Inspire Africa Conference: How Innovate Africa is strengthening a generation of African product leaders.

by MMC
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Have you ever wondered how certain technology products become so popular and successful? How do people create something that customers need and love? These were some of the questions that the Inspire Africa Conference replied. The conference, organized by the Innovate Africa Foundation, brought together some of the leading product managers from Silicon Valley and Africa to mentor participants on how to create products that solve global challenges.

“Our goal is really to accelerate the development and mindset of Africans towards the continent,” said Christian Idiodi, founder of the Innovate Africa Foundation and partner in the Silicon Valley Product Group.

More than 1,000 participants from 31 African countries took part, a significant participation from the African technology ecosystem. This included founders, venture capitalists and product team leaders on the continent. The theme of empowering the product community in Africa, for Africa, was broken down into four “Tracks”, a one-day conference followed by three days of workshops.

Each session featured industry experts such as Christian Idiodi, Marty Cagan, Lea Hickman, Chris Jones, Martina Lauchengco and Jon Moore, all Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG) partners and renowned bestselling authors. They discussed at length topics about the importance of creating a viable product. “We hope this event will serve as an inspiration for meaningful conversations and positive work in the years to come,” Idiodi said.

There is no better time for Africa to build its capacity. Over the past decade, the African market has been one of the most sought after for technology products. According to a report by the International Finance Corporation, Africa’s digital economy could be worth $180 billion by 2025, up from $115 billion in 2020. This represents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors and innovators who want to exploit growing demand. for digital solutions and services. To echo SVPG partner Marty Cagan, Africa does not have a talent problem. Between 2020 and 2021, the pool of African professional developers increased from 690,000 to 716,000.

However, post-COVID, many companies are still struggling to create products that create real value. According to this McKinsey survey, only 21 percent of South African executives said their company was very effective in creating new products and services that meet changing customer needs. Another World Economic Forum report says COVID-19 has disrupted many business models and forced businesses to rethink how they deliver value to their customers and stakeholders. “There are so many opportunities here because there are a lot of problems to solve here. Anyone who goes abroad realizes that 90 percent of the problems have been solved. People are comfortable there. Here you face problems and opportunities every day. This event teaches companies how to create great products to address these challenges,” said Princess Edosagie, Product Manager and Lead Sponsor Representative of the event, Interswitch. “It is important for innovators to understand how products can be better adapted. That’s why when the SVPG team contacted Interswitch about the conference, they jumped at the chance. “I had already gone through their work and read most of their books. So I knew right away that it would be a good opportunity to sponsor such a project,” Edosagie said.

Every session and every speaker at the Inspire Africa conference aimed to convey the most relevant knowledge. On day four, coaches delved into the techniques the world’s largest companies use to create products that customers love. Lea Hickman, SVPG Product Partner and Event Coach, spoke at length about product visions. “One of the most important things in product management is to communicate it and evangelize it over and over again,” she said, before asking attendees to uncover their product vision during a small group session. The participants loved this session. “Product vision is one of the things I’m glad we emphasized,” said Eva Isiadigbe, one of the participants, a product manager in the financial sector. “The coaches were able to address pressing issues, such as how to create a vision, how to create a strategy? This is information that I I will use it on my desk,” she said.

Likewise, Raymond Anukwu, the founder of Delivery at kilometer 12, an e-commerce platform that sells fresh agricultural products, said the event exceeded its expectations. Initially, he thought the event would focus on ecosystem updates, meet-up sessions, and a ton of networking. “Most tech conferences are just that,” he told Ventures Africa. Anukwu, who had initially registered as a founder, returned to participate in the product managers’ session on the fourth day after the founders’ session ended on the third day. He also called his technical team and told them to drop what they were doing, a decision that would make them wait eight weeks before testing the numbers, but he thinks it’s worth it. “The knowledge we have gained will make our progress much more effective,” he said. “Having little experience before starting my company, I didn’t know much about product management. So far, I have gained much deeper knowledge about product management, which I hope to implement to maximize our profits,” he added.

The Inspire Africa conference transcends product development. “It exceeded our expectations by 200 percent,” said Interswitch’s Edosagie. “What companies often do is send different team members to training at different times. This event allowed everyone to train in the same way, in the same direction for all products, engineering from technology, all in the same room and at the same time. This makes progress much easier. We hope to build excellent product teams in Nigeria and Africa,” she added.

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