The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
Yann Le Beux is currently working as an ‘innovation catalyst’ for CTIC Dakar, the first IT and mobile technology incubator in Senegal. CTIC Dakar is a private-public partnership started by the Senegalese government with the World Bank, corporate companies like Orange, and foreign government organisations. CTIC Dakar seeks to support African companies’ growth across the continent as well as entrepreneurs just starting out.
Why did you move to Dakar?
It was all about the continent: I made the move from Boston to Africa in 2011. I had worked at the French Embassy in the US, helping startups and then I launched my own in Boston with some friends. Initially, we were looking to transfer American and Western technologies to emerging economies.
I decided to move to an African country that was truly emerging, on the new technology front.
I then realised just how many new startups and apps were being created in Boston without any sort of real purpose or end-game. I felt that the startup scene in Boston was overheating, that it wasn’t the Eldorado I had initially imagined.
That’s when I decided to move to an African country that was truly emerging on the new technology front. I knew that I was young and that it was the right time to try out something that was a bit riskier. I was looking to learn about the local markets and how things were really happening on the ground. So the initial shortlist was Kenya, Ghana and Senegal.
The CTIC incubator was launching as a public-private partnership, so I ended up applying for a job. The German government awarded me a grant that allowed me to work full time on the incubator, funding my initial stay in Senegal. I planned on staying in Dakar for two years. Then, two years later, I decided to stay for another couple years. Next month, I’m leaving my full-time position in CTIC where I have been managing teams to focus on new challenges.
What are the big tech opportunities in African tech?
I may be biased because I am not Senegalese or African, but I see three big opportunities. The first is pan-African expansion, where African companies will grow by expanding to other African countries, rather than trying to export their know-how and goods and services to European or American markets. The second opportunity is training and all the new schools teaching young Africans to master new technologies and take on new careers that are being created everywhere around the digital economy.
Finally, the investments should be directed not at new web or software companies that are trying to copy what the Europeans or Americans are doing but rather at new opportunities like the Internet of Things. Next year, we will start looking at the African agriculture space and how to help breeders to better track their cattle, in real time with real data. This will make them more competitive.
Who is your African of the year?
Omar Cissé, the Senegalese director of CTIC. He is so professional and I’ve learnt so much from him. He has just raised funds and created Teranga Capital with his business partner, a venture capital fund investing in new technologies and other industries in Africa.
Follow Yann on Twitter @YannLeBeux
Find out more about CTIC Dakar at cticdakar.com
Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica