I am Emeka Afigbo Google's Program Manager for Developer Relations, Ask me anything


#25

Hello Emmanuel,

Thank you for your question and the compliments.

What does Africa have to do to create a global brand?
The answer is simple, the implementation is not so simple.

Find a fundamental and difficult problem, solve it for the African user, scale it.

People who are making progress in this regard include the likes of MPesa in Kenya, Konga in Nigeria and Hotels.ng in Nigeria.

One of my favorite stories is the one about the two shoe salesmen in a ship who were looking for fresh opportunity and came upon an island where the natives have been walking around barefooted for centuries.

One of them said: Lets check the next island, there is nothing for us here
The other said: I will stop at this island, it is full of opportunity

Konga and Hotels.ng figured out a way to do e-commerce in a region with relatively no internet.
MPesa found a way to deliver electronic payment services in region with little infrastructure.

I think the future will belong to the spiders who learn how to build webs across the Grand Canyon where there is little or nothing to hook your webs on :smile: .

Opportunities still abound e.g in healthcare and education. Solutions to these problems will be applicable in the middle east, Asia and South America (even in the US)

To your second question, I guess I will say: Watch this space :smile:

To your third question:
It has to be something i know something about, (otherwise I would not be much use)
It also has to be something that falls into the category i described above.


#26

Hi Emeka,

Here is Kwaye Kant from Cameroon. I would like to thank you for continuing inspiring our tech communities through the GDG.

My questions concern communities and startups founder on the continent.

  1. Africa, with no doubt is the next destination where all investors are focused. But one of the serious problem we encounter today is access to high speed internet connection. A couple of months ago, I read in an article about the Google Loons project but the cost of this technology is not accessible to everyone. On the other hand Google has already spent thousands of dollar to build this technology. Don’t you thing the money could have helped the continent in other ways developing agriculture and free access to education ?

  2. About startups. There are too many tech event around the world where attenders may get chance to assist in coaching session, business development session, personal development… But Google seems to support attendees only those who reside in the North America and Europe (look here). This tends like other continents are marginalized despite the needs claimed to help Africa developing countries. Maybe another programs exist that I ignore?

Thank you for your answer


#27

Femi na wa o!
you wan kill me abi?
These are very tough questions

Most rewarding moment?
There have been many, it will be tough to pick one so I will just go with the most recent.
At this year’s Google I/O conference (and also the last one), one of the top developer conferences in the world. Africa was very well represented. Ranging from Sundar Pichai’s keynote address.
We had a short meeting of attendees from Sub Saharan Africa who were at the conference , 80% of them had traveled from Africa to attend. We almost took over a huge part of the lounge. It almost looked as if there was an African takeover happening.There were young men and women from all over the place, Nigeria, Cameroon, CIV, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya to mention a few. They were all chatting and hanging out, many of them contributing meaningfully to some of the sessions and growing their network across the region. I am aware of at least one person (a fresh graduate) who landed a job as a result of those interactions.
At that moment I felt so grateful to be in that moment. It really meant a lot to me to see the connections that have been created in such a short time.

Most Frustrating?
The most frustrating moments for me have been tied to some of the most successful .

If I was to pick one, I would say being stuck at the Nairobi Airport for two days because of a visa mix up on my way to Congo DRC for a community event. It was crazy to say the least. On one of the days I actually sat there watching the plane take off with out me.
But that was made up for by the amazing welcome I got when I arrived Lubumbashi and Kinshasha. The events were led by a very young team in Congo, one of them was a remarkable lady who was pretty much fresh out of school. It was an unforgettable experience that demonstrated the spirit of the African Youth.

Should the air of experimenting be encouraged? By all means!!!
A lot of the issues / opportunities in Africa are unique to Africa and so and so the only people who can come with sustainable solutions to them are Africans. How else can they do this if they do not try stuff out?

