Erik Hershman (Co-founder of Ushahidi) tweeted, “Africa is the last "blue ocean" for tech, the opportunities here are huge. Why would you choose anywhere else?”
More and more tech firms are realizing the sheer potential of the African markets with its massive population of 1.5 billion people. What’s more, a technologically advanced country like Singapore is betting its future startups on the large untapped market of the continent. Even underdeveloped industries like mobile casinos and online casinos are showing clear signs of growth in Africa which is a boon for investors. Africa has become the centre point of Singapore’s startup movement as venture capitalist firms look towards it as a new wave of growth and opportunities that has the potential to keep pace with Asia. Let us discuss the technological landscape of Africa in detail.
Why Africa has such huge potential in technology?
Mobile is the future
In the last 10 years, Africa has seen an upsurge in cellphone usage and ownership. What’s more, according to a Gallup poll in Sub-Saharan Africa, about two-thirds of the home have 1 mobile phone at least. It is not surprising to state that mobile computing is growing at an exponential rate and is used more and more to meet our various needs like communication, gaming, social media entertainment, payment, search and more. Nowadays, people even write memos on their phones instead of physical ones.
The Pew Research Center reports, "In a few short years, the proliferation of mobile phone networks has transformed communications in sub-Saharan Africa. It has also allowed Africans to skip the landline stage of development and jump right to the digital age." In simple words, Africa basically skipped the PC era and is now directly finding itself in the mobile revolution. In terms of mobile, most of the world is ahead of the most advanced nation in the world, the US. When it comes to developing mobile solutions, countries like China (population > 1.25 billion) and Africa (population > 1.5 billion) have a head start than the other countries.
Huge investments in African technology
As stated by Next Africa, “Technology in Africa is becoming more than just a social venture or narrow business proposition. The continent's tech movement will infuse every facet of [Sub-Saharan Africa's] transformation: commerce, health, education, finance, governance and creative culture. ... This evolving tech ecosystem will continue to empower Africa's markets, people, and potential in meaningful ways, playing a pivotal role in taking this continent from the world's economic margins into the digitized mainstream.”
For the first time in history, the investments in domestic USA companies are solwing down after the initial venture-driven app startup boom in the late 90s. Taking Africa into context, a similar trend of upcoming venture capitalist can be assumed and most of the investments are coming from telecoms and traditional Silicon Valley VCs.
African Development Bank President Adesina said, “The people who control data, will control Africa. Coding must be compulsory, at all levels. The currency of the future is going to be coding. Information technology must not be the exclusive privilege of the elite, we must democratize technology,” He added, “We must grab the opportunities…We must democratize technology. Africa should prepare itself. Digital technologies, including Artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchains, 3D printing, are already upon us.”
The Professor of Digital Business at the Wits Business School, Dr Brian Armstrong states that South Africa is moving towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “We need to understand the impact on the future of work and what it means for employment, new modes of employment and new ways of engaging between employers and employees.”- he added.
The government is looking forward to making South Africa into the largest tech hub of Africa and is planning on creating an additional coding and programming academy which will have co-creation workspaces. The Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu said, “Through the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), my department, in partnership with the Department of Telecommunication and Postal Services, has started a conversation to develop the biggest Tech Hub in Africa…” This initiative has been drafted based on the fact that the gross domestic product, productivity and per capita income gives the country an advantage over other ICT sectors present in the continent.