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 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.
What is DevFest?
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.
DevFest Conakry 2019
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 à l’échelle 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 . 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 Guinée 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 (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.
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 , , and .
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 , "Zuckerberg is in Nigeria to listen and learn and take ideas back to California on how Facebook can better support tech development and entrepreneurship across Africa."
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, spent a month on the continent after which he announced "Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I'll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020."
Also in 2019, Microsoft launched the to serve as a premier centre of engineering for Microsoft, where “world-class African talent can create solutions for local and global impact.”
Google has also continued its investment in the continent through programs like and it’s partnership with Andela on the and Google Africa Developer Scholarships.
This year GDG Ratoma wanted to find a way to give back to the community in Guinea beyond tech. To this end, a was launched in conjunction with DevFest Conakry 2019 to raise money to dig a new well and build a school in a remote village in the forest region of the country.
I’m happy to announce that although we didn’t reach our goal of raising $1,000 USD — GDG Ratoma has agreed to match all funds contributed to enable the project to move forward this year!
No tech conference is complete without the afterparty. Again this year DevFest Conakry decided to put a different spin on the classic afterparty by hosting a traditional Doundounba, or drum and dance celebration, the day after the event that was not only open to conference attendees but members of the community as yet another way to help build bridges between the developer community and the rest of the population in Guinea.
When thinking about scaling technology education in West Africa, through the lense of GDG Ratoma and DevFest Conakry, the future looks bright.
DevFest Conakry is really just the beginning. The key to the future is finding more ways to unlock the amazing potential in the region by growing the developer community in Guinea and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 and beyond.
Current plans for DevFest Conakry 2020 include adding a second track, doubling the number of attendees yet again, and adding more hands-on activities in the form of codelabs and a hackathon.
|DevFest Conakry 2018||DevFest Conakry 2019||DevFest Conakry 2020 (projected)|
|10 speakers||15 speakers||20+ speakers|
|250+ attendees||500+ attendees||1000+ attendees|
|One track||One track||Two tracks (tech talks & codelabs)|
|French only||French and English||French and English|
One thing remains constant year over year, and that is DevFest Conakry is 100% FREE to attend for everyone in the community. This is even more important in a country where the estimated .
If you or your organization would like to get involved in DevFest Conakry 2020, you can reach out to or . You can also .