, or perhaps with little exaggeration, the 6 days I have in Paris were useless to quench my tourist-ish urge and I cannot say I was intimate with the dream city; maybe it was like a quick adultery! Despite my two-day relaxing trip to Germany, I was forced to concentrate all my focus in Paris towards my business.

I was invited to the Afrobytes annual conference— Rise of The African Tech Industry, June 7-8, 2018— as a panellist and as well to pitch for iCog Makers representing iCog Labs.

The event, to me, has three goals. Première) Connect African Start-ups, deuxième) connect African Start-ups with Investors, and troisièmement) promote Africa as the right place to new tech ventures.

The event was brilliant; more than 30 African start-ups focusing on software business were featured. Investors, mainly from France and England, were present as well. The media coverage was great and in the two-day time span, I have conducted more than three interviews while iCog was covered in big media like BBC and France 24.

Photo courtesy of Splento

We, not just as iCoggers but also as Africans, proved to the world that Africa is more than ready to take her part in the global tech market. With more than 1 billion people and with a comparative advantage of relatively cheap labour, Africa can compete with India or China.

Most of the projects featured in the Afrobytes event are living testimonies that tell a brave and adventures story. Companies like iCog shared their experience in developing Artificial Intelligence, on the same panel with Deep Blue.

Yes, if the rest of the world starts to listen there is a new rhythm and beat in Africa. A music not of guitars and drums but on computer keyboards in bytes.

The epic story in which the white man comes to Africa and play the hero saving hundred thousands of children from starvation, thousands of elderlies from blood trusty rebels and hundreds of cheerful monkeys from mean poachers can no longer prevail as the predominant narrative. Now Africa is ripe for the tech business and the white man, when he comes to Africa, he should come as an investor as well.

Sitting in the conference, I wondered why there are very little African Investors in the tech business. I know for sure that there are at least 4 African Billionaires and more than 50 millionaires (not the tiny millions but the big fat ones in the range of 500-700), yet here in Paris none of them were on sight.

It is great to chat about Africa’s tech industry in Europe but it will be fantastic to discuss it in length in Africa. Furthermore, why are we still begging the white investors? I asked a couple of the attendees and most of the answers tend to focus on the assumption that the African investors are not rich enough to take risks.

Forget the corrupt and criminal rich Africans whose wealth is often jotted as infinite on their accountant’s ledger, what about those legit millionaires?

Unless Africans start to secure their financial gap from other Africans, we cannot claim that we are creating a sustainable tech industry. I do not think the problem is lack of finance when we are dealing with Zero number of African Investors. It looks more like lack of awareness. Our millionaires and billionaires need to be informed about what tech investment is.

Now, let me say one or two things, how I wish I can say one thousand things, about illegal immigrants in Europe— mainly about illegal Ethiopian Immigrants. These one or two things don’t include the very few hard working legal immigrants. For all the legal immigrants studying or working in Europe, all I will say is keep up the good work and don’t give up on the hope that one day you will return to Africa and share what you learn. Above all else, remember that you are our ambassadors and stay sharp!

While we are witnessing the rise of African Industry, we are also witnessing the rise of the new horror: illegal immigrants. When hundred thousands of Africans are migrating to Europe, it means Africa is losing a significant number of thinker and worker brains.

Although I firmly believe that Europe has a responsibility to address the illegal immigrants issue positively, I am not going to explain the why. I am not also going to discuss how Europeans had colonized Africa ruining the history and future of Africans. However, I will say one or two things about this foul horror.

In the streets of Paris, Ethiopian Immigrants were begging! How can one travel all the way, risk all those nightmares, and abandon one’s home just to be a beggar?

You will see lots and many illegal African immigrants who live like a cockroach suffocating Paris and Frankfurt.

The ones that are not begging are living on a government support. The fancy term is ‘social benefits to migrants’. The government of France, for illegal immigrants, has a social benefit program which involves handing 350 Euro per month and allocating one bedroom house free of charge. Now if our illegal immigrants are not begging then they are wasting their lives because they are only after this social benefit.

How can the majority of Africans’ dream become living on a charity; a monthly 350 Euro?

Most of the Ethiopian Immigrants abandon legal work. Their reason is shameful, after the tax, housing, and other payments, the remaining income from their pay is no better than the monthly 350 Euro. Almost all of the illegal Ethiopian immigrants choose just to sit on their lazy ass wasting their skin and probably backbiting other immigrants day after day and weeks after weeks.

If it was not to change your life, why do you travel across the Mediterranean? For me, our illegal immigrants are nothing more than glorified beggars!

As if the begging is not enough, why don’t they adopt the European system? Okay, you left Africa because you are not comfortable with how things are done here, then why the fuck don’t you adapt to the better system which you choose over Africa?

To my disgust, almost all the immigrants (including Arabs, Indians, and the Hispanics) acted like retards. I have no other word for their actions because they were not stylish enough to be referred to as ‘thugs’ or ‘hooligans’. What is the style in not paying for the train and bus fee, or urinating on the streets? Yes of all the immigrants I saw in Paris, none cares to adapt to the system.

In Africa, maybe one needs a police or a man with a big stick so people will respect the law. Yet in France, the system expects you to honour your manners. If you cannot pay for your train or bus fare, how can you expect them to see you as their equals? Cheating bus and train fairs or urinating on the street depict what you truly are; low lives!

Like I said, I will only say one or two things and this is it. Hence, the horror of immigration is not upon Europeans but us, Africans who live in Africa.

It is for those of us who struggle with our daily life in Africa, who struggle to change our corrupted governments and our crippled education system, it is for those of us who fight to win our daily bread in Africa that the illegal immigrants are a problem. Yes, these illegal immigrants are our enemies, they are our pests, and they are the ones who ruin our image. We are poor but we have dignity and they choose to live like cockroaches.

The truth shall never be euphemized!

It is not fair to conclude an article about Paris with harsh words; Paris is a symbol for beauty and dignity. With such spirit, I would like to acknowledge and extend my heartfelt gratitude to the following remarkable persons who have made the Afrobytes event one of the best places for African Tech Start-ups to link and dream even bigger: Ammin Youssouf, CEO Afrobytes, Haweya Mohamed, Managing Director and Head of Communications Afrobytes, and Zekarias Amsalu, IBEX Frontier Founder and Managing Director. 

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