Victor Asemota: Terra Incognita -who moved our dots?

Terra Incognita — Latin for “Unknown Land”

“HIC SVNT DRACONES” — “Here Be Dragons”

Mark Shuttleworth is an African and he founded “Canonical”, the creators of Ubuntu the World famous Linux distribution. He also founded HBD Venture Capital. HBD stands for “Here Be Dragons”.

According to the great resource called Wikipedia

“Here be dragons” means dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of a supposed medieval practice of putting dragons, sea serpents and other mythological creatures in uncharted areas of maps.[1]

HBD Venture Capital is a great pun as it was founded by an African who knows how the rest of the technology world treats Africa and which to a large extent affects our progress as a continent.

Every global map we see these days except those for population disease and conflict always has Africa blank. Someone asked once at a Google keynote event, where a Global map was shown of Android activations and Africa ominously dark — “why are there no dots in Africa?”


Google Data Centers. Source — Austin Osuide


I ask myself sometimes if the dots in Africa have either moved away as I did previously, or have not been discovered yet?


I found the answer to that recently. We don’t have dots, we have graphs. We have masses of young hungry people craving for infrastructure and technology.



The problem is that lack of infrastructure correlates with lack of opportunity and the effect of it is profound.


Res Cogitans

Africa does not need aid. I believe that has firmly been established. It has not worked. Africa needs knowledge and education. Technology and infrastructure investments alone cannot unlock potential in Africa if we don’t also unlock the knowledge within.
The Chinese seem to be the only ones outside Africa who get the potential of the continent. This is an incomplete yet promising map of Chinese investments in Africa below.


The Chinese investments seem however to be tied to resources and markets for now and it reminds me of the old map of pre-colonial European explorers to Africa below.


Only Africans can truly build Africa. Our people are our greatest assets. The same assets other countries and continents used to build themselves up and achieve progress. We all largely know this but why does progress still elude us? Why is the technology map of Africa still filled with blank spaces? It is because we are waiting instead of taking charge. We are not providing the data to raise the right investments. Our young people are selling their souls in other lands for a roof and a living wage. Those in Africa sell all their time for a chance to follow those who have already left.Only a few people are building up the data needed for investments.

We have learned to only accept standards and innovation handed down to us from outside. We have accepted the label of “Terra Incognita” rather than try to learn about our own land and markets. We are waiting for permission and help which will not come as assistance but disruption. We are waiting to remain a market rather than become a force.

We will have to think our way out of being the World’s mine and dumpster. Free lunch time is over. Donald Trump is now President. The Nationalists are taking over Europe. Only Africans can make Africa great. I hesitate to add the word “again” as our “greatness” now seems to be ancient history with reminders only from relics.

The Internet is the greatest gift to knowledge. We should be building more ventures on it that give Africans knowledge to grow. Africa’s growth is our growth. The dots will not move to us. We have to create the dots ourselves.

The dots come from aggregated connections. They are aggregated data points. They come from lifting each other up rather than domination. We have also tried the domination game for a very long time, it has not worked. Let’s try to do some building together instead of destruction.

PS. Help remind the National Assembly in Nigeria that the dots can only be built with digital freedom.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Victor Asemota is the CEO/ Principal Consultant of Swifta Systems and Services. He tweets @asemota

This article was first written here

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