Stephan Eloise Gras, Co-founder and CEO of Africa 4 Tech. A Post doctoral Researcher in Digital Humanities at Univerite Sorbonne Paris Cite Humanum Chair.
Stephan Eloise Gras is the Co-founder and CEO of Africa 4 Tech. A Post doctoral Researcher in Digital Humanities at Univerite Sorbonne Paris Cite Humanum Chair. She was a Visiting Fellow at New York University in 2013 and a Visiting Phd Student at Brown University in 2010. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Musicology and Ethnomusicology from Universite Paris Sorbonne. Chargee de mission service culturel to France’s Ambassador to Argentina from 2007 to 2009.
After the Africa 4 Tech which held in Marrakech in Morocco from Wednesday, the 2nd to Friday the 4th of November 2016), just before the United Nations COP22 commenced, Stephan Eloise Gras, granted an interview with Dolapo Aina.
1. Do introduce yourself
My name is Stephan Eloise Gras and I am the CEO and co-founder of Africa 4 Tech.
2. What is Africa 4 Tech all about?
Africa 4 Tech is an international platform of talents that brings together innovators, corporate, academicians and scientists across the globe, around the digital innovation idea in Africa.
3. Why the interest in Africa? Why not Europe?
Because we think that the way innovation has evolved in the last decade, indicates that tomorrow’s model is Africa and to be more specific for innovation and digital innovation. Mobile money has raised a whole range of new uses and services. And what we call the African leapfrog (technological leap) is redefining completely our relationship with technology in all ramifications.
4. Since you have a huge interest in Africa, what are some of the innovations you have seen in Africa that people should take note of?
There are several innovations we have seen recently, coming out of mobile services in the energy sector. The most famous is M KOPA Solar, which is big on the international level. It indicates that what is happening is really a redefinition of all stake holders within one sector. To be more specific, some of the innovations I have seen in the energy sector are really impressive.
There is a start up called Sonar, which is doing urban panel solar lamps that can later on bring in a whole range of services from education to bills payment and it is called Pay As You Go Services. There are a lot of innovations happening. There is another start up called Pay Go Energy; it is to equivalent M KOPA in the gas sector. In the health sector, there is a start up called Gifted Mums that is doing amazing simple things. If you look at the simplicity of the mobile services emerging in Africa and responding to many fundamental needs, you would find different ideas and innovations. They are not the innovations that Westerners would be struck by because they are not as sophisticated. But from my perspective; it is responding to fundamental needs and they are much more disruptive.
For the next phase, we should be looking at what is happening in the education sector and what is on going in the mobility sector. That is the services that are associated with the necessity to be mobile in Africa (e.g. drones, car-search cataloguing and all the data being produced). I believe we have some amazing surprises in the education and mobility sectors too.
5. Why did Stephan Eloise Gras and her team organise the first edition of this ICT boot camp?
We wanted to do something totally different. We did not want to run an event but rather a sort of prototype of what tomorrow’s school could look like. A mobile campus with a lot of activities happening simultaneously. Everything horizontal and everybody sharing knowledge and bringing their own expertise and willing to share technical knowledge by solving concrete projects and concrete challenges. My idea was that we need to redefine the way we learn which is in line with what i said earlier on with regards the future of digital innovations being more frugal, responding to fundamental needs, responding to climate change and the constraints of climate change. And I think for that, we need to redefine the way we collaborate and the way we learn from each other. That is why we bring and would want to bring very different people from the corporate world, academic and start up worlds and make them come together and work on a mutual consent on what the problems are, by we suggesting what the problem could be and then giving them the methodology for working on it and finding a solution.
6. Would there be another boot camp?
I believe there would be many boot camps. We are thinking that what we want to provide by being a platform is not just creating our own new incubator (probably not now). But what we want to do is work with local eco-systems and bring the expertise and intelligence within the international platform. So, by bringing together and curating the right people and understating what the right problems are, we can actually help some local eco-systems and employ our knowledge and methodologies. So, there would be more boot camps in 2017 and it would begin right in the first quarter of 2017 with activities in the tech sector in South Africa and in Ivory Coast, there would be activities around mobilities and smart cities and the future of smart cities in Africa.
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