Amanda Spann: Africa Cannot Afford To Miss On The Digital Revolution

Amanda Spann: Africa Cannot Afford To Miss On The Digital Revolution

Amanda Spann has a strong background in technology.

Having run BRANDSPANpr, an innovation identity agency, and served as co-founder and chief marketing officer of tech social enterprise Blerdology, she is well versed in the needs to the tech ecosystem.

Now she is putting her skills to even better use, as communications and marketing director for IBM Cloud Computing and co-founder of tiphub.

 tiphub is a mentorship-driven accelerator and business consultancy that develops and supports seed stage technology and social impact ventures within Africa and the African Diaspora. Based in Washington DC, it aims to educate, engage and empower global entrepreneurs through its special programming, investment fund, business development services, and extensive network of renowned mentors.

The accelerator has been busy since its launch in January of last year.

In November it hosted its inaugural “Diaspora Demo Day” social impact startup pitching competition in partnership with She Leads Africa and the African Technology Foundation. The aim of the event was to showcase emerging tech companies and social enterprises founded by entrepreneurs of African descent or focusing on African and the diaspora communities.

Last month, tiphub brought its events to Africa itself, hosting the Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking in Nairobi and Accra, as well Atlanta and Washington DC, to bring together techies and community leaders to design solutions for a number of organisations.

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“Driven to entrepreneurship”

Spann says she was driven to entrepreneurship as it was a vehicle for actualising her passions and dreams.

“For me, success is the freedom to choose who you want to be, how you want to live and the capacity to pursue what God called you to be,” she said.

“I’m very passionate about empowering people around the world to bring their ideas to fruition with dignity and integrity. The notion that the next big “thing” could be in the mind of someone, somewhere in a remote corner of the world inspires me to seek them out and offer any support that I can.”

It is this motivation that was behind the creation and growth of tiphub, and Spann herself has received recognition for her work as an entrepreneur and a supporter of change.

Business Insider named her as one of the 30 Most Important Women In Tech Under 30, she was picked as one of BET’s Blacks on the Brink of Greatness, while Black Enterprise Magazine named her one of five future leaders in technology.

In spite of her own personal successes, when asked if there are enough women involved in the technology sector – especially in Africa – Spann said “absolutely not”. To her this is a bad thing and needs to change.

“More women in African tech would reduce social inequalities and diversify technical innovation on the continent and within the Diaspora,” she said, though she stressed that technology’s problem is not with diversity itself but rather with its marketing.

“We really need to meet women where they are and tap into their motivations and interests. We have to begin introducing the idea of tech-based entrepreneurship as a formidable, obtainable career path at an earlier age so that they can better envision themselves in the role of financial anchors for their families and change makers in their communities.”

Spann feels progress is certainly being made in terms of getting more women involved in technology, a process that tiphub and partners such as She Leads Africa are playing a part in.

She Leads Africa

“The African innovation ecosystem is getting to a critical mass. There is an increasing number of exits, accelerators, investors and women are more engaged than ever,” she said.

For her, the digital revolution in Africa is as important as the industrial revolution that took place elsewhere but less so on the continent.

“Many regions in Africa missed out on the industrial revolution, however the digital revolution presents a groundbreaking opportunity to level the playing field, to drive social, economic and civic engagement and to improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Africans around the world,” she said.

To boost Africa’s burgeoning tech scene, Spann feels the continent needs more access to affordable IT education programming, plus diverse and expansive mentorship and funding networks. Global media exposure is also helpful, she says, while technically sound entrepreneurs are also necessary.

tiphub has its part to play in this future, according to its co-founder.

“We plan to launch tiphub’s accelerator and investor network, to offer mentorship to 50+ startups in or around the continent of Africa and to scale our upcoming SaaS product, tiphub tracker, the de facto investor due diligence platform for vetting startups and social enterprises in Africa.”