Africa is a lot and one of them is a continent ripe for start-up entrepreneurship.
As traditional companies give way to innovative companies based on technology, creativity and the changing needs of an increasingly tech-savvy society, the Omeho project aims to spotlight a selection of young entrepreneurs who are making waves in Namibia, South Africa and Zambia .
The initiative, which consists of a collection of professional portrait and documentary photographs reflecting the everyday life of entrepreneurs, is intended to be a tool to highlight young start-ups in their own countries while diversifying the image of Africa in the west.
The Omeho project was founded by start-up coach and consultant Auri Evokari and derives its name from the Otjiherero word for “eyes”, which suits its purpose.
“People in Namibia, Zambia and South Africa are invited to open their eyes to the up-and-coming generation of tech start-up founders in southern Africa and the increasing trend towards technological solutions,” says Evokari. “People in the West are being asked to open their eyes to the other side of the coin, Africa, which they seldom see or hear.”
When she grew up in Finland, she was exposed to a limited view of Africa and created the project as a counterpoint to the prevailing images of wildlife, natural disasters, disease, civil war, poverty and work in the informal sector that mainly reaches the west.
To that end, following a competitive application process, the Omeho Project hired the talents of photographer Willem Vrey to create a collection of contemporary images to highlight the faces, community impact and potential of emerging local startups.
“For me, an important aspect of this is showing young people locally that this is an option and creating new role models that young people strive for,” says Vrey.
“I think most teenagers in Namibia have never been confronted with the idea of using technology to destroy entrenched industries. So they may not work towards it until later in life after the career their parents and school counselor chose for them at 18 didn’t work out, ”he says.
“There’s a lot of potential in these areas and Namibia is still on the ground floor, which makes it relatively easy to make mistakes and figure things out without having to compete with large existing companies that feel we should encourage.”
The Omeho project aims to present Windhoek-based start-up founders, innovators, creative and technology entrepreneurs as well as start-up ecosystem movers and shakers and invites interested candidates to apply online for a potential segment.
“The people presented are under 40 years of age, willing to take risks and brave. They all advance Namibia in their own way and bring hope and inspiration to their communities. They create jobs that are urgently needed, ”says Evokari, who wants to present the photographs via social and traditional media, a photo bank for non-commercial use and an illustrated book.
Given the impact the project could have locally and in the West, Evokari is optimistic.
“Maintaining a negative narrative about Africa in the West fuels racist attitudes, fuels nationalist politics, and deepens the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Sharing stories from hard-working, well-educated and disruptive-minded youth in urban Africa can build empathy in Western audiences. People are invited to see what we have in common instead of highlighting our differences, ”says Evokari.
“Many founders struggle to feel alone on their journey. In the early stages of entrepreneurship, they are rarely in the limelight outside of local pitch competitions, ”she says.
“The fact that our team goes where they work, hears their story and records it at work is confirmation – they are great members of society and they are important.”
For more information, follow @omehoproject on social media and apply online at aurievokari.com/omehoproject.
– [email protected]; Martha Mukaiwa on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; marthamukaiwa.com