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SA

Taking Africa into the future with Singularity

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TALI FEINBERG

“But if we embrace it, we can ‘leapfrog’ the rest of the world as we don’t have the old industrial legacy to overcome,” says Mic Mann. “We also have many challenges that could be solved with technology. It is Africa’s time to be a leader.”

The Mann brothers saw the potential of SU, a global learning and innovation community that uses exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges.

With this, they can build an abundant future for all, according to its website. They also recognised the need on the African continent and so they brought the event to South Africa.

They made the conference focus to “future-proof Africa”. Robots, drones, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and nano-tech security, were just some of the topics discussed at the Singularity University South Africa summit in Johannesburg on August 23. SU’s collaborative platform is said to empower individuals and organisations across the globe to learn, connect, and innovate breakthrough solutions. SU was founded in 2008 by renowned innovators Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis and is partnered with leading organisations like Google, Deloitte, Genentech, and UNICEF.

The brothers, especially Mic, have been deeply involved in SU since 2010. After visiting Silicon Valley and training with the company, they bought the licence to host it in South Africa,

“With only four months to plan it, everyone said we could never pull it off. But we ignored them, and with the support of our incredible headline sponsor Standard Bank, global partner Deloitte, and strategic partners MTN and SAP, we made it happen,” explains Shayne.

“The 1 300 tickets, at R15 000 each, were sold out, and we have only received positive feedback – with many people saying it changed their lives.”

Jared Ungar, who is involved in start-ups Crypto Currency and Green IQ technology, says the summit was way above par. “Speakers from Silicon Valley shared up-to-the-minute technology that can’t even be found online, and they looked directly at South African issues, demonstrating how there is an opportunity in every problem South Africa faces, from education to transport,” he explains.

“For example, an untouched area where there is money to be made, is in solar energy, especially because Africa is the continent with the most sunshine.”

Rob Nail, associate founder and CEO of SU, agrees that “South Africa represents a microcosm of the challenges facing humanity worldwide and is fast gaining a solid reputation as a global centre.

“Through this summit, we hope to connect and inspire leaders in the region to effect global impact,” he says.

While the ticket prices are steep, the Manns explain that they are actually half the price of SU summits overseas.

“People travel worldwide to attend these conferences, and we took out airfare, bringing the best international speakers to South Africa.”

Examples include MC of the event Jason Silva, who has over a million followers on Facebook, and 500 000 subscribers on YouTube, and who hosts a show on National Geographic; Dr Adriana Marais, who spoke about space mining and going to space; and Sarah Bergbreiter, who discussed robotics.

 The summit also showcased African entrepreneurs and innovations in interactive exhibitor halls, served three hearty meals a day and had entertainment like drone races and silent discos.

Jonti Brozin, who participated in the event, points out that the summit was an investment, where one is surrounded by world experts and also a top-quality audience. He adds that local speakers were equally excellent.

“It’s so important that events like these happen in Johannesburg, which is poised to become a technology hub,” he says. “Now we just need to own the space.”

Hilton Wolman, who owns an online travel company, plans to send all his staff to next year’s summit. “It was very progressive, very different. Every person walked out with something useful.”

He hopes that the organisers will maintain the excitement and innovation in the year ahead, hosting “incubator” discussions to implement some of the ideas discussed.

Mic says that South Africa is a particularly good place for a conference such as this one, as it has brought back a “glimmer of hope” for the future that this country needs with its current challenges.

“There is so much negativity in the media and the difficulty of seeing beyond the daily grind. This summit has allowed people to stop and think about how we are actually living in the most peaceful time in history, entering an age of abundance, where there will be food and energy for all… It’s coming fast – the rate of change accelerating!”

Early-bird ticket sales for the October 2018 summit have already been opened and within a few days they are almost sold out. If this past summit is anything to go by, the Mann brothers will pull off something even more spectacular.

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