With the introduction of GSM in Nigeria few years ago, the use of Mobile phones quickly became very big in the country. Its socio-economic impact on the lives of Nigerians has been very significant. As this growth continues exponentially, trends around mobiles began to emerge. Mobile Web is getting so big in the region, Nigeria is driving Mobile social networking in Africa, and Mobile advertising is bringing digital advertisement to reality with the emergence of small businesses around these mobile trends.
Predicting what the future holds and then making the right moves towards harnessing these opportunities for Nigeria was not clear enough. The introduction of Mobile Web West Africa Conference in Lagos changed a lot of things in the Nigeria mobispace. This is one event that looks into trends in mobile web, growth and monetization of mobile applications in the region, emergence of new set of entrepreneurs-the mobile entrepreneurs, fostering regional interaction and engagement. The conference provides facts and figures around mobiles and these information become useful for phone makers, app developers and business consultants.
Just as the conference grows and now in its 4th edition, it becomes natural to think of how it all started and to gauge the contribution this conference has provided in the mobile ecosystem in Nigeria.
I remember vividly how it all started, how I got involved. Sometime towards the end of 2010 on a breezy Friday evening in Lagos, I was seating with some friends and having a couple of drinks while looking forward to the weekend, suddenly my phone rang. I looked at my phone it was a UK number, after the second ringing I picked up the phone. “Hello, is this Kenneth Omeruo”, the man on the other side asked. I replied yes but “who am I speaking with please”.” Am Matthew Dawes from the UK, I got your contact online and think I should talk to you about a conference am putting together in Lagos very soon. I can send you an email on it if you want and then we have further discussions around it, I need your support Mr. Kenneth” okay that will be great, I will look at it and get back to you”.
This was how I got involved with Mobile Web West Africa. The first year of the conference came out very successful and so has other years. My organization has always been very supportive because of its positive impact in Nigeria.
Mobile Web West Africa has suddenly become a reference point for everything mobile in the region. The conference brings together the who is who in the mobile ecosystem. From the big and well established mobile companies to the mobile startups, App developers, Media practioners and all stakeholders that make up the mobile ecosystem in the region. Everyone has a place at the conference.
It provides a great platform that fosters business relationship between West African Mobile markets like Nigeria-Ghana and also with other African markets like East Africa, South Africa and then to the global market at large. This is really what needs to be promoted in Africa to encourage regional African tech Markets. The conference in doing this, has provided the confidence needed for most companies to establish their businesses in Nigeria. I know a lot of companies that have their businesses in Nigeria right now who first came into the country for Mobile Web West Africa. Am also aware that Matthew (the organizer of this conference) has several opportunities at global mobile focused conferences to talk about the great things happening in the mobile ecosystem in the region. This is something positive for us.
Mobile-focused companies use the event to launch their new products. App developers also leverage the platform to showcase their new apps. It will be nice to say that this is one conference that has provided great support to Nigerian app developers in terms of bringing them face to face with companies that can provide support to them in area of partnerships, training, content development, monetization etc.
App developers usually have a day dedicated to training them on app development by leading Mobile companies, the developers are provided opportunity to talk about their new apps and also promote it. This helps these budding entrepreneurs navigate through the challenges around app development in the region. Many start-up companies, Apps and organisations who are doing well today in Nigeria got their first opportunity to talk about their product or service at Mobile Web. In fact the conference supports and promotes mobile breakthroughs in the region.
The discussions at mobile web conferences are usually very rich and something to look forward to. You get to learn about the latest trends in the industry, how these trends affect businesses in the next couple of months and how one can position very strategically in the mobile market. Some key issues around Mobile entrepreneurship like Monetization has been demystified at the conference as speakers and the panel discussants are usually very knowledgeable in their core competence. It is a forum where you have the actual doers not just people who talk about trends but actual players in the industry. The conference has brought respected global speakers to Nigeria, someone like Jared Cohen of Google ideas, Gustav Praekelt, Monty Monford, Alan Knott- Craig and many others.(See who is giving this year’s keynote).
The conference has also had a good influence in tech blogging in Nigeria. We see the number of tech bloggers growing as many look forward to supporting and attending the conference. For these blogs and bloggers the conference launches them into lime light and provide an opportunity to meet industry experts, established media practitioners around the world. Each year I see new blogs springing up and making its debut at the conference which is very commendable. This has increased online visibility of technology companies and players in Nigeria as we have different platforms telling our start-up stories. It has also provided opportunities for PR firms, consultants and media agencies.
In Conclusion, I will like to commend the organisers of the conference for all these and also challenge them to do more as the saying to whom much is given, much is expected becomes true.
One of the things I would like to see at the conference is engagement with the government in the region. We are yet to see government representatives at these conferences in Nigeria. I understand the bureaucracy with getting Nigerian government to support and be part of things like this but I think mobile Web West Africa has come of age and should attract the needed and relevant government personalities to be part of the conference. Government participation and engagement with the industry is key and a right step. Everything revolves around the Government-a major force that drives development. Without government support in terms of creating the infrastructure and making sure there is an enabling environment for all of these to thrive, we will just be having a good time each year discussing with little or no tangible result. Government drives innovation. Am glad that Nigeria now has a responsive Minister of Communication Technology-Mrs. Omobola Johnson who is passionate about Software development and entrepreneurship. It’s time to really engage the government of these regions, then Mobile Web West Africa would have been a mobile festival not just a conference!
Mobile Web West Africa Conference 2014 holds from May 13-May 16, to participate please visit http://mobilewestafrica.com/2014/