Good things come to those who wait! I have had a Bits&Pretzels
ticket since mid-2021, and after the conference was again postponed in January 2022 because of the massive Omicron wave in Germany, I was flushed with excitement, thrill and a bit of anxiety (will it really happen this time?!) when September 2022 approached at long last. Our Make-IT in Africa & Friends delegation was prepped and ready, and it looked like Bits and Pretzels 2022 was FINALLY going to take place. After two and a half years of the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions on travel and meeting people face to face, we were all longing – desperately – for human contact, getting out of our bubble, getting inspiration from random conversations and unfamiliar ideas from new contacts. And #bits22 did not disappoint!
Take a look at our #bits22 highlights!
Munich, here we come!
Together with Make-IT in Africa’s regional teams in Eastern, Western and Southern Africa, we put together an awesome team and an inspiring program for the Make-IT in Africa and Friends delegation to attend the Bits & Pretzels 2022, followed by a greentech-themed Munich innovation ecosystem tour. One after another, seven selected African startups and African entrepreneurship support organizations arrived in Munich for our first joint beer on the eve of the Bits and Pretzels 2022: George Apiah from Ghana representing his logistics startup Solartaxi, Anthony Ndolo from Kenya, founder of Smatbeba, offering online cargo transportation services for East-Africa, Katlego Mokgheti from Botswana representing the entrepreneurship support organization MarketPlayers, Charles Shyaka from Rwanda, founder of 250 Startups, Christ Lokonda from Impact Hub Abidjan, Adrien Schwarz representing the Senegalese state delegation promoting entrepreneurship, and Isaack Shayo from the Westerwelle Startup House Arusha, Tanzania.
It takes a Vision
None other than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself kicked off the 2022 Bits and Pretzels with an in all respects motivating speech. His reminder that in all that we do, but especially as founders, it takes a vision to succeed resounded with all members of our delegation. I took a moment to reflect on Make-IT in Africa’s project vision: African innovation ecosystems are fit for the future and create a resilient environment for digital visionaries. With this in mind, our team soaked up the various inputs during three exciting days of a packed conference agenda including investor speed dating, one-on-one meetings with entrepreneurs and innovators from all the world, inspiring speakers on stage, startups pitches and much more.
Ahoi, Table Captain!
The Bits & Pretzels 2022 concluded with an exceptional networking event at the famous Munich Oktoberfest. In the Schottenhamel tent on the “Wies’n”, more than 300 table captains (handpicked experts from the startup ecosystem – like an investor, founder, CEO or other decision-makers) hosted intimate conversations with a maximum of eight participants. Our delegation members enjoyed the unique Oktoberfest vibe paired with direct access to some of Europe’s top entrepreneurial talent. Some of the delegates described the Oktoberfest table captain networking as their highlight of the conference: contacts were exchanged, LinkedIn profiles shared and connections made laying the foundation of future African-European collaboration.
The Future of the Innovation Ecosystem is Green
At Make-IT in Africa, we believe that the future of the African innovation ecosystem is green: the importance of green tech to secure our planet’s future cannot be overstated. Climate change, the energy crisis, diminishing resources – innovation is a major puzzle piece to tackle these huge social challenges. In this vain, our delegates followed up the Bits & Pretzels with a green tech themed Munich innovation ecosystem tour: Matterwave Ventures offered insights into venture capital investment, the Bayerischer Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft, Landesentwicklung und Energie (Ministry of economic affairs, energy and technology) shed light on the Gründerland Bayern initiative, and co-working spaces WERK1, München Technologiezentrum (MTZ) and Impact Hub München inspired how to build and grow a vibrant startup community. At the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator the delegation learned about how digital innovation aids to reach Zero Hunger and UnternehmerTUM showcased successful university and research collaborations for developing innovation. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all partners of the Munich green tech ecosystem tour.
About the author: Anna Vambe is a member of our Make-IT in Africa team, based in Germany.
Images: © GIZ/Armin Smailovic