By Samantha Cook
With a focus on daily news, analysis, features, market reports and insights into Africa’s rapidly developing ICT sector, ITWeb Africa
looks set to position itself as the continent’s leading technology content provider – an ambitious goal considering both the size of its market and the speed at which it is producing technological innovation. However, editor Gareth van Zyl (@garethvanzyl) is both confident and excited about the challenges presented by this new venture for ITWeb
, which already produces a number of successful print and online publications including its flagship daily publication, ITWeb.co.za
and the monthly print magazine Brainstorm
. Van Zyl’s editorial pedigree also bodes well for this undertaking, having worked as a technology journalist in the Middle East for Abu Dhabi’s The National
newspaper, Dubai’s 7DAYS
newspaper and ITP Publishers, the region’s largest magazine publisher.
It is this international experience that Van Zyl believes will provide a fresh perspective on covering Africa’s technology revolution. “Dubai is one of those places where it’s almost like an interconnected zone in the world. You have people from Africa, from Asia, from Europe, even from places like Kazakhstan, so I ended up interacting with a lot of people there. I began to realise that we don’t live in a world where we can just focus on what’s happening in our own countries any more,” he explains. “I mean, we can, but the world has changed and has become so much smaller, and we really need to understand what’s happening around us as well.”
He adds that during his time in Dubai, he also worked on North African stories, as it fitted into the North African/Middle East region, which led to an understanding of the burgeoning relationship between Africa and the Middle East, technology-wise. “We’ve got telcos [telecommunications companies] from places like the UAE entering our African markets, and they’re all looking at Africa because it’s the next frontier, it’s the next market for growth.”
“I also talk to analysts on a regular basis in Dubai because they know about the African market. Usually, journalists here will talk to analysts within South Africa or … Africa, but they don’t go outside their borders. So really it’s ITWeb
’s first international venture, and I think that my experience lends towards that [too].”
Van Zyl also acknowledges that moving into the African technological space may be a move outside of a comfort zone of sorts, but is quick to say that this is essential for the future of technology journalism on the continent.
“South Africa has become very saturated in terms of its IT market. We’re quite developed here. We’re still regarded as a developing nation, but we’re more developed than our counterparts in Africa – that’s a fact. That said, we have certain stereotypes, certain views of how Africa is, and as South Africans, we sometimes don’t want to associate ourselves with the rest of Africa. But with the economic growth that’s now happening in Africa – seven of the ten fastest growing economies are on this continent – we have to integrate. We simply have to if we want to survive as a country. If we want our ICT industry to thrive, we’ve got to start thinking north of the border.”
“These countries are growing faster than us, and there are countries like Nigeria, for example, which will probably overtake South Africa in the next 20 years as the continent’s largest economy. Kenya is also developing at a rapid pace and will probably become the gateway of Africa, just because [it’s] closer to India, the Middle East and Europe, and is also developing [its] ICT sector, [its] government is actually paying attention to it, and investing in it. We’ve got serious competition on the continent now, whereas 10 or 12 years ago we didn’t have it, and I think it’s time for us to move outside of our comfort zones.”
Another key challenge inherent in an editorial mandate that covers the world’s second-largest continent is, quite simply, its size. With 56 countries, many of which are seeing increased investment in their ICT sectors, it will be a mammoth task to keep on top of the latest developments on the continent. However, Van Zyl says it is this challenge that will make the project all the more interesting, both to its journalists and its readers.
“We’ve already got a lot of guys working in Africa, and we started off trying to focus on the key market areas like Nigeria and Kenya (the most active ICT sector in Africa). Of course we’ve also got people in South Africa, correspondents who work for us based in Cape Town, who can travel throughout Africa. But we definitely want to branch out – North Africa is going to become increasingly important for us down the line, focusing on markets like Egypt, which has 80-million people and almost 80-million mobile phones."
“It is a challenge covering a big continent like Africa, but I think that’s what makes it exciting – we learn something new every single day. Eventually we’d like to have someone in every single country – but that would mean having 50 reporters. But we’re very ambitious with this project, and it is a challenge, and that’s part of what makes it interesting and that’s part of why people would want to read our site.”
You can access ITWeb Africa
(@ITWebAfrica) at www.itwebafrica.co.za
, or for further information contact Gareth van Zyl on firstname.lastname@example.org
or Michelle Dunlop, ITWeb
’s online business development director on email@example.com