This is one of the reasons why we put a lot of emphasis in User Experience Design thinking in 2014 and 2015 with the UX masterclass series, so that we can better understand how the creation (and refinement) process works. I would encourage everyone to attend at least one design thinking oriented event in their life time. That one the way I think experimenting can be encouraged

Also as an African in the tech space, If there is one thing I want you to take away from this Radar session let it be this:
Always remember that your experience, your point of view and your ideas and opinions are valid and can hold their own anywhere in this world in so far as they are coming from an honest place
So get YOUR experience , form YOUR opinions, apply YOUR ideas and learn YOUR lessons, do not be scared.
There are people out there who are waiting to learn from you.

What aspects of other ecosystems can be encouraged in Nigeria?

Well, that’s tough, I will say that I really enjoy the “community feel” i get whenever i visit East Africa (Kenya in particular).
Everyone seems to know (or have heard of) everyone and what they are doing. You could say that Nigeria is much bigger than Kenya, but I would really want to see more collaboration between the North, East and West.

Also the level of technical expertise in South Africa is quite high when compared to the rest of the sub region (again this could be attributed to the standard of their higher institutions) , If that happened in Nigeria, that would be amazing.
But of course I would rank Nigeria number one in terms of entrepreneurial drive and energy, if we could add these elements I mentioned, this energy would be better harnessed.

My 20%?

20% time covers anytime that you dedicated to working on something that is not your core role but is the benefit of the company, I have dedicated a lot of this time to working on specific tasks with other teams (sales, marketing ,policy etc) .

However the most significant one that most of you know about is Project Kesaa, the offline developer content project. Which I started working on using my 20% time.

Do I still Code?
Yes!
Do I still see myself as a Coder?
NO!!!

I still write snippets of code and tiny apps to accomplish little tasks. I do not do that as often as I would like to.
Because of this I do not count myself worthy enough to be called a coder. I think that would be disrespectful to the people who do it day in day out.

I still try to keep abreast of where technology is headed, though, that is how I am able to come up with content strategies and programs which I feel will best benefit the developer community in the region


#28

Hi Emeka,

Have members of the Google Nigeria team created or contributed towards the creation of any Google apps (such as Drive, Play)? If not, are there any plans to do so?


#29

Hello Obinna,

Thank you for the kind words.

To answer your first question, I think that the main gap in terms of skills lies in the fact that in Sub Saharan Africa, we need to focus more on the learning the basic principles of computer science.
That way we will not just know HOW, but we will also know WHY.
Please see my response to @Gino_Osahon for more details.

For your Second question:
also see my response to @Gino_Osahon

How is life at Google?
Well you have seen the Interns :slight_smile: need I say more?

Seriously though, it is very intense , and very interesting. Google is an amazing company to work for and the company believes that its employees are its number one asset and treats them as such.
In return as an employee you are motivated to put in your best. This is particularly true when you are passionate about what you are doing.

Please see my response to @dftaiwo for your last question


#30

@nke_ise
Absolutely grateful for you response. Definitely gives an insider perspective on the market. About that disrupting education thing, I’ve had some coals in the fire for some time and could surely use your expertise and advice going forward. If you’d like to connect on that front, i’m more than willing. Truly appreciate what you’re doing.

Thanks,
Olufikunmi


#31

Hi Blonker (do you still go by this nickname? hehehe),

You were an inspiration for some of us when we started out back in those days, and still are.

I salute your tireless tech evangelism. That is one more important way of building the spiderweb across the divide.

I hear you when you talk of collaboration, but in this space, it is not so easy for various reasons too many to mention and obvious to us all. In your abyss blog post you made the following statement “I believe that increased collaboration between the spiders and the corporate bridge walkers will result in this bridge being built faster….with more rewards for all at the end of the bridge

If you had the power or means, how would you encourage collaboration between software companies or startups to actually solve big, meaningful problems in our space?

Following from the above, is there anything you are doing / thinking of doing / can do from your position in Google to influence more of such collaborations, if not with the bigger giants, then at least with the new breed of tech companies?


