Proud and few, African companies at CES

10 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Nemotek brings Moroccan manufactured products to CES.

More than three thousand companies from 52 countries are exhibiting at CES, but only two are from Africa.

“There's a lot of manufacturing going on,” said Philip Guttentag, CEO of South Africa-based Vivid Audio. “It's just not very well marketed.”

Vivid was showing its sleek speakers in a high-end audio group display. The company makes its products near Durban.

Nemotek designs and builds its tiny CMOS camera modules in Morocco. Their product is positioned as a high reliability, small form factor imaging product for mobile electronics and laptop makers. They can support up to 1080p video and 10 megapixel still photos.

CES is “the perfect show for us,” said Omar Elrhoul, Nemotek's sales and marketing manager. He said they go to the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, but he's finding that CES draws a broader range of potential customers with more diversified applications.

Both Elrhoul and Guttentag seemed a little surprised that more African companies didn't make the trip to Las Vegas. They didn't expect many companies from their part of the world to exhibit, but they thought there would be some. The lack of exhibiting companies wasn't unique to Africa. South American companies were equally thin on the ground.

I'm surprised, too. Going in, I was expecting to find at least a handful of African entrepreneurs pitching either their companies to investors or products to the industry. The cost of making the trip is obviously a factor, and complicated U.S. visa procedures is undoubtedly another. But two is a good start. I'm looking forward to next year.