How can Africa create supportive environments for important innovations?

by Developed Africa 24. January 2017 10:55

Boosting transformational technology

  • Internet prices in sub-Saharan Africa vary wildly. Geography affects prices – landlocked countries pay more than coastal countries. Much of Africa gets its internet via undersea cables, so coastal countries have easier access. New initiatives to provide internet via low-orbit satellites and high-altitude balloons offer the hope of more accessible, cheaper internet for all, though still have a long way to go when it comes to cost and reach.
  • Tech hubs are popping up in Africa in different forms. These hubs enable Africans to gain skills and network through brainstorming sessions, workshops, and business- and technology-related trainings, among others. South Africa, Kenya and Ghana boast the greatest number of tech hubs.
  • For further progress and increased uptake of transformative innovations in 2017 what is required is further improvement in the regulatory environment.
  • Rules and guidelines should encourage prudent behaviour by both the financial institutions and market participants. Regulators should manage the orderly entry and exit of financial institutions in the market, minimising the potential for major disruptions in the financial system.
  • Digital finance has the potential to provide access to financial services for 1.6 billion people - more than half of whom are women - in emerging and developing economies. 

 

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Categories: Communication | Data | Development | Human Development | Information | Innovation | Technology

How can Africa grow and stabilise its job market?

by Developed Africa 22. January 2017 12:47

Increasing employment opportunities

  • Sub-Saharan Africa faces a rise in the share of its working-age population (WAP). Population data indicates that the WAP in the sub-Saharan African region will increase by 70 percent from 466 million in 2013 to 793 million in 2030 (Lam and Leibbrandt, 2013).
  • Farming is the dominant occupation of most young Africans. The agriculture that will allow young farmers to prosper will have to draw on quality modern agricultural science – at present it does not.
  • Lack of access to finance for youth and particularly women entrepreneurs further limits growth and expansion opportunities.
  • A broader vision of high-quality education (one that fosters the full breadth of skills needed in a changing world) should be a priority in 2017.
  • Broadening access to education will ensure a steady supply of skilled workers into the labour market to support the transition to higher value added sectors.
  • it is important to diversify economic activity away from the current high concentration in traditional low value added agriculture, as it is in many African economies, to more productive activities such as agri-processing, manufacturing, and high-value added services.
  • For those young self-employed workers in the informal sector, there should be institutional mechanisms that ensure adequate access to credit, in light of the fact that these individuals are likely to be wealth and asset constrained.
  • Event to watch: African Union Assembly Meeting – January 24-31, 2017

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Categories: Analysis | Business | Communication | Development | Economy | Human Development | Industry | Investment | Technology | Trade

No Child Left Offline

by Developed Africa 3. July 2013 09:00

In his successful run for the presidency of Kenya earlier this year, Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to deliver one laptop per child to those attending primary schools from January 2014. This scheme has been met with some scepticism, not least for the potential cost as this article from one of Kenya's largest daily newspapers put it,

However, given the cost implications, the ministry has proposed to roll out the project in three phases. According to the estimates tabled by [Education Secretary] Kaimenyi, each laptop will cost Sh28,000, a sum that may be out of reach of many parents in public schools whose children are covered by the project."

There are other criticisms out there. A recent excellent blog post by Will Mutua (co-founder for Nairobi's Open Academy) summed up the main areas of concern for such a scheme very succinctly,

Lack of Supporting Infrastructure: Many schools in rural areas have no access to electricity, some have dilapidated classrooms and other amenities, not to mention some extreme cases where learning does not even happen inside a classroom. What’s the point of giving these students laptops? Their schools have other more pressing needs.

Lack of Capacity: There are teachers who are computer-illiterate. What happens when computers break down, who will have the technical skills to troubleshoot these laptops?

Timing: It’s just not the right time for such an initiative. There are other pressing matters that can be dealt with instead of ‘throwing away’ money in an impractical project. How about jobs, healthcare etc.? And even if it is a matter of enhancing education – why not first hire more teachers, there’s clearly a shortage of them, or pay teachers better?"

It is interesting that such problems have been highlighted for a government project - if you didn't know what they were about you would be forgiven for guessing that Mutua was criticising a poorly planned charitable project. It lacks sustainability, it lacks a proper appreciation of local context, and seems to seek headlines more than anything else. These are all classic complaints of donor-driven development models.

Promoting computer literacy is a great project, particularly for Kenya as it looks to become the tech hub of Africa. Giving a laptop to every child is something that has been attempted before (see Mutua's article for some good examples of similar schemes in East Africa in recent years) but often falls on the tertiary aspects of promoting computer literacy - you can't just give the equipment, you have to support that equipment and its users as well. Governments and NGOs can start projects like this but it is through commercial partnerships that African nations can really build a lasting, economically functioning tech sector. The talent is there, schemes something like Kenyatta's one laptop per child can open up the opportunity - now it is up to business investors to bring those things together.

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Categories: Investment | Sustainability | Technology