Technological disruption is transforming markets and societies across Africa in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago. As a result, we are likely to see huge and still largely untapped commercial potential for domestic and international businesses opening up.
Connectivity solutions and internet technologies are bringing a new kind of utility perspective to the continent, one that goes beyond the ordinary realm of infrastructure and adds a layer of utility and engineering to create solutions to everyday problems.
From the demographic dividend of a young and rapidly expanding population to an increasingly affluent and aspirational middle class, Africa has the potential to become a new powerhouse of production and consumption in the 21st century, just as Asia was able to do in the late 20th.
Africa has far less institutional inertia to overcome, and the gaps that exist in our systems offer an opportunity for emerging technologies by creating a clean sheet upon which companies can develop their own distinctive business models. We see this in the speed that many markets are expanding. We also see it in the blurring of industry boundaries, the coming together of renewable energy, mobile payment and consumer finance is a clear case in point.
Innovation has primarily been most visible in the software space. A clear indication of this is the plethora of apps for everything. Whatever problem you have, there’s likely an app that attempts to solve it. This is only possible because of the accessibility of software development tools, which have enabled anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and some knowledge of coding to do pretty much anything.
The easy access to hardware and computer platforms, as well as increasingly affordable cloud storage platforms, has opened up the space to pretty much anyone with an idea, to build a business with lower barriers to entry.
With the democratization of technology, more people get access to tools and information that were previously reserved for a few. We are now seeing an increasingly tech-savvy population of end-users using the tools they know, modifying them and using them to do amazing things.
Most of the current governance models currently in place in Africa are distinctly analogue, but there is an ongoing shift towards a more digital system. Information that was once restricted to citizens is being made available online through government platforms. The need for information has become interestingly inevitable and with it, most of the current government models are becoming less applicable thus creating gaps on usability, licensing, and security.
Startups in Africa are starting to benefit from tax incentives, which allow them to invest more money into their businesses during the crucial first few years. Partnerships with universities are equally starting to pick and giving startups access to a pool of people who are educated in science and technology to help them scale their ideas.
In an age of computer networks and growing connectivity between people and things, we are seeing more participation in the development of these systems, imaginative re-thinking, and new connections that are helping us articulate how we would like to interact in the future. As this way of doing things continues to spread, we are redesigning our societies to be more inclusive and technology-driven, and this is contributing in turn to the next wave of African innovation.