Sponsoring African Growth in Technology and Entrepreneurship: The African Network
Sade Sobande, 27, and her colleagues were in search of a place to develop as African entrepreneurs when they realized that place didn’t exist. Instead of giving up they took action and created The African Network, an organization whose purpose is to foster the growth of entrepreneurship and technology in Africa and the African diaspora. Their organization has managed to both develop individual entrepreneurs here in the Silicon Valley as well as to develop the future of Africa. Not only have they held a successful conference, in which they discussed the future of science and technology in Africa, they have also held networking events that enable members to interact and learn from speakers from the worlds of technology, business, government, and academia. One of their largest accomplishments has been the development of The TAN Empowerment Program, which in 2006 donated computers to needy schools in Sierra Leone. For more information on The African Network and how you can get involved, read on in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.
The African Network (TAN)
TANCon 2007 Chair
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Masters in Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Bachelors in Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Cisco Systems Inc, Manufacturing Engineer, 2006-Present
Kimberly Clark Corporation, Process Engineer, 2005-2006
About the non-profit
The African Network (TAN), is a not-for-profit organization founded in Silicon Valley with the sole mandate of fostering the growth of entrepreneurship and technology in Africa and amongst her children in the diaspora worldwide through networking, education and mentoring.
Part of TAN’s mission is to showcase Africa to the world as the next viable economic center and one of the fastest growing emerging markets beyond China and India, with the intention of generating interests and investments in science and technology.
At TAN, we believe that the best way to tackle poverty is not to give aid, but to empower people to stand on their own feet.
Vision – To leverage all available resources for the technological and entrepreneurial advancement of Africa, Africans and and people of African descent.
Mission – To present Africa to the world as one of the fastest growing economic centers and thus attract investments in science, technology and enterprise. To foster unprecedented positive cooperation amongst members thus creating value to all.
- Mutual respect
- No racial, tribal, ethnic, sexual or religious bias
TAN has three major programs which help achieve its mission and vision.
1. TAN Conference (TANCon): This is an annual conference held in Silicon Valley showcasing Africa’s technological and entrepreneurial potential to the venture capital ecosystem and the world at large. The premier conference, held at the Four Season’s Hotel, Palo Alto, attracted over 100 attendees, including students, business leaders, people from the academia, African entrepreneurs within the United States and from Africa. The video recording for the duration of the conference is now posted on our website at here. Our goal is to make TANCon 2007 a better conference than 2006.
2. TAN Empowerment Program (TEP): This encourages and coordinates the giving back of educational and empowerment resources to needy progressive communities in Africa. The purpose of this program is to stimulate Africa’s future science and technology talent pool. Last year, the premier TEP program was conducted in Sierra Leone. A TAN member, whose business is primarily based in Sierra Leone organized computer software training for local residents. In addition, personal computers were donated to some schools in Sierra Leone that needed them for their students. For this year and subsequent years, in addition to helping to stimulate Africa’s future in science and technology, we will also do the same within needy African – American communities in the United States.
3. TAN Monthly Networking Events (MNE): The MNEs are an opportunity for TAN members to interact and listen to accomplished speakers from the world of technology, business, government and academia.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As the TANCon 2007 chair my main goal is to ensure the success of the conference. On an ongoing basis, I work with all functional committees which are marketing/ticket sales, finance/fundraising, venue/catering and speakers.
Most notable milestones
TANCon – TAN had its first conference last year, TANCon 2006. The conference was a success with about 100 attendees. The video of TANCon 2006 can be found here.
TEP – Last year, the premier TEP program was conducted in Sierra Leone. A TAN member, whose business is primarily based in Sierra Leone organized computer software training for local residents. In addition, personal computers were donated to some schools in Sierra Leone that needed them for their students.
What’s the niche?
TAN is the sole organization that focuses on fostering entrepreneurship among Africans in the diaspora.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge TAN face is making contacts with other entrepreneurs. We need to be able to build the network faster and to do that, we need to build a strong base of entrepreneurs. With a good base of entrepreneurs in the organization, we would have more people in leadership roles.
What’s in store for the future?
TANCon – TAN is having its second annual conference, TANCon 2007, which will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto on Saturday October 13. The theme for TANCon 2007 is “Roadmap to Entrepreneurship”, to provide future and current entrepreneurs the tools needed to establish and develop successful companies. Distinguished speakers will deliver and answer questions on various entrepreneurship topics. Please visit www.tanconf.org to learn more about the conference and register.
TEP – Obtain 501c3 status for the organization. For this year and subsequent years, in addition to helping to stimulate Africans future in science and technology, the plan is to do same within needy African – American communities in the United States.
MNE – We will continue to provide networking opportunities to our members and future members. TAN will also be having its first annual TAN dinner. The dinner is an opportunity to present the organization and its potentials to corporate and organization leaders in the area.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
As a non-profit organization, we do not actually compete against other organizations however, we do have guiding principles to guide our actions and expansion process such that the mission and vision of the organization is preserved as we expand.
Yardstick of success
I will be happy when TAN has expand beyond just Silicon Valley, and we have implemented sustainable education programs in various African countries and here in the US.
Goal yet to be achieved
TANCon – Host a successful TANCon 2007.
TEP – obtain 501C3 certification.
Partner with other African charities to expand on the programs started with Sierra visions last year to educate Africans in the area of technology
MNE – plan and execute the first annual TAN dinner
Move beyond Silicon Valley and develop chapters in major cities such as Atlanta, New York, Houston, Chicago, London and other cities worldwide.
Develop sustainable educational programs in various African cities.
Best practical advice
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
Focus on your goals and remain true to yourself.
What motivated you to get started?
As individual Africans, set of us searched for organizations we can join to develop as entrepreneurs but couldn’t find any focus on us. We thought it would be useful to create an organization that will provide a support structure not only for each other but for future entrepreneurs as well. We want to build a foundation such that in 5-10 years others can come in and not have to struggle in getting their business off the ground.
Like best about what you do?
I enjoy knowing that I am part of an organization that will make a significant impact in Africa. Thou we’re still ways from achieving that goal, we have no doubt it will happen.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an engineer solely because I thought my uncle was one. As I grew older, I realized that my uncle was actually not an engineer but I somehow I maintained my fix on engineering and ended up becoming one.
What was your first job?
I had my very first job when I was in high school as a cashier at Taco Bell. Taco Bell was the only fast food place I would eat at in high school and it was pretty much all students from my high school that worked there. I actually truly enjoyed working there. I got to learn a lot about dealing with customers at an early age.
Biggest pastime outside of work
I love working out; various forms of workout. I enjoy dancing, watching great movies, enjoying the company of my family and friends, and many more. I am a very open-minded person and enjoy living life to the fullest.
Person most interested in meeting
Nelson Mandela – For everything he is and everything he represents.
Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?
Oprah Winfrey – learn how TAN can partner with her mission in South Africa in order to leverage it across other African countries.
Three interesting facts about yourself
1.I speak 3.5 languages
2. I have lived in 3 continents
3. I have a catering business with 2 partners
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
1. Religion (Christianity)
3. Working out
Securing the economic growth of Africa.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Every organization and person that support our goals and anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur.
Introduction by Sabine Alam
Edited by Valerie Enriquez