A number of “African” technology awards are offered across the continent and to be honest, I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about them.  Almost every time I spoke to someone about their involvement in other awards, they’d say “We entered them once and it was ridiculous, all the companies that sponsored won an award.”

I’ll also add that for a lot of the other awards, you have to pay to enter as well.  That’s like a double whammy – pay to enter AND the scales are rigged so you’re never going to win.  I’ve also heard that as part of the sponsorship benefits the sponsors are given virtually unlimited numbers of entries, which is kind of fair enough.  However, when one company submits over 50% of all of the entries, which I know has been the case, you’ve got to wonder – what is actually the point?

That was one of the main reasons I decided to set up the West Africa Mobile Awards (WAMAS). Offering something different to those experiences became one of my key motivations, along with obviously wanting to celebrate and recognise the individuals and companies that are leading the mobile charge in the region.

It took me a few years to get the WAMAS up and running, but last year I finally managed to set up the inaugural West Africa Mobile Awards – and they went brilliantly. I was delighted with the whole process – we had so many entries and a quality night of celebrations.

Obviously, to make the awards financially viable, I need to secure sponsors.  Last year’s outreach was an interesting one.  It turned out that I did have several, even numerous, conversations with companies that went along the lines of “we’d like to sponsor, oh and by the way we’d like to win this award”. That’s not going to happen with the WAMAS.

I believe that when you set up something like the WAMAS, and you want them to work in the long term, that integrity is absolutely crucial.  The moment your reputation is tarnished, you’ve lost your balance at the top of the slippery slope of failure.

That’s a principle I adopted when I first set up my business back in 2009, and something that was really drummed into me when I was fortunate enough to visit South Africa and Nigeria with the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011.  As a company operating on foreign shores there’s no way I’ll allow my reputation to be tarnished.

Therefore, the WAMAS are completely independent.  The judges and judging software insure that. As the organiser, I can personally guarantee that we will never allow sponsors to influence who wins an award.  On top of that, the awards are free to enter. Cost will never be a barrier to someone submitting their entry, to the point that, if you’re shortlisted, you won’t even have to pay to attend the awards night.  

And that is why you should enter the West Africa Mobile Awards – because it is a completely level playing field and one where you don’t have to pay-to-play.  Being shortlisted or even winning a WAMA is, and always will be, a true reflection of your hard work, efforts and innovation.


Editor’s Note: Matthew Dawes is the Founder of the West Africa Mobile Awards and Mobile West Africa, which has been running in Lagos since 2011.  Both events are holding this May in Lagos.

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