When I started, I was Jack of All Trades”, Gospel Ononwi (Founder of Extend Africa), Speaks

How They Started is simply an online series on Twitter Spaces that airs every second and last Friday of the month, hosted by www.techBlit.com. In this space, you get to meet and connect with Successful Tech founders, Tech developers, Tech enthusiasts, women in tech, and a whole lot of Techies (people already succeeding in the Tech space). You get to listen and learn from their stories (how they started, the journey so far, the rough and smooth paths, the motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and what it has been so far, etc).

On this special edition of Twitter spaces, the Founder of Extend Africa (www.extend.africa), Gospel Ononwi, was on the hot seat and poured out his heart to us.

Enjoy the interview!

HOST: Welcome to the second edition of ‘HOW THEY STARTED’, it’s been amazing so far. In this edition, we have with us our amiable guest, the founder of Extend Africa in the person of Mr. Gospel Ononwi. You’re welcome boss, please kindly do us the honor of knowing you.

Gospel Ononwi: Thank you very much alright, I’m Gospel Ononwi, fair in complexion, I’m from Eleme Rivers State. A computer scientist by profession, an Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) developer, and an instructor by Career (or by calling).

HOST: Awesome. please educate us a little on AR/VR technology. Like, what exactly is AR/VR?

Gospel Ononwi: Okay, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality commonly known as AR/VR, is simply an imagining and immersive technology. AR is the ability to superimpose digital elements in sense of trading models, sounds, images, and anything to exist in a space that doesn’t exist (a typical example is the movie ‘Iron Man).

They can only exist through smart devices or a head-mounted display (which are either on special augmented headsets). A simple illustration, when you take pictures using Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok filters, you get a superimposed digital element on the picture different from your real face. Now, this whole process is called Augmented Reality because you’re adding something to an existing space.

 Virtual Reality, on the other hand, is an immersive technology i.e. everything is digitally created (e.g 3D). The interesting part of the VR is the depth, the fact that the same fear you have in reality is still the same when you put on a VR machine. It’s a virtual world you can exist in, completely generated through the computer.

Metaverse is both the AR and VR put together.

HOST: Wow! very interesting. Okay, I want to know what made you go into AR/VR technology.

Gospel Ononwi: well as a Christian I’m, I’ll simply say I was divinely led.

As for how I started: I was a jack of all trades, in 2018 I freelanced at the Rivers State Tech hub, taught kids web development during the August break, and so many other things I did.

At Tech Creek, there’s always a program that happens every three (3) months, most people usually enroll in web development, and UI/UX design and very few go into Cyber security. I realized the web space in Nigeria is a bit Saturated, so I thought of what would make me stand out. Through research, I came across AR/VR on YouTube. Despite the limitations I had with my system, internet, and all of that, I never stopped pushing hard. Every day I walked from stadium road to Tech Creek just to make use of the wi-fi.

Honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was doing but I was determined to carve a niche once and for all, so I followed the process. I spent on things that now I wouldn’t have even spent on because I now know how to get them (e.g 3D models etc). At some points, I became really broke but I kept on building and was dogged in it.

Gospel Ononwi (Extend Africa)

There was a Tech event that was held here in Rivers State at Ken Saro Innovation Hub (KSIH) I attended, there, I discovered other AR/VR developers (funny enough I thought I was the only one in Rivers State if not even in the whole of Nigeria). I met with the lead of AR/VR Port Harcourt Ryan Raphael, surprisingly I found a community. We both were very good at what we do.

A Hackathon was organized by a big Tech company in Lagos, in partnership with Facebook, Microsoft, and most big Tech companies too on AR/VR technology. Rayan contacted me to handle the AR while he handled VR. I became so good at developing AR because the cost of developing VR was high at least you should have the VR headset which cost about 250k and above depending on the specification.

 I focused on developing mobiles, as of then I was using an ‘Itel phone and it wasn’t compatible with Augmented Reality. So, each time I build, I go to a friend of mine Chibouzor to make use of his phone, to check out what I built. He was really a supportive and understanding friend.

