Q&A: Jon Gosier on Bringing African Techies to the Forefront With Apps 4 Africa
After starting Appfrica in 2008, founder and CEO, Jon Gosier introduced a competition, Apps 4 Africa, to go along with the technology firm which continues to push awareness of the bright minds in Africa — along with investing in them. In Apps 4 Africa’s first year, the accelerator received about 50 applications, which has heightened to more than 300 entrepreneurs expressing interest in recent competitions.
Three innovators are selected by a board of official judges who help create a gateway for technological mentorship and funding. Gosier’s passion for creating such a platform came from living in Uganda and seeing an immediate need to create opportunities for the people living there who were interested in technology.
“When it comes to Africa, no one talks about the value of the people, their ideas, creativity, tenacity, and entrepreneurialism,” Gosier said. “I think that needs to change and there’s a huge opportunity for anyone who recognizes the next big economy is going to be there.”
Both Appfrica and Apps 4 Africa are growing in their pursuit to invest in great talent and sustainable ideas coming out of the continent while bridging connections with big companies, nonprofits and government officials seeking to enter the technology sector within the African market.
AFKInsider: How did Appfrica and Apps 4 Africa come about?
Jon Grosier: Appfrica came about in 2008 when I moved to Uganda. I was working with lots of young people and saw an immediate need to help them find opportunities in a technology space. There were tons of young technical people I would meet [who] were interested in pursuing a technology career, but there was just a huge lack of opportunity. Organizations didn’t understand that there is talent locally that we could hire; whether they were somewhat bias against working with local talents or whatever the reason. There was a lack of opportunity for all these young technical minds who were doing everything they could to pursue.
I started Appfrica to create opportunity for young technical Africans to invest in the African technology sector and to genuinely help bring African technology to the world and both introduce the world to African technology.
One of the programs we decided to start in 2010 was Apps 4 Africa. When we started the company in Uganda we had a very local focus — we were only doing stuff in Uganda and the East African region with Apps 4 Africa. The goal was to really scale what we were doing across the continent. So, Apps 4 Africa is a competitive funding program that allows anyone on the continent to submit what they think is a good idea for a technology driven project, and they can apply for funding from our organization. We work with partners like U.S. Department of State, corporations, and non-profits like TED to provide them opportunities that help scale and create.
AFK Insider: How did you go about getting partners like TED Talks and the U.S. Department of State?
Jon Gosier: Each partner is gonna be different. It’s really about the relationship and building a relationship. Finding out what your mutual interest and what the mutual opportunities for working together are. With the U.S. Department of State they were looking for a regional partner to help them with new strategies creating social impact and so while I was living in Uganda I ended up meeting them and we just found a mutual interest.
What they wanted to do was to change the way they carried out diplomacy. What we offered was we were a local organization, we were established in Uganda, and we helped them do some grassroots efforts that they wouldn’t have the credibility of doing on their own. The areas that they work in is politics, NGO (non-government organizations), and government but they didn’t have an idea of what students needed, what young entrepreneurs needed, and what the private sector needs which is also expertise we can brings to the table.
With Ted Talks it was a completely different relationship. Ted is an organization that wants to share, help spread great ideas that are related to technology and entertainment. With that relationship it was more about my particular role with Ted. I’m a Ted fellow so I’ve been involved with them.
AFK Insider: How did you get to Africa?
Jon Gosier: It was happenstance; I was dating someone who was working for an international non-profit that was doing work in Uganda. She was going to be based there for three years and so I just followed her to support her career. When I got there I discovered all these things. I wanted to put my technology skills to use and discovered all these opportunities to pursue. Over time Appfrica developed into what it is today.
AFK Insider: What makes you passionate about what you do?
Jon Gosier: It’s truly the last frontier when it comes to where economic growth is going to come from in the 21st century. You have a billion people, many of whom are moving out of poverty everyday; 315 million Africans who were once considered poor are now considered middle class.
What that middle class economy wants and needs is something no one else in the world is addressing and taking seriously. That is an opportunity for investment in my opinion. When it comes to reinvesting in Africa or investing and leveraging Africa as the resource it is, you don’t see enough of that coming from the Diaspora and I’m passionate about changing that.