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From May 28 to 30, 2013, was held in East London South Africa the 5th Global Forum of Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship, organized by the World Bank program InfoDev.

I was there with Omar Cissé and Regina Mbodj, two other member of CTIC Dakar’s management team, Serigne Barro, founder and general manager of the Digital Agency People Input and Binta Coudy De, co-founder of the startup Cyan Girls and the Jjiguene tech hub, a new initiative promoting women tech entrepreneurship in Senegal.

Apart from us, there were almost no other francophone countries representatives – how can this be possible in an international meeting gathering more than 500 high level people?

It is actually quite frustrating when you see the quality of francophone companies that exists all over West and Central Africa. Believe me, when you really dig into Kenyan, Ghanaian, or Nigerian businesses, you see that they don’t have nothing more than the ones in our countries, but they market themselves so well. More buzz and less business I feel.

That’s why we need to make an effort to write in as many languages as we can and share about the amazing things that we see happening here and there in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina, Gabon and others.

For instance, we have not heard about many tech companies in English speaking countries that have the size and growth rate of People Input, one of CTIC Dakar’s supported companies. Of course we will never say that the incubator is the sole reason for PI success, but I believe it’s our role to push forward the entrepreneurs who manage to see big and build sustainable businesses in such a difficult context, economically and socially speaking. We as people involve in this field should sometime forget about our francophone style of being to too humble, shy and afraid of success and we need to proudly recognize the successes (even if they are still small) that we have.

By sharing those experiences, you allow others to get to know you and improve what you do. You always have to make sure that you don’t buzz and over rate your impact but make your that you share about the thing that you try, succeed and fail.

It was personally very enriching to share with worldwide counterpart on incubation and entrepreneurship. We saw surprisingly that the model that we are building with CTIC Dakar is a unique approach on the continent and in most emerging countries. It’s not because we are amazing people (even if CTIC team really is!), but it’s just because we had enough leadership to build a new model depending on the local context and pull our partners into this model, and not the other way around.

It is indeed sometime sad to see how much English speaking countries are themselves pushed into models brought by the US without thinking of their relevancy. For instance why should we have accelerator programs taking equity in the startups when you have no private equity market and then no exit strategy to make your accelerator sustainable? Or can we really have model totally independent of the public sectors with markets of such small sizes ? To what extend are open innovation and “coopetition” implementable in “low trust” and “family centric” business environment like the ones in most African countries?

These are just we thought I wanted to share since and I am personally concerned as a Frenchman working in Senegal who has learn everything about tech entrepreneurship while I was in the US. I believe it is crucial for us expats whiling to build impactful and scalable things on this continent that we forget everything we have seen so far. Lets’ be innovative about what we can build with what we have. It is finally important that francophone Africa leaders and entrepreneurs make an extra-effort to show the good things they do in English and come to those conferences to exchange with their Anglo-Saxon counterparts; they are demanding for more collaboration opportunities with the francophone neighbors. Like we use to say in French “nature hates vacuum” – so we better fill this gap with the relevant people…

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