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Meet The Black Woman who Created The World’s Largest Tech Conference

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Social Media Week Lagos is the largest and Blackest conference that you’ve probably never heard of until now.

SMW Lagos features a central stage for keynotes and panels, multiple rooms for workshops, masterclasses and presentations, and an area dedicated to co-working, networking and interactive installations.

SMW Lagos 2018 boasted an attendance of over 20,000 people in person,  an online social reach of 646 million and over 150 local and international organizations contributed to the conference.

If you’ve heard of a conference larger than that, anywhere, let us know. We’ll wait.

The Founder

Ngozi Odita is the founder of Social Media Week Lagos. She is a producer and a public speaker that works with artists and arts organizations to produce public programming that includes art exhibitions, film screenings, concerts & artist talks. She speaks to the unique opportunities that exist on the continent and “what’s next” on the horizon.

Social Media Week Lagos founder, Ngozi Odita

The Inspiration

Ngozi’s work has always centered around the intersection of art, culture and technology as it relates to Africa and the diaspora. After producing two SMW New York events, she decided that instead of telling people how dope Africa is, she would let them see for themselves by creating a platform on the Continent.

She got the license to create the conference in Nigeria and the rest is history in the making.

Challenges and Rewards

When asked about the most challenging and rewarding parts of creating this event, she stated, “It’s a challenge in general doing an event that’s this large scale. In Nigeria, there are unique challenges.

Certain resources and materials may not be readily available the way they are in the West. Getting people in Africa and abroad to see the vision has also been a challenge.

People asked why anyone would want to see a conference about using Twitter or Instagram. They told me that it just would not work.”

Ngozi says the most rewarding part of the journey has been providing new and life changing experiences for those who attend the conference.

“Last year, we had a yoga/meditation tent. Initially, people thought that wasn’t a good idea and that none would attend a yoga event first thing in the morning.

But it ended up being packed! Some of the people had never done yoga before.

I love challenging people to do new things that they never thought of doing. I enjoy providing an experience that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Why attend SMW Lagos?

“I really want Black people on the Continent and in the Diaspora to see that we are all alike. You don’t see yourself until you see yourself. Many people abroad see images of the super fly people and places in Lagos and they are like, “Whoa that’s in Nigeria? That could be Brooklyn, that could be Atlanta!”

That’s when the connection happens. We have to ask ourselves why we don’t connect, and why don’t we build more.”

She continued, “It is important for people on the continent also get a real connection with their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.

We need to figure out what we could accomplish if we all work together. People say Africa is the future and it really is!  Every western country is trying to figure out (or has figured out) what their “Africa angle” is.

If we don’t figure it out as a people, others will figure it out for us and we’ll be in the back seat. We need to connect and people in the diaspora need to come over and see how we can build together.”

SMW is a great way to connect tech minded and business minded creatives and entrepreneurs.

“I love the fact that because of social media, youtube etc, we can see all the dope artists and fashion, but we have to be more than consumers, we need to own.We need to figure out how to own our own.

All these amazing African startups are getting investment from outside the continent. They end up being owned by people who don’t look like us. Jay-z and Nas and others are investing in tech.

Now, let’s think about investing in some African startups. We need to figure out how to get involved and make money moves and not keep watching from the sidelines.”

The Future

“My dream is that this time of the year will be like a homecoming, and everyone will have February blocked out to come to Nigeria to take care of business and turn up.

African countries are doing amazing things and we celebrate this, but we’re not moving the needle. Mad youth are unemployed and the government is a mess. Other people come out here and get paid, but most of them don’t look like us.

All the resources are there and we all know it but we’re not making the moves to take advantage of what is ours. We’re not talking to ourselves in a way that matters.

In the 50’s you would have leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, discussing Pan Africanism with Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria.

They both travelled to America with the intention of building with like minds. The idea of Blackness as a whole was different then than it is now.

Now, we don’t think as much about nation building, but we need to. There’s no way to do this if we don’t do it together.”

What to Expect this year

A few of year events include:

  • Re-Imagine Africa
  • Intro to Angel Investing
  • How to scale your business with Instagram
  • Digital Media and the Music Industry
  • Potential for growth:Digital sports in Africa
  • My F*ck Up Story – Sharing Stories Of Professional Failure

Visit the SMW Lagos website for more information.

 

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

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1 Comment

  1. How do I start a tech company in Africa? I have a lot of ideas and inventions that I would like to be built in Africa. My name is Anastasius S. Brown I am A+ Certified with a background in computers. I used to work on Boeing CH-47 Helicopters in the US Army. Where can I find people who know how to build electronic devices? I have been working on S.C.I. I. for 9 plus years and would like to get it completed this year please help. Call (810) 288-5157 anytime with information.

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