My history with Guinea, West Africa traces back to my passion for music. I spent a total of 6 months between 2002 and 2008 living there and studying the traditional music and dance in the region. During that time, I got to know many people living in and around Conakry and developed strong relationships that continue to this day.
In 2012, I became a founding member and co-organizer of GDG Philadelphia where I lived and worked for the next 5 years. An engineer by trade, I helped organize and participated in various workshops and events in Philly between 2012 and 2017.
It wasn't until 2018, returning to Guinea for the first time in 10 years, that I became involved in the tech community there as a co-organizer and founding member of GDG Ratoma. In the past two years, GDG Ratoma has held dozens of events including a community tech conference and Android development workshop, DevFest Conakry 2018, and most recently DevFest Conakry 2019.
DevFests are community-led developer events hosted by Google Developer Groups (GDGs) around the globe. GDGs are focused on community building and learning about Google technologies.
In 2019, there were 950+ active GDG chapters worldwide and 400+ community-led DevFest events. In total, this creates a vast learning and networking opportunity for both seasoned professionals and aspiring engineers alike.
The first ever GDG DevFest in Guinea was held in December 2018, just over a year ago. For the second annual edition, an even bigger and better event was planned building on the momentum of the previous year.
The theme of DevFest Conakry 2019 was construire, collaborer, mettre √† l'√©chelle which translates to build, collaborate, scale. After reflecting on the theme, it seems rather apropos not just of the content but of preparing for the event itself. Let me explain.
The main ingredients in building any successful tech conference are venue, content, and participants. This holds true whether in the United States or francophone West Africa. DevFest Conakry is no exception and was built upon the foundation of these three pillars.
DevFest Conakry was held for the second year in a row at Universit√© Kofi Annan de Guin√©e. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Ousmane Kaba, Kofi Annan is the largest private university in Conakry. Curriculum at the prestigious school focuses on science, technology, and economics.
The Malick Conde Cultural Center is one of the most well equipped conference venues in the capital with seating for up to 1,500 attendees and even air conditioning — a rare treat in a country with average high temperatures of 29¬∞C (85¬∞F) that go even higher in the dry season.
This edition of the landmark developer festival featured 15 local and international speakers covering a variety of topics including web, mobile, cloud, big data, machine learning as well as technology education and entrepreneurship.
I gave a keynote address titled Homtecha Guin√©e that centered on the topic of entrepreneurship and specifically the idea that developers and technologists in Africa can and should take the lead in solving problems that they know and understand best.
DevFest Conakry 2019 saw 500+ attendees, almost double the total number from just a year ago. This was no accident. This year mobilization efforts started much earlier and focused on in-person outreach at universities, meetups, and community events.
Also in the realm of mobilization, the day before the event Kouame Kan Romeo Kouame, GDG Ratoma General Manager, and I were featured guests on live national television on the popular Zenith talk show, as another way to get word out about the event.
The next day, reporters from RTG also covered the DevFest including interviews with several of the speakers and organizers that were featured on the nightly news program.
You can find the video here (coverage starts at 40:13).
No matter how motivated the organizers are — and the leadership team of GDG Ratoma is extremely motivated — this is only part of the equation. No conference exists in a vacuum.
None of this would have been possible without generous support from our sponsors who helped make the event such an overwhelming success. This past year has also seen considerable momentum behind a general trend of technology education and empowerment in Africa. Finally, this year GDG Ratoma wanted to find ways to give back and build bridges in the community in Guinea that go beyond the developer festival itself.
Google Developers was the headline sponsor for DevFest Conakry 2019 and is the primary supporter of GDG Ratoma, the premier developer community in Guinea. Additional support for DevFest Conakry came from Andela, JetBrains, and Button.
Africa is the Future
Brianna London, in her keynote presentation at DevFest Conakry 2019, talked about how Andela's business is based on empowering talented software engineers in Africa.
In 2019 — Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google also all made major strides toward embracing the African continent as the next great frontier in technology.
Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on his first ever trip to Sub-Saharan Africa, spent time at the Andela office in Lagos, Nigeria. According to a
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