Why The Next Steve Jobs Will Come From Africa – Opinion
I was fortunate enough to spend part of July in Uganda with the team behind Unreasonable East Africa. In addition to being both humbling and inspiring, my experiences there convinced me that Uganda is just a part of an incredible transformation sweeping the whole of Africa. On my flight back home, I wrote “Africa is THE future” in my journal and underlined it a half-dozen times.
Africa is at a techno-cultural turning point that will prove to be as pivotal there as the Industrial Revolution was for Europe. Already, seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing GDPs are in Africa, where leapfrog technologies like cell phones being adopted at staggering rates. Add in some of the youngest populations in the world—millions upon millions of newly wired millennials with no shortage of problems to solve—and it becomes clear that, yes, Africa is the future.
The change is already well underway. In 2012, GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa ranged 6.8 percent in Tanzania to over 10 percent in Angola and Sierra Leone. That same year, global growth was 2.3 percent and only slightly better in the U.S. at 2.8 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The total international trade in sub-Saharan Africa hit $735 billion, more than a fourfold increase since 2000 when it was just $169 billion (see graph).
Mobile technology has both fueled and been fueled by this economic transformation. According to the World Bank, there are more than twice as many cell phones in Gabon as there are people. Botswana has 1.6 cell phones for every person. Compare that to the U.S., which still has more people than cell phones. Today, according to the IMF, there are more mobile phone subscribers in Africa than there are in all of Europe.
These numbers seem almost impossible until you actually visit Africa and see what’s happening on the ground. Take M-Pesa, a system of mobile payments launched in Kenya in 2007, as an example. The company has since become that country’s dominant form of payment. It processes 80 transactions a second, with a total value that accounts for 31 percent of Kenyan GDP. That’s a seven-year-old company handling nearly a third of all the money in an entire country. In terms of large-scale entrepreneurial disruption, Africa is just beginning to scratch the surface.
Here’s something else that bodes well: While industrialized nations are facing declining birthrates and even, in the case of Japan, an aging, shrinking population, 78 percent of Ugandans are younger than 30. More than half are under the age of 15. Even Unreasonable East Africa co-founder and CEO Joachim Ewechu is in his early twenties! He’s a case and point example of how the next generation of Africans is poised to change the trajectory of the continent.
Read more at Unreasonable.is