Africