While many celebrated all things Irish Tuesday, about 50 people gathered on Carleton University’s campus as its Technology Innovation Management master’s program showcased African-born students and the businesses they have started.
Seventeen businesses made presentations covering a wide range of areas from a product that transforms human vibrations into energy and technology that scans eyes for medical illnesses to two separate apps that make access to pharmaceuticals and groceries easier for people in remote areas.
“These talented men and women are shaping the future of the relationships between African countries and Canada by creating and growing new companies, transferring knowledge and technology to help African companies compete, and carrying out research in new domains,” the program’s director, Tony Bailetti, said in a statement.
Maged Makramalla, who is finishing his last term, was one of the presenters. He talked about his company Game it!, which uses games to solve real-world problems.
“Instead of explaining something educational, I’ll let you play a game and you will understand it,” the Egyptian-born student told OBJ before presenting. He said he thinks there’s a big opportunity for his company in the cyber-security field.
“Their employees are not quite able to detect these kind of attacks. They’re currently training and retraining and it’s not sufficient enough,” he said, adding he is so confident Game it! can offer a solution, he is not really considering his options if it doesn’t. Either way, he said he plans on staying in Ottawa for at least two years.
Mr. Makramalla said he learned a lot during his stay in the program. For example, running a technology business is not just about innovation; creating value for the customer is also crucial.
He said all the resources at his disposal were a huge help as well.
“I came here just a student, and now I’m graduating with a business,” he said.
Esther Anegbe, who started in the program a few months ago, is now working on Tech Wits, a company she hopes can provide information and communication technology services to startups, incubators and accelerators.
Ms. Anegbe worked for two years in Nigeria as a technology analyst for an investment management firm after she graduated with a computer engineering degree. She said that experience helped spark her interest in startups, and when she decided to further her education, Carleton was the only university in Canada that offered what she wanted.
“It’s an opportunity for me to take advantage of all the learning experiences that the TIM program has to offer and to just get exposure to a different society, especially one that is advanced, that encourages a lot of startup innovation,” she said.
Ms. Anegbe said Tech Wits is meant to help startups “take advantage of cloud solutions that can drive their business operations.”
Calling Ottawa “a conducive environment for startups,” Ms. Anegbe said she will try to grow her business here and in Nigeria.
Justice Akligo took his father’s advice and came to Canada to pursue his master’s degree after a small startup he co-founded in Ghana didn’t get off the ground.
He presented CardsAfric, a business venture that turns student ID cards into payment cards for goods and services on campuses.
Mr. Akligo said in Ghana and many countries across Africa, student cards are really only used to provide identification before writing exams. He said with many African countries working to promote a cashless society, the timing is right for his venture.
He has already presented his idea to Mr. Bailetti, who he said is helping him model it further.
“I’m still working on it, but I already have my company, I already have partners in Ghana who will help me to get customers,” he said.
Echoing Mr. Makramalla and Ms. Anegbe, Mr. Akligo said he wants to build the business in Ottawa once his time in the TIM program ends in April.
“Ottawa is a very good place, a lot of diversity,” he said.