Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

How young African tech entrepreneurs can accelerate development across continent

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Sep 13, 2020

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By Ifesinachi Okpagu

Fast-growing digital adoption combined with Africa’s young population positions the continent as one that stands to benefit from massive growth opportunities.

The tech industry, especially, has witnessed significant growth in the last decade. Global tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, are seizing these opportunities for investment, setting up offices across the continent. According to an infographic published by Aubrey Hurby and Jake Bright, venture capital funds inflow to startup entrepreneurs has risen from less than $100,000 in 2012 to a projected $1 billion by 2020. With such widespread interest, effort must be invested into unleashing Africa’s true potential, with its young entrepreneurs at the forefront of creating this transformation.

The global pandemic has taken its toll on development and economic activities across the continent. Despite the pandemic, technology continues to play a major role in bringing people closer, now more than ever. On the African continent, digitally enabled delivery logistics companies sprang up during the pandemic to combat the challenge of access attributed to the continent’s poor road network and infrastructure. Mobile money, fintech and online banking adoption became more prevalent, driving inclusion while targeting difficult markets. The

International Monetary Fund (IMF) posits that digital financial inclusion will help ‘mitigate the economic fallout and potentially strengthen recovery’. Beyond fintech, other technology-driven businesses are creating value across the continent and transforming lives.

Companies like Chekkit, a product authentication app for consumer goods and pharmaceuticals is bridging the trust gap between manufacturers and consumers. Chekkit Founder, Dare Odumade, is a beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. Another young entrepreneur creating value is Dorra Kammoun in Tunisia, who founded TechAbility, a crafts company using sensors to manage energy consumption in homes. She is also a beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. Temie Giwa-Tubosun founder of LifeBank, operates a digital platform to improve access to blood transfusions in Nigeria, saving thousands of lives.

There are more opportunities for young tech entrepreneurs to drive development:

Incorporating technology into everyday life

From commuting to the home, technology simplifies life and gives room for expansion and productivity. There are opportunities for tech entrepreneurs to think beyond tech as a service and find ways to incorporate tech-enabled models into traditional businesses and into everyday life.

Data Collection

The dearth of data repositories across the continent is a disadvantage, and reveals opportunities for young tech entrepreneurs to create value. Data provides opportunities for tech entrepreneurs to drive innovation and transformation.

TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for entrepreneurs launched by the pan-African philanthropy, Tony Elumelu Foundation, is driving this collation by integrating all stakeholders in the Africa entrepreneurship ecosystem. Currently, the platform has over 1million subscribers with an ambitious goal to become the one-stop destination for data on the African entrepreneurship ecosystem. Beyond TEFConnect, SheTrades is integrating data of female entrepreneurs. With more successes such as this, Africa could build a data bank for better prediction and to allocate resources where it is more desperately needed.

Education

Informal and formal education open up communities and provide room for innovation. Tech-enabled businesses must drive advocacy one way or another, especially encouraging the younger generation to become more aware of the opportunities to unlock global opportunities through tech adoption.

Finally, youth entrepreneurs need additional support to achieve the goals set out: government support and access to quality networks. African countries must review regulatory biases to encourage business growth. They must institutionalise laws and policies that support the growth of the private sector and create enabling business environments for innovation to thrive.

To foster access to quality networks, convenings such as the SA Innovation Summit and TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, both held once a year, encourage networking and partnerships, granting young entrepreneurs access to the people, discussions and platforms they need to unlock the next level of growth.

Ifesinachi Okpagu is the head Marketing and Corporate Communications at Tony Elumelu Foundation.

*The South African Innovations Summit is taking place from 30 September - October 1st this year and promises to be a spectacular event that should not be missed.

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