Q&A: Jon Gosier on Bringing African Techies to the Forefront With Apps 4 Africa

Written by Kimberly Jacobs

AFK Insider: Tell me about Apps 4 Africa 2013.

Jon Gosier:  Apps 4 Africa 2013 hasn’t started. One of the reasons why the Apps 4 Africa competition has changed is it’s grown quite a bit. When it started it was really about coming up with great ideas and supporting the ideas. Now, its more about coming up with great ideas that are more implemental and scalable. One of the problems with app competitions is that they have a constant churn of great ideas being created and some duplication. [There’s] all this innovation that’s occurring post competition [which] nobody pays attention to. What happens after all the press?

We don’t think of [Apps 4 Africa] as a competition anymore. We think of it as a funded program in a sense that anyone can apply at anytime during the window of applications — and we’re not necessarily looking for winners or a prize. We’re looking for opportunity to invest, to help something get started that’s going to last — or help something that’s already been started grow and become even better than what it is. That’s where we see Apps 4 Africa going; we’re doing a lot more mentorship and more in terms of financial and business training and business developments.

AFK Insider: Which two apps have been the most impressive so far?

Jon Gosier:  Minishop from Tanzania has been one of the standouts. They raised just shy of $400,000 a couple months ago in Tanzania. The founder, Eric Mutta, is a very savvy and sharp guy who’s been able to take his $15,000 investment and really turn it into a staggering amount for a start-up.

What Minishop does is [address] one of the challenges across Africa —although you have all these consumers who are coming out of poverty, not all of them have computers. There’s just not the infrastructure there to have widespread computers: one because they’re costly, two they’re not manufactured locally so they’re hard to get, and three the infrastructure for the internet is almost non-existent, especially in rural parts of Africa. Minishop, [which is] accounting software allows Africans to use either their mobile phones or computers to do their accounting.

That’s significant because many of the small businesses across Africa do their accounting in a very haphazard manner. They do it on paper, napkins, whatever and with this he is helping formalize an informal economy that’s losing billions of revenue every year per country.

Another company that has done really well is Farmerline from Ghana, founded by Alloysius Attah and Emmanuel Addai. They are two bright entrepreneurs from Accra. What they’re doing with Farmerline is helping fish farmers in Ghana formulate the best practices, share, and receive their yields from fishing and creating a virtual marketplace for fish farmers. They’ve found a great deal of support from USAID who has a huge interest in the fish farming community there because it represents so much of the livelihood of Ghanaians.  Minishop represents a financial business success story for the Apps 4 Africa program whereas Farmerline represents a good social impact for the program.

AFK Insider: As a whole what are you looking to expand on with Appfrica?

Jon Gosier:  We help foreign technology companies in need of companies to be specifically based in the African market. We help African technologist and entrepreneurs enter foreign markets and we invest in African technology sectors. Those are the three things Appfrica does to make money. We’ve been incredibly successful at all of those and what we would like to do in the future is just scale up our efforts. We’re now doing work with bigger companies who have interest in coming to the continent and reaching African consumers. We’ve worked with companies like Google in the past where they entered Africa.

AFK Insider: What should people and businesses interested in entering the African market know?

Jon Gosier: ­The biggest opportunity in Africa right now is in collection and dissemination. There’s just a huge absence of information in African market opportunities for consumer goods. You have all these big analytic companies and they struggle to quantify trends of the African market.

I think there’s a huge opportunity for someone to provide some sort of solution in that space whether it’s market research reports, an app, something that collects information automatically or some process for getting this info — I think that data is the new oil, whoever figures out how to mine that oil.