A quick overview of Africa’s tech industry
Technology is playing a vital role in the transitioning of Africa from the sidelines of the global economy into the mainstreams. A team of experts from different African countries once stated “only technological development holds the key for a much-desired transformation in Africa.” This is true in every sense. So far, there has been emergence of a technology ecosystem — a growing trend of entrepreneurs, technology ventures and innovation centres — converging from one African country to another, to boost regional trends in business, investment and modernity. Due to the global craze and need for all things IT in general, and software in particular; coupled with various foreign investments such as Silicon Valley investments, African countries like Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya are now homes to tech startups.
Africa’s software development, despite its slow start, is now speeding up. As the continent grows more interconnected, it is producing innovative web-based applications and dynamic new business models. “Technology use is expected to increase rapidly across the continent in coming years”, concludes a report from McKinsey & Company.
Brief History of the Nascent Tech Talent In Africa
As the continent goes digital, there is the inevitable emergence of entrepreneurial software development hubs all across Africa. Tech hubs such as Co-creation Hub in Lagos, Nigeria, and iHub in Nairobi, Kenya are springing up to foster budding tech communities and software developers. The rise of these tech hubs mirrors increasing interest in software development from the venture community and investors. The origin of Africa’s technology and software development movement goes back to Kenya, where four markers were established, between 2007 and 2010, to inspire the country’s silicon savannah sobriquet: mobile money, a globally recognised crowdsourcing app, Africa’s tech incubator model and genuine government commitment to ICT policy.
In 2007, Kenyan Telecom, Safaricom launched the software product – M-Pesa mobile money. Briefly, after M-Pesa was introduced, four technologists created the Ushahidi crowdsourcing app, a highly effective tool for digitally mapping demographic events anywhere in the world. Another Kenyan milestone was the government’s 2010 completion of The East African Marine System (TEAMS) undersea fiber optic cable project. TEAMS increased East African broadband and led to the establishment of Kenya’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Authority.
In 2008, Ushahidi co-founder, Erik Hersman hatched Nairobi’s iHub after identifying the need to create a “nexus point for technologists, software developers, investors and tech companies”. Since 2010, iHub has produced 152 companies and grown a membership base of nearly 20,000 developers. iHub influenced Africa’s incubator movement, inspiring the upsurge in software development and tech hubs across the continent.
Not to be left behind in the software development wildfire, Nigeria is increasingly becoming a hotbed of big tech investments and commercially oriented software startups. Many have been set up in the district of Yaba, Lagos State, Nigeria. There you can find the headquarters for African internet group and digital payment venture Paga, situated near incubators like Andela and Co-Creation hub.
Nigeria’s tech sector is becoming an example of repatriate entrepreneurs reversing some of Africa’s brain drain and reshaping the continent’s global linkages through IT. All three of Africa’s most recognized e-commerce startups – Jumia, Konga, and MallforAfrica – were founded by Nigerians. Also, the management of Jumia’s parent company, Africa Internet Group, is a mix of repatriate Africans and MBA types from the US and Europe attracted to the continent’s technology opportunities over software development.
From Kenya to Nigeria, Ghana to Rwanda, software tech innovation is starting to influence various sectors such as Banking and Finance, Agriculture, Energy, Entertainment and Fashion, Healthcare and Transport.
What the Future Appears to Hold:
We are at the dawn of a technological revolution that will change every part of our lives. The deeds and potential inventions of African technologists and software developers have ensured Africa is poised for a global impact on a massive and fast scale.
M-Pesa has become a case study for global digital payments. Ushahidi was used in the 2012 US presidential election. It also played a key role in Kenya’s last two elections. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were heavily employed by civil society organizations, opposition groups and political parties in Nigeria’s last presidential election. Africa’s solar-powered BRCK wifi device is bringing connectivity to internet dead spots in Wisconsin. Commercial drone delivery is likely to take off first in Africa. Many African tech applications are being developed as solutions to local challenges.
As Sub-Saharan Africa and its citizens become more connected to the digital grid, expect software development and IT to thoroughly invade and influence how industries are run. African Development Bank gauged that 55% of sub-Saharan Africa’s economic activity is informal. That’s a colossal economic space without tech services as business enterprise software, small business banking, affordable third-party logistics or internet access. This situation offers a prime opportunity for African techies to utilise and hone their talents in their homeland. Much of this is already occurring in Nigeria. First-time dotcoms are sprouting up for everything from e-commerce logistics, online auto sales and real estate listings, to airline bookings, employment sites and credit rating services. As Africa’s broadband penetration rates, expansion of tech hubs and software development talent and skills continue to improve, the opportunities for African software developers to revamp their homeland with their skills are infinite.
At Charisol, we understand the future is fluid and open, and there is room for huge development. We know that the concept of change affects all systems of humankind. Therefore flexibility and adaptation are key attributes we strive to inculcate. We believe the knowledge of today and actions are taken via use of such knowledge determines what becomes the future. We endeavor to utilize our tech and digital skills to contribute to revitalizing the world and Africa in particular. Our developers keep honing and expanding their skill sets, ensuring that they are learning even while working. We accept that software technology improves and changes, hence we are ever ready to create, utilise and embrace future software innovations in literarily making the world a better place!