“Consumers should desist from just consuming social media and become content creators. We too can create something. We have things to say and stories to tell.”  – Ato Ulzen-Appiah, CEO of Museke Inc.

People from all walks of life gathered in Lagos for one week to participate in the Social Media week event that held between February 18 to 22nd, 2013. While some, like Mr. Tom Obey an ICT consultant from Abuja, traveled across from different states in the country, others like Mr. Ato Ulzen-Appiah, an IT enthusiast from Ghana, crossed international borders to be in Nigeria’s commercial capital for the event.

What did they think about the event? Enjoy this feature and video interview focused on feeling the pulse of those who attended:

Interview with
 Ato Ulzen-Appiah, CEO of Museke, Inc and part of the GhanaThink Foundation

VA: Tell us a bit more about yourself

ATO: I’m Ato Ulzen-Appiah. I work in the IT space in Africa. I am the CEO of Museke Inc. and part of the GhanaThink Foundation team that’s mobilizing and organizing talent and resources for the service of the world beginning with our cultural neighbourhood, Ghana. That’s what I am most passionate about. We’ve been doing this via Barcamp Ghana events, where we are building a movement of networked changemakers, doers and entrepreneurs.

VA: Were you the only one from Ghana who attended this year’s SMW Lagos?
ATO: I wasn’t the only one from Ghana. A friend from Adsbrook (a Meltwater startup)  attended, as well as the folks from Nkanee Media (a new digital marketing company). I also happened to be in the same hotel as a couple of others who live in Ghana.

VA: What was your initial expectation before the event? Were they met?
ATO: I expected Social Media Week to be a series of events (mostly with panels) on how to use Social Media to work for you. I am happy with the number of workshops that had hands-on teaching and learning. It was especially great to see Google+ Hangouts used a lot more too.

I expected SMW Lagos to be very social and that happened quite well. People always want to see who the people behind various Twitter handles are so this served a great opportunity.

VA: What is your opinion about the event in Lagos, considering it is Africa’s first host of the global event?

ATO: I expected SMW Lagos to be more focused on Nigeria. And that’s not a bad thing. It didn’t have to be about Africa in totality because it was the first African event. There are a lot of learnings from social media as it pertains to a big market like Nigeria, with the success that some local blogs and celebrities have had. There have also been great movements like #occupynigeria and #lightupnigeria.

From my experience and that of others who were at #SMWLagos, the Nigeria focus came into play and the invited panelists from elsewhere also lent their other experiences to bear on the attendees. There were a few issues around costs of travel and logistics in getting to Lagos which prevented an even richer global experience. But this is social media we are talking about, they could always contribute via Twitter, etc.

VA: Do you see Ghana emulating Nigeria next year to hold an edition in Accra?

ATO: Definitely. I know BloggingGhana (the Association of Ghanaian Bloggers) has been thinking about it. After last year’s successful Blogcamp and this year’s edition happening on March 23, Social Media Week Accra is a good next step. BlogCamp 2013 features the Ghana Social Media Awards which has created a lot of excitement in Ghana’s Social Media scene.  There are also a lot of organizations that would lend support to SMWAccra, including the GhanaThink Foundation, Google Ghana, amongst others.

VAWhat do you think about the trend of social media in West Africa?

ATO: Social Media has become part and parcel of the youth’s lifestyle in West Africa. Facebook is arguably the most popular site in the sub-region. A huge number of folks only use their (yahoo) email addresses for logging in to Facebook and other social media accounts.

We’d  see an increase in smart phone usage for social media purposes. This trend has allowed Whatsapp to thrive, Eskimi to be very relevant and excitement for home-grown technology like Saya.

Organizations are looking to social media more and more as an effective tool for communication. Social Media has already become a staple in radio and television stations. West Africa has not adapted to new social media technology as quickly though. It’s still following tried and tested models. We are not being risky with trying new things. We’d get there soon with more success stories.

VA: How do you think Africans can better maximize the tools? What should the government leaders, organizations, developers and consumers be doing differently?

ATO: Technology is one great leveller. West Africa could easily lead in innovation and technology if we invested in it. It doesn’t cost as much. That’s where government comes in, they have to be smart. For organizations, social media is more bang for buck. It’s that simple. Developers are leveraging social media very well. When we organize Barcamps, we mostly use social media marketing. The developers show up in their numbers. Consumers should desist from just consuming social media and become content creators. We too can create something. We have things to say and stories to tell.

In this video, other participants, volunteers and organization reps share their views:

Did you attend? Yes? No? Feel free to drop your comment in the box below!

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