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African Digerati: Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor is the first in the African Digerati series of interviews. He is a well established member of the African blogosphere, a leading thinker, and a doer. Not mentioned in this interview is the fact that he is also managing and coordinating one of the world’s top technology conferences that will be in Africa for the first time this year: TED Global. He has made a huge impact on me, and I believe his blogs should be considered regular reading for anyone interested in technological development in Africa.

Blog and/or website:
The Blogs I publish are Timbuktu Chronicles and Africa Unchained.

What do you do:
I am an entrepreneur, one of my current endeavors is Caranda Teas and Coffee in which I am a partner. The company is repositioning itself as a Fine Foods company.

What inspires you?
Innovation, Creativity, Resourcefulness and Resilience in face of odds.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
My Parents, Internalist thinkers like George Ayittey

If you weren’t involved with technology, what would you do instead?
Technology couldn’t really be separated from daily existence, its woven into the fabric of contemporary human endeavor. If it were however I would be drawn to the creative pursuits of business and idea implementation…this would always draw me in.

Name one book that you would label “required reading” for those in the African technology sphere:
Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World

What emerging technologies are you most excited about?
Distributed computing and communication systems such as:

Wireless mesh networks
Open Source everything
Distributed and Renewable energy systems:

Biogas, Biofuels
Solar energy
Nanotechnology, Robotics, Unconventional computing, Fabbing
What do you see as the biggest advantage or opportunity for African technology development?
Moving local research from the Labs & Universities into businesses and Agriculture and the wider world. Adapting existing and emerging technologies to enable leapfrogging. Adopting non-hierarchical technologies that are less susceptible to non-functioning centralised control

What do you see as the biggest challenge for African technology development?
Repositioning technology in the eyes of policy makers as being absolutely critical to the continents survival and its continued relevance. Evolving a home grown culture of ingenuity and resourcefulness, that is self-sustaining replicable and scalable.

What are your thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa?
Blogging will continue to open up vistas of the continent that hitherto remained out of view. From food to finance, technology to tourism a million untold stories are waiting to be told…and we have begun to tell them.

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Erik Hersman is a rising international technology influencer with a keen eye on the impact of Web 2.0 advancements in the U.S. and his finger on the pulse of technology innovation across Africa. An avid blogger Erik writes four different technology blogs including: AfriGadget; WhiteAfrican; African Signals; and Realty Thoughts. When he is not blogging Erik serves as VP of strategy and marketing at an online real estate site providing on-demand access to home valuations, real estate professionals, home inspectors and appraisers. In this position he is responsible for marketing implementation, partner strategy and consumer evangelism. Raised in Sudan and Kenya, Erik brings unique energy and insight to the world of technology – bridging the gap between Africa and Silicon Valley. Erik can be seen speaking around the world at recognized conferences including the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania and Inman’s Real Estate Connect.
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