Africa’s young population and desire to learn more about technology makes it an attractive market for tech. However, war, corruption, poor infrastructure and lack of educational opportunities can make harvesting the full potential of the African people and market difficult. Ghananian Raindolf Owusu is seeking to empower Africans with the knowledge of tech. Owusu, who has drawn comparisons to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is receiving international attention for his efforts.
Owusu grew up as one of five siblings. His parents did not get an education, but they pushed for their children to get one. At 11, Owusu received his first computer from his father, and his mother enrolled him in programming lessons, where he got hooked on programming. He plans to pass it on to the next generation.
“I’m planning on starting a coding institute where I get to teach people how to write software,” Owusu told NPR. “At the same time, I want to bring them into my company to work on some of our client’s projects.” Owusu used his youth—which is highly valued in the tech world—to his advantage: he started a software development company, Oasis Websoft, at 21; a year later, he rolled out the first African-made web browser, Anansi (which means spider in the Ghananian Twi language, and is also an African folk tale character).
While there are a multitude of web browsers available, Anansi stands out from its competition by appealing to an African audience: it comes with a webcam and games. It also comes with many other features that can still be used even when the user is offline. Owusu used the name because Anansi can adjust to spotty Internet infrastructure. “When you’re growing up in Ghana, elders tell you a lot of stories about Anansi: How smart it is. How it outsmarts the tiger and everything else. So I felt it right to use Anansi in a good context,” he said.
Like many Africans, Owusu is committed to giving back to the community. A major focus of his is healthcare, which is still a major concern on the continent. Owusu launched the Dr. Diabetes app to provide information to users about diabetes and whether they are at risk for developing it. Another app, Bisa (Twi for “ask”) gives medical advice on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). “I’m looking at the younger generation because I know sexually transmitted diseases are very huge, but people are stigmatized,” he said. Bisa allows people to anonymously submit symptoms to health specialists.
Owusu faces big challenges such as getting investors and government support for his endeavors. “In Africa, when you’re young and you’re doing business, it’s really difficult for people to take you seriously,” he says. “They would rather ‘ride’ (invest based) on experience than ride on competence because the older people know better. It’s very difficult changing the minds of some of the old guys to understand that technology is here to stay, and they should utilize some of the things we do.”
Owusu also said his mother is the motivation for him to keep going in his mission. “She sacrificed a lot for us, and that’s something that keeps driving me. I want to buy her a house, I want her to sit in my jet. These are some of the things when I’m like so tired from the work I do, I’m like, ‘No I have to do this for my mom before I can actually sleep.’”
Owusu said that he wants to be himself and establish his own identity. “People in Africa will more easily relate to Raindolf Owusu than Mark Zuckerberg,” he said. “I want people to be able to relate to Raindolf as a person. I’m not coming from a rich background.”