How Africans can become farmers of technology

There is no doubt that Africa is the next frontier for high Economic growth. It represents amazing potential and promises copious bounty for entrepreneurs who are not afraid of risk. Despite Africa being called a dark continent and a home of failed states, it is not difficult to see why many are united in saying in “Africa is Rising”. It has ample resources from oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold and plenty of other minerals and resources.

The problem though has not been of its vast mineral wealth and resources but what I term the ‘Gift and the Curse’. You see, Africa is blessed with a lot of resources and minerals but suffers from vices such as poor leadership, corruption and plunder. These social ills and a lack of leadership are dragging Africa down. A story is told how a European man once looked at the riches of Africa and complained to God, ‘Why is Africa endowed with many riches?’ God replied ‘Wait until you see the leaders I will give them’

I am a firm believer of how technology can be a major driver in turning around the fortunes of Africa and help the continent realise its potential. Below I explore the various ways that African countries can become ‘farmers” of Technology.

SEEDING A CULTURE OF INNOVATION

The adage that necessity is the mother of invention holds true in the case of Israel. Israel despite being founded in recently in 1948 in a hot dry place with little natural resources,  became a high tech country with Israeli companies firmly integrated in the economies of China, India and Latin America. NetaFim, one of Israel’s earliest tech start-ups became a global leader in drip irrigation because it turned the country’s disadvantage of having most of its area taken up by a desert into an asset. Netafim, was able to develop a technology which increased crop yields by up to 50% while using 40% less water. Living in Africa should present plenty of opportunities for solving problems through technology.  Companies such as MPESA and Ecocash are successful because there were able to provide an easy and convenient way of banking and sending money to the largely unbanked population in Africa.

BRAIN CIRCULATION

Africa has suffered acute brain drain contributing to the skills gap between Africa and the rest of the world. Brain drain in Africa is acute as one in every nine people who are born in Africa and have a university degree migrate to the world’s most developed countries.

Fortunately, Africans can make use of the ‘brain circulation’ model where Africans going abroad should be encouraged to come back and form a key component of the innovation ecosystem. Countries such as China, India and Israel have enjoyed investment and technology booms linked to diaspora expatriate leadership. Allowing dual citizenship as with what happened with the Zimbabwean government is a step towards tapping into the diaspora and turning it into catalysts for technological breakthroughs.

MORE VENTURE CAPITAL FUNDING AND INCUBATORS

f Africa is to flourish with technology start-ups which contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product of their countries, then there is need for more venture capitalists and incubators which provide the much needed funding and mentorship. Incubation of tech start-ups is key in countries such as Kenya and Rwanda which have thriving tech scenes. It is therefore no coincidence that Africa’s first successful Mobile money service came out of Kenya. Venture Capitalists are not only important in providing the much needed capital but will also assist with the necessary networking, collaboration and mentoring which are important to the success of start-ups.

A DOSE OF CHUTZPAH

To succeed in any endeavour, self-belief and audacity are important. Having the courage, nerve and gall to question and challenge beliefs or status quo is important. Africans by nature are traditionalists who are guided by culture and beliefs. Adherence to long held notions, beliefs and traditions is common amongst Africans even though they might be wrong. For Africa to move forward, there is need for a new outlook and chutzpah to challenge the way things have always been done, seek out new ways of meeting problems. Albert Einstein once you cannot solve problems on the same level of thinking you were when you created them.

WRAPPING IT UP

Africa remains the only continent with untapped potential, however, with the vast natural resources and minerals as well as youthful population Africa is well placed to benefit from the technology revolution sweeping across the globe. Transformation of Africa into a global powerhouse will not happen overnight but can happen. What else do you think is important in getting Africa into an technological powerhouse? Share with me your thoughts and insights on twitter at www.twitter.com/tnyaruwanga.

Source: – www.tinashenyaruwanga.com

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