Paul Emeka Chimodo
Economy players in Africa are of the opinion that for the continent to continue the pace of progress, technology must be brought to center stage.
Despite limited resources and harsh environments Startups have beaten the odds and proved they could thrive in the continent. Excellent examples showing the promise that entrepreneurship and technological development offer to both strengthen the economy and serve the needs of their populations.
Many countries are well on their way to making ICT a core component of their long-term growth strategies by Channeling technological innovation to strengthen a wider economy which has been tried and tested and have proven to be a way to simultaneously boost growth while strengthening the foundation for future success
Infrastructure as a priority
Few Governments across Africa are operating with the clear understanding that technology is a critical channel to economic growth and that continuing the development of our ICT sector should remain high on the agenda. Many still priorities analogue processes over digital choices.
Cities like Lagos, Kigali, and others looking to become “smart” will need to give service providers the ability to be accessible to their users at all times. Rwanda has already made internet access a priority throughout the country and soon will introduce wi-fi to public places in major cities. A small investment in connectivity offers service providers the ability to engage with customers on a level that competes with international cities.
The rise in tech hubs across Africa – right now there are more than 65 – is part of a strategy to give young software developers and recent graduates in science and engineering the training and skills they need. Tech entrepreneurs at these hubs now have a place to develop their product and receive guidance from experienced mentors. Without strong infrastructure, which only the government can provide, the sector will never reach its full potential.
ICT across sectors
The benefits of technology can be felt far beyond high-tech industries. ICT developed at one of the many African tech hubs can be used to meet people’s needs everywhere. From mobile payment systems like M-Pesa, which many suggest has overtaken the West in terms of ubiquity and ease of use, to the world’s first drone port, African nations are certainly aware that technology outside the tech scene is exactly what governments can and should foster.
The technology that is solving a problem also contributes to the economy by providing jobs and injecting cash into outdated systems. More widely, it can revolutionize the way African populations engage with everything from healthcare to banking, transportation and more.
Friendly business policies and tax incentives are being used by some governments to great effect and these activities are helping to change perceptions and unlock new opportunities but more has to be done by Other countries in Africa if it to attract more investment.
Rwanda’s system is structured to enable anyone to establish a new business in just three hours and flexible visa policies have allowed Kigali to become a hub for regional entrepreneurs. This type of action helps create a win-win scenario where the local economy and foreign investors can benefit equally and substantially.
ICT investment opportunities are very rich, and span from major innovations in mobile connectivity to hardware development. Top research universities in the West are establishing degree-granting programmes in Africa, and major companies such as Microsoft and Intel have invested in Africa’s potential with a range of new schemes.