The time has finally come for us to expand our ActivSpaces team! After searching the world far and wide, the African Center for Technology, Innovation & Ventures (ActivSpaces) core team is very pleased to introduce our newest addition. Hussein Shariff has moved from the frozen mass of land that they call Canada to beautiful Buea, Cameroon. As of February of this year, he has been working to establish work plans for each venture of ActivSpaces, monitor milestones and assist in their successful execution, and engage possible partners, donors and assist in overall program support.
In order to introduce Hussein to the ActivSpaces community, we have asked him a few questions:
How did you first come in contact with ActivSpaces, and what made you decide to get involved?
I had initially come to Cameroon to visit my brother in Yaoundé, and to escape the brutal Canadian winter. While I was here, I was interested to see if there were any technology related communities involved in building interesting applications that solved local problems here in Central Africa.
As most people do, I referred to my good friend Google. I typed in “technology organizations Cameroon”, and from there I found the ActivSpaces website. It was exactly what I was looking for. An open collaborative space that gathered the best and brightest technologists from around Cameroon and helped them to establish and build their businesses from concept to launch. I knew that I had to get involved. I contacted the Community Manager, Al Banda, and met with him the following week in Douala. It was scheduled to be a one-hour meeting that turned into a three hour-long discussion. I could not contain how much potential I felt that the ventures currently being incubated had and the excitement of what ActivSpaces could become in the future.
From that point until now it has been a great experience getting to know the team and meeting everyone involved in the space. It is truly a great accomplishment to see what the ActivSpaces community has achieved so far and I feel very fortunate and humbled to be chosen to be apart of this organization. I hope that I can help to share whatever knowledge I have gained over the years and to learn from the community to be able to contribute to it in a positive manner.
What is your background/field of expertise/interests, and how does it relate to the ActivSpaces community?
Marketing and entrepreneurship are my primary interests. I have always had an interest in mass communication in any form. I enjoy communicating with people, the creative process of developing marketing materials, and broadcasting that message over any medium. In school I had completed a Bachelor’s of Commerce and Finance at the University of Toronto, covering all of the basic business courses such as accounting, finance, economics, etc. But I always found myself obsessing over the marketing courses.
Also, growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, I had an inclination towards the international development field, but I often found myself disillusioned with the large amount of wastage that I saw within many of the organizations that I came into contact with. I saw that entrepreneurship was a key factor in the sustainable development of a nation. The pride of ownership that it brings and the efficiency that comes with a constant obsession with eliminating wastage was something that I felt made investing in businesses of all sizes a key factor in the successful development of a country.
After graduating, I spent several years working in the telecommunications field in Central Asia. Working in the marketing departments of the largest telecommunications operators in Tajikistan and Afghanistan gave me a front row seat to the way that the introduction of a new technology can fundamentally change the economic well-being of a country. I witnessed thousands of individuals that could now make a living selling SIM cards and top-up cards on the corners of the streets, and I saw the liberating effect and real economic impact that communication can bring to land-locked mountainous countries like Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Particularly in a country like Afghanistan, to see a country go from 10,000 fixed phone lines in the year 2000 to over 10 million wireless subscribers by 2012 was truly fascinating and I felt very fortunate to be involved in the development of that industry.
I later returned to Canada and found that there was an opportunity in the ever-evolving search engine optimization and online marketing field. I founded a company that specialized in assisting clients to garner more traffic to their website by ensuring that their websites could be found on major search engines for key phrases relating to their industries, as well as developing various types of online marketing campaigns.
After helping clients across North America to increase their sales through their websites, I felt that there must be other ways to apply my experience in a more meaningful manner where it was truly needed. That is where I believe that ActivSpaces and my interests and passions align in a beautiful manner.
ActivSpaces is promoting entrepreneurship as a tool for the development of the individuals involved and the country as a whole, while incorporating technology to help facilitate that change. This is exactly how I believe that countries can develop rapidly, by using technology to ‘leap-frog’ antiquated ways of doing things in favor of more efficient means of achieving the same goals. I have seen this in action in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and with the help of ActivSpaces, I expect to see the same effect here in Cameroon.
Can you give one ‘fun-fact’ about yourself?
I can juggle 30 balls at the same time while riding a unicycle down Mount Cameroon. Don’t believe me? Come to Buea and visit us to find out!