I and Ryan prepared for the Hackathon and trained lots of people on AR and VR respectively.  I was selected to be part of the Hackathon. It was a three (3) days event, and it took place in ten (10) different African countries and in each state, where ever there is a Tech hub, the Hackathon was going on simultaneously.  My team was the winner in the whole of Nigeria, we were awarded $1000. The first (1st) to third (3rd) positions all came from Port Harcourt.

It was really an exciting moment. Two weeks later I was informed that our team was the overall winner among the Ten (10) African countries that participated. And that was my first win. I started taking my Twitter and LinkedIn seriously, I looked at profiles of people above me and made mine to be like theirs because I was aiming high.

In late 2021, I got a remote contract job from a company in the USA, to teach AR/VR technology. I got on board and was teaching people from Saudi Arabia in partnership with Saudi Arabia digital academy. The Saudi Arabia government sponsored the whole learning for all interested, with the goal of empowering their citizens for the future of the smart city (D-line), they’re building in Dubai or so.

From there I got in contact with the minister of information and communication of Saudi Arabia, it was really a game changer for me. After a month I got my first pay, I could actually use it to buy a car or even plots of land. Later on, another company, a university in Dubai contacted me to teach university students. It was indeed really a great one, all of these lead to the founding of Extend Africa.

If I were to say what brought about the switch from being a computer scientist to becoming an AR/VR technologist, I would simply say it was divinely led.

HOST: Wow, Amazing indeed. kindly tell us the certain things people need to have before going into AR/VR. Secondly, how was it for you, did you just start and become good with it?

Gospel Ononwi: To me what you need to get started is simply willingness, patience, a good system (at least about 8GB ram upward and assets.

Secondly, I had plenty of challenges when I started, but I never gave up. There was even a point I was trying to implement something but it wasn’t working, I persisted, and it took me two (2) weeks to get it, and I was really happy. I learned everything from YouTube, it wasn’t easy at all but I continued, and that’s passion.

HOST: Alright. Briefly tell us about Extend Africa.

Gospel Ononwi: Extend Africa started in late 2019. The main idea was to showcase the work of AR/VR creators in Africa to the world. Our first conference was in 2021, we had about 300+ attendees, and speakers within and outside Nigeria.

We’re planning another one this 2022 and it’s called the Metaforce, we are onboarding both African and Western speakers to talk about this technology as a whole. Also, we’ve started building a community on Discord.

Extend Africa event in Port Harcourt

Other participants in the twitter spaces, also asked the guest some questions and he responded as follows:

AMINIGBO PAUL: Thank you very much, a quick question. I want to know, is there an opportunity like a market demand for people who wants to learn AR/VR to excel after learning especially here in Nigeria?

SPEAKER: In Nigeria and most African countries, I will say that we don’t have so many opportunities. But in the Western world, there are lots of opportunities. On LinkedIn, you get to find so many opportunities, there are so many aspects of AR/VR one can venture into e.g 3D modelers, audio, graphics, building, teaching, and so many others. more. All you have to do is follow the process,

Learn, build, follow those into it, tag people, upload, and repeat the process.

HOST: If most of the opportunities are in the Western world, how do Africans cope with racism and discrimination?

Gospel Ononwi: In Tech, there’s no such thing as racism, just be good with your skill.

STEWART: How did you cope with pressures (family, school, etc) and survival (like being broke)?

SPEAKER: Actually, the pressures were really high, but I allowed my passion to override the pressures. Secondly, as I said from the beginning I was a jack of all trades, I did other jobs and that really helped.

STEWART: How do you redirect your focus to specializing in one thing?

Gospel Ononwi: In everything you need to create a niche for yourself, don’t just be a jack of all trades, Master of none, be known for one thing. Do the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, talk to a mentor, and then you start.

PRINCESS: How can someone with no Tech background or knowledge start?

Gospel Ononwi: Okay. The basic thing is just to be determined to learn. Join available cohorts, and start with what’s simpler (at least without coding). Be focused and follow the process.

Just to add, there are opportunities in the metaverse, just research and get involved. Thank you.

Extend Africa Event in Port Harcourt

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