Toby Shapshak writes and speaks about how innovation is better in Africa.
His TED Global talk on how Africa is solving real problems has had over 1,4-million views and he has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken at numerous conferences about innovation in Africa, including TED Global in Edinburgh (2013) – which has nearly as many views as Richard Branson and Al Gore. Toby has spoken four times at the South by South West (SxSW) conference in Austin, Texas, on South Africa’s tech landscape (2011); on how mobile is being used in Africa (2013): and how music is being consumed (2014); and how innovation is better in Africa (2017).
He has also spoken at Intel’s IDF conference in San Francisco, The Guardian’s Activate: Johannesburg on innovation out of necessity, Germany’s Zukunftskongress (Future Congress), Sweden’s The Conference, AfricaCom in Cape Town, TEDxGateway in Mumbai, Pivot East in Nairobi, and Tech4Africa in Joburg.
He believes Africa is a mobile-driven continent, about which he has written for CNN, The Guardian in London and for Forbes. He is writing a book on innovation in Africa, looking at how the problems Africa is solving for itself will benefit the rest of the world.
Toby was named in GQ’s top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper’s 300 influential young South Africans list; and has won the ICT Journalist of the Year. GQ said he “has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country” while the M&G wrote: “Toby Shapshak is all things tech… he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech.”
As a news and political journalist, he ran Mail & Guardian newspaper’s website when it was the first news site in Africa, shadowed Nelson Mandela when he was president, and covered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He has interviewed a range of tech industry luminaries, including Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Formerly a senior newspaper reporter covering everything from crime to politics, he has been writing about innovation, telecoms and the internet and the impact it has on our lives for more than 18 years, including the Sunday Times, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Financial Mail, The Times, City Press, ThisDay, and The Weekender.
His two most-requested talks are: “The future of work and why are we so change-averse” and “How innovation in Africa is better.” In the former, Shapshak discusses innovation, but also examines human nature’s change-averse resistance to new tech and new methods. He also demonstrates how simple familiarity and nostalgia can be a more powerful force than new. This talk also unpacks the tech game-changers and what is relevant about them.
In “How innovation in Africa is better”, Toby looks at Africa’s unique problems and the unique brand of innovation that’s has come out of the continent’s driving necessity. As he says, Africa is not just mobile-first, it is a mobile-only continent! And, while solving these problems for itself, African solutions will benefit the rest of the world. This talk explores what a business can learn from this innovative spirit in Africa, or, put another way, what Africa can teach us about innovation that business school can’t.