AfroPot, the story of a Girl Child in Technology

AfroPot CEO, Miss Emem Brownson poses with Otobong Okoko and Hanson Johnson of Start Innovation Hub during a tech event in Lagos.

Walking into the premises of the Ibom e-library, I had a feeling of mixed emotions. One, the large edifice to me is underused while on the other hand, a couple of young people writing codes at the base of the library was enough encouragement.   “Hello, good afternoon.” I greeted, waving at the security personnel with less concern. “Welcome Sir,” they chorused. Passing through normal checks, I entered the wheel while turning to position myself on the other side of the hall, “hello” I gave the final greetings to the girl at the counter not minding her answer.

The large long hall of the Start Innovation Hub spread before me like a soul being welcomed to eternity. Throwing one or two greetings to the guys around I walked straight to a corner. Looking up, my attention caught a key player in the hub while we were at Uruan Street, in Uyo. I remember when Gino and the other guy came from Port Harcourt  to brush us up in Java, she was there. Maybe she had collected also, the google toolbox that came in a pack of CDs. But today she was no longer the young naughty girl who was asking so many questions about bit, byte, char, arrays, etc. She was a founder of a startup!

Taking a seat opposite her, I tried to search her mind for the position of her startup, AfroPot. “Mmodo.” Meaning “It is there,” she answered thoughtfully. “OK it is still running on the play store,” I queried while confirming her answer simultaneously. At this point, she leaned backwards on her seat and pulled down her glasses to clear some dusts in her eyes before she continued.

“Launching the app, I had tried to create awareness to best of my ability.” She started, as the moment became solemn.  “What did I not do?” She queried. “I had to go into the Secretariat to intimate people on a one on one contact so they could download the app, the number of downloads were encouraging but the real users are few” she explained. While she narrated her plight, I took my mind back to some startups I have attempted in the past and how difficult it was to scale through even when they had political undertone – a selling point in the state.

More worrisome and heart breaking was when she narrated how bloggers asked her to be paying for a publicity stunt even when some of those bloggers cannot meet the standards of a proper digital marketing strategy.  Was the uploading of a story that could help the Akwa Ibom ecosystem find solutions to the nagging launch time problem what a blogger should ask a startup founder to pay for, before getting her story published on their blogs with less than 1,000 visitors a week?

I recalled the SA to governor Udom Emmanuel on New Media showing some interests in the Akwa Ibom tech ecosystem then, was it that she could not talk to the litany of bloggers on her payroll to help a young girl get a footing with her startup? I pondered on so many questions on the status of a girl child while trying to understand the role of the ministry of women affairs in finding young talents in our girls and showcasing them.  Afterall, the government has the media in Akwa Ibom State.

As I got up to take my seat, I became more worried on the work that lie before me.  “The government should not be seen as the solution to our problems.” I thought.  Recently, a team player in our ecosystem had affirmed that “the government does not care about us.” I was only worried that while the ministry of women affairs scramble for presentable projects among our ‘politically oriented’ women, there was AfroPot that would hit the world with the best of Akwa Ibom dishes from hundreds of Akwa Ibom kitchens around the globe. Running a mental review of the brief interaction with the AfroPot CEO, I decided it was time to talk to the people concerned and see what we can do to help startups in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. To be continued.



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