Amadou Daffe: An Exclusive Interview with Loline Mag [Part 1]
Amadou Daffe is the CEO and Co-founder of Gebeya, a pan-African freelance and talent marketplace; headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Loline Magazine had an exclusive interview with Amadou to know more about his journey.
Amadou Dafffe has three passions in life; Africa, Technology, and Talent. The combination of these passions is who Amadou is right now. His third passion, Talent, is a naturally evolving one. "Maybe ten years from now, I will change the talent side and do something else," Amadou said. Amadou is very passionate about making Africa more globally competitive. He wants to use technology to speed that up because he believes technology to be an equalizer that speeds everything up. Amadou states, "If we don't leverage the people in Africa, which are the resources that we have, we are not going to make it. Thinking of it from the natural resources side, people say Africa is a rich continent, but that is where we have been corrupted. We won't succeed as a continent until we use our resources, the brains of our young people, the youth."
Amadou considers himself a Pan-Africanist, not identifying strongly with one county. But he has origins in Senegal. Amadou grew up in three African countries when he was young. He then migrated to the US as a teenager, where he gained his intellectual and professional maturity. But he says his emotional maturity is still African. Amadou's father was an engineer and entrepreneur who initiated him into engineering by taking him on trips and inspiring him to become a problem solver.
"I don't complain," Amadou states, "you will never hear me complain. No matter how long I've been here, you never hear me complain about Ethiopia. It was built in me; when you're a problem solver, you naturally become an Entrepreneur."
From when he was at school, Amadou knew that he wanted to do something big in Africa. He saw the world look at Africans very differently. Then he thought to himself,
"What was wrong with us? I mean, I'm a smart kid, I'm smarter than some of these non-Africans I went to school with; what is going on here?"
Amadou continued, "One of the things I understood was, Africans, in general, didn't respect the concept of time. If you lose time, you can't get it back. So, I am like we need to move faster, the continent needs to move faster, we need to catch up, we are seriously behind. Compared to the US, we are five hundred years behind. So, how can we cheat time? I said, 'Okay, we need to figure out what would make us gain time, and the only thing I believe that can help us do that is to leverage the power of technology.'"
Amadou went to a College in the US called Drexel University in Philadelphia. And before he became a computer science major, Amadou initially took up electrical engineering as a major. "Electrical engineering is a process," Amadou says, "It is not as quick as being a programmer. As a programmer, you can solve a problem in 10 minutes, you code something, and it happens almost instantly. With electrical engineering or electronics, it may take you days to weeks. So I took one programming class, it allowed me to realize quickly that this was the way. If we are going to compete, we have to get into computer science. Let the Chinese build the PCs and the chips. In Africa, if we want to build our own computers, we can't. We can't build them from scratch because if we make a chip, Intel and ARM will sue us for intellectual property infringement. Because they already have so many patents around chips. But with coding, there is more flexibility. You can build software and applications that we can own without someone claiming them. Then I said, 'You know what? Let me focus on information technology.'"
Amadou's first formal job was at GE, General Electric. While he was there, he saw that most of the foreigners working there were Asians. Then Amadou asked himself, "Wait a minute, what did the Asians have so important that I don't see any Africans in here? What is going on?" The US tech market looked at India as cheap labor for IT outsourcing. Today it is not an accident that both the CEOs of Google and Microsoft are Indians.
Amadou decided to go back to Africa. He wanted to figure out how he could empower the youth with computer science; this is how Coders4Africa was born. The objective of Coders4Africa was to build one of the largest networks of software developers in Africa. Amadou said, "I decided to rediscover the continent of Africa, which I thought I knew from the few countries I visited or lived in. He took one year just traveling the continent. He went to countries like Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, and Nigeria. While in Kenya, an Ethiopian friend of his asked him, "Why don't you swing by to Ethiopia?" Amadou was very well aware of ancient Ethiopian history. About Ethiopia, he says, "I saw it as this kingdom where Africans came from, the cradle of humanity. I never thought of it being a nation associated with technology because of how Ethiopia was always portrayed as a famine war thriving country. So I decided to visit Ethiopia in 2014, and I did it through the Coders4Africa conference. Around 500 young people in tech attended the 2-day event. I started re-learning about Ethiopia and its population. Just the size was daunting to me, over one hundred million people. Then I was like, 'who's going to take care of all these young people, who will pioneer a mindset we need for the continent.' Because if Ethiopia can't get it right, then Africa certainly won't get it right. So, I promised the people in the audience that I would come back and build a company."
"I thought Ethiopia could be the IT hub of Africa as India was and still is for the USA," Amadou continued. "We had a couple of things that were working. First, Ethiopia has the best and largest Airlines company in Africa; this means we can move around easily from country to country if we were to expand. Moreover, Addis Ababa is the political capital of Africa, with the African Union having its HQ there. The other benefit is the proximity of Ethiopia with Asia, in which countries such as China have heavily participated in the fast-growing Ethiopian economy. So I thought, what if we could create a company in Ethiopia first and expand to other countries in a Pan African fashion."
The story is not over, continue reading part 2 of the interview.