#32

King Kenneth the happening guy!

Always a pleasure.

I touched on your first question in one of the questions already.
In my limited experience around the Sub Saharan Africa region, I have gotten the sense (though I could be wrong) that :
East Africa (particularly Kenya and Uganda ) have an amazing community spirit. What I mean by this is that pretty much everybody has an idea what everybody else is up to and there seems to be a lot of collaboration.
I was also happy to see a lot of recent initiatives from the Kenyan government to automate many of their processes through the eCitizen project (https://www.ecitizen.go.ke/).
South Africa is doing well in terms of level of expertise, you tend to see a lot of companies there who build for the global market and their university system is quite good in terms of facilities and the like when compared with the rest of the regions.
West Africa has a lot of entrepreneurial drive probably due to the larger markets (particularly Nigeria)
Also worthy of mention are the Francophone countries who seem to have a lot of cross country collaboration amongst themselves.
Having said this , I will say that in recent years we have seen a lot of exchange between regions (East, West , South) in terms of start ups and developers who reach out and collaborate. We have made it a point to help drive this integration.
For example for the last Google Developer Summit Series in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, we had developer experts from Nigeria and South Africa speaking in Kenya, Kenyans and South Africans speaking in Nigeria and so on.

For your second question please see my response to @Gino_Osahon
And for the last question please see my response to @dftaiwo


#33

You are not wrong. I got that sense for years, and then actually saw it in May when I visited Nairobi in May.


#34

@Jude_Ben thank you for your kind words.

The Android Study Groups is an amazing initiative for the Google Developer Groups.
And there is no reason why they will not be sustained.

The idea is actually for the Google Developer Groups to keep organizing them using the content that is being made available.

You can reach out to your regional contact for more info.


#35

Thank you Chief for your insights on that . Validating more of my thoughts


#36

Hello @adamnesy ,

Not late at all :smile:

The Sub Saharan African Ecosystem is actually very important to Google when it comes to the Google Developer Group program.

If you take a look at the global directory you will see that Sub Saharan Africa has a very high concentration of Active Google Developer Groups.

Also if you watched the last two Google I/O keynotes you will see that the GDGs in Sub Saharan Africa have been well represented.
In 2014 the Lagos GDG held the first ever Women focused I/O extended event that was beamed live during the keynote.

Also in 2015 the I/O extended event in Juja Kenya was also beamed live and given a shout out by Sundar


#37

Thanks you very much Chief @nke_ise on this advice. Your analogy of the BMW mechanics just sums it all up. Explains a lot about most African developers (I included ) and some of the things I have learnt along the way. @Gino_Osahon with this advice you can work for anyone in the world and most of all be in a capacity to build the next generation web application or mobile app


#38

Hello @gbenga,

Thanks, I am also a big fan :smiley:

Eureka moment for Kesaa?

We had been toying around with the idea for a while but it was one of those things that seemed so obvious that it almost made you believe that it was too obvious to work.

But one day we decided to run the idea by some Google Developer Group leads in Africa and they said it would make sense.
So we tried a pilot with just 500 kits that i threw together myself and i will never forget day we sent out the first email to the Google Developer groups in Sub Saharan Africa telling them that we had this content (with screenshots).
We got a deluge of responses that said everything from: “Bless you” to “when can we get it?”
A few days later We had an event at the CC Hub in collaboration with Mobile Monday where we discussed the launch of Google Play Payments in Nigeria.
During the Q&A , Someone asked the what we were doing to help upskill Android developers in Nigeria.
I responded that we had a free Android Udacity course that was available online . The response was lukewarm, then I added that the videos for this course were also available offline on DVDs and the room broke out in a thunderous applause, even I was taken aback.

That was when I knew that we may be unto something here…the story goes on and on…but I will stop here for now.

What other projects can build off it?

I think the sky is the limit really. The hope is that Developers will use the content to better themselves and do more.
We are also working to see how we can share the methodology and technology used to do this so that it can be used to distribute other educational content , not just developer content.

To your 3rd question:

I am fully with you on the issue of the revamping the the tertiary and secondary syllabus to be more in line with today’s needs and if this does not happen then the system should be disrupted by something that works. But experience has shown that this takes time. So in the interim companies need to bootstrap.

It may not be a bad idea for the industry to also advocate (or sponsor) this overhaul.
The Oil companies have done this, tech companies can do so as well


#39

Thank you @trulyTobi,

Glad to be here.

While I would not consider myself as a software expert , i believe that anyone who wants to pursue a career as a software engineer should be grounded in the basics of computer science . See my response to @Gino_Osahon

As a person I try as much as possible to abide by Maybury’s two laws (easier said than done):

  • Do all you have agreed to do
  • Do not encroach on other persons or
    their property

I also believe that if the choice is between being seen as incompetent or being seen as dishonest, I would rather be seen as incompetent

So far it seems to have worked for me…they may not work for you :smile:


#40

Hello @amakaikem,

Google does not have a software engineering team based in Nigeria at the moment.

However, a lot of Nigerian Software Engineers have contributed to many of the Google products that you use everyday.

For example one of the facilitators at the just concluded Google Developer Summit was a Nigerian Software engineer who worked on Google Drive for Android and also the Android UI toolkit that is used to build Android apps


#41

Hi Emeka,

I have to commend you for all the great work you’ve done to improve the developer community in Nigeria. Personally, I have benefited immensely from GDG events in Lagos and Ibadan. However, I’d like to ask why nearly all the focus is on software. Some of us started on the hardware lane and occasionally take brief compulsory detours to the software route. Also, I recently got the access to the new Google developer offline kit, would you mind adding https://www.udacity.com/course/artificial-intelligence-for-robotics--cs373 to the next edition?

Thanks


#42

Hello M. @Cyprien_T !

Always great to see you.
For the Answer to your first question please see my response to @kenju254

Your second question is actually quite tougher.

I would say that the language barrier would be one reason.

As it happens most of the content on the web particularly the developer content is in English. In my experience, this has made it tougher for the non-English speaking countries particularly those in Sub Saharan Africa to follow along.

While the companies that create this content can try to remedy this by continuous translation, this may not be ideal because content changes and is constantly being created at an alarming rate.

I personally advocate a community based and open approach to solving this where members of the community work together to localize only the relevant content for their communities.

Also the open tech ecosystem is not at the same level in all the Francophone countries, which is why the role of people like you who help support the incubating communities in some of the early stage countries is quite crucial


#43

Hello Kwaye

Thank you for your questions.

To your first question.
Google is a technology company with a mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful and so it invests heavily to drive this mission.
Projects like Search, Google Drive, Android and Loon are part of this mission.

My personal opinion is that the responsibility of providing free access to education and developing agriculture in Africa is one that falls directly on the shoulders of we Africans. We can use the tools provided by companies like Google to achieve this. I doubt that the root reason that this has not been achieved in Africa is financial…but I could be wrong…

To your second question:
Google does support attendees from Sub Saharan Africa to many events and initiatives within and outside the region.
Examples include Google I/O in San Francisco, Black Box in Palo Alto and a variety of summits and experts meetups.
You can follow up with your GDG country mentor to be aware of these initiatives as they occur


#44

Hello Emeka,

Thanks for hosting this.

For some time now, my team and I have been trying to build a solution that leverages on Google’s Map technology.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to discover that outside of Lagos the map data returned is not as accurate as it should be.
A notorious culprit in this regard is Ibadan. The only well mapped location is the University Community.
Searching for some places via the maps api returns data that is quite unusable. This makes cool functionalities like autocomplete, distance matrix calculator and their likes unusable.

  1. Are there plans to look into this ?
  2. Would Google Nigeria be willing to work with a startup that is willing to invest time in correcting this abnormalities.
  3. When would access to the Mapmaker portal be opened up again ?

Thanks.