Kigali went live last week as it hosted the sixth edition of CMS Africa summit. CMS Africa is an organisation that champions the use of technology (open source) to change the way we develop economies. The Summit brings together both global and Africa based speakers and delegates. It is a premier event that host tech business owners, tech innovators, and experts in the area of web & mobile design, e-commerce solutions, online business, and online exchange. In terms of delegate attendance, the summit attracts web & mobile designers, bloggers, e-commerce & online stores builders.
The last event was held in Abuja, Nigeria, which is west of Africa, where the decision to take this event to East Africa was agreed. Kigali, being an upcoming tech hub was chosen to host the event in 2018. Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda, the city is built in hilly country, sprawling across about four ridges and the valleys in between. The city centre is on one of these ridges, with the main government area on another. The summit was held at the Marriott Hotel located on KN 3 avenue, three blocks from where the president lives.
Being part of the organisation of this summit, I must say we always marry the high and the low when organising this event. We started on a good note on this one, we had sponsors coming in really early and this gave us hope for a successful event. On the other hand we overlooked the fact that Kigali is an expensive city, more expensive than other previous cities. Kigali City is generally regarded as having the highest cost of living, an argument vindicated by food and electricity charges, so the few weeks before the event we were faced with a heavy deficit, most of it at the hotel where the event was being held. Just when we were about to give up, a couple of sponsors jumped in the deep end with us and we were airborne.
Having the blessing of the Rwanda Development Board attracted local and international speakers from content management systems organisations. WordPress were sponsoring the event for the sixth year, four years as title sponsors. Joomla came in big for the second year with gold sponsorship, together with Smart Africa, Rwanda Convention Bureau, and Joomshaper. Akeeba, WooCommerce and Techjoomla sponsored our two day meals, while SnowDog and Compound 55 were media sponsors. SnowDog sponsored our cmsafricaApp for the fifth year. Our supporting partners were I&M Bank-Kigali, TYPO3, Webstar – Uganda and Ricta. We were also partnered with government agencies Rwanda Convention Bureau, Rwanda ICT Chamber, and Tech Hubs in Kigali.
The event kicked off on Thursday, with a pre-event at the KLab, with Joomla, WordPress, TYPO3 and KQ all getting time to speak to members and answer their questions. This was an interactive three hour session with Joomla being represented by Abdulkadir Shehu, Fred Abu and myself. We later went downtown for lunch to experience the local food. The event itself was opened on the 16th March by Arnold Kwizera, the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Kigali Communications Associates, a PR Firm based in Kigali, Rwanda. Arnold has a keen interest in the role and impact of media in today’s society. He was followed by a keynote by Alex Ntare, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda ICT Chamber. Alex's work involves bridging the gap between private and public sector players in the ICT industry as well as overseeing and establishing new innovation centres for technology startups, among them KLAB, Fablab Rwanda and a new Applied Research Labs.
The big content management systems Joomla! and WordPress sent four speakers each, with Joomla! taking it higher with two French speakers. Rwanda has been a French speaking country until recently when the east African community became active again, and they need to align themselves with the common languages of the region, English and Swahili.
A good number of Rwandese still speak French, including Kevin, our driver, whose service we really enjoyed. We stayed 11km from the city in a place called Ribero, which is translated as "The Summit" in English. Yes, it was on the top of the hill, and this is where all the team from Joomla was housed. The view was to-die-for and there was good energy in the house with Kenya, Uganda, UK, France and Belgium living together in harmony. The chef did his best on the meals and on some days we had wine and beer on the table.
The presentations were amazing on all levels. Job Thomas, in his presentation “Mu Kinyarwanda” started with practicing a few words he had learnt in Kinyarwanda which excited the audience. Then he went ahead to take them through how translations for WordPress core, themes and plugins work as a community project and how you can get involved.
The other key presentation was by Daniel Homorodean is CEO of Arxia, a web development agency from Romania which works with TYPO3. Introducing TYPO3 as an enterprise CMS and the community around it, he gave an overview on how best to take advantage of the community while using TYPO3 and your CMS of choice. Daniel has been organising the “TYPO3 East Europe” International Conference each year since 2013. As a member of the international TYPO3 Association, Daniel is involved in the effort of expanding the TYPO3 community internationally.
On day two, Kuba Zwolinski from Snowdog in his third appearance to the Summit talked about eCommerce in Africa. He presents Africa as a continent really ripe for eCommerce, using Magento enterprise as the tool. He guided the audience on Magento, with a global ecosystem of 150,000 developers and a network of 300+ highly-trained solution partners, Magento boosts your online sales while maximising gross margins.
That afternoon we had two Joomla! keynotes, the first by Rowan Hoskyns-Abrahall of Joomla! – going deep on Joomla! as a CMS of choice and the community that is behind and supports Joomla!. She encouraged all the CMSs present on the need to work together in protecting CMS ecosystems. She also emphasised the need to have more volunteers to the Joomla! project.
Her keynote was later followed by Abdulkadir Shehu, who is really involved in evangelising Joomla! to his local community in Kaduna Nigeria. His emphasis was that as the rate of unemployment has continued to skyrocket, youth and young entrepreneurs need to get themselves empowered with necessary skills to help them become self reliant. Joomla skills, for example, will be a game changer for many youths in Africa as it will open the doors to opportunities, especially in the online environment.
The other speakers were Daniel Dubois from France, Marc Dechevre from Belgium, Joel Mbugua from Kenya, Joseph Wabwire from Uganda, Luminus Alabi from Nigeria Sarah Semack from USA among others. Joomla also had the first certification exam where two people were certified. We would like to congratulate those who were certified, and commend those who did not manage this time around for their courage and dedication to Joomla! As the event came to a close, we assembled for a cocktail party which came with music, dancing and Fred who was at the counter…… keeping the beers rolling.
The event was successful, we took a big leap this year and we are grateful for the support we have received from sponsors, partners and participants. We thank the speakers who volunteered to submit their topics and cover their cost of travel to be at this event. We thank the major CMS sponsors for taking part in this conference, Joomla! WordPress, Magento and TYPO3, thank you for believing and supporting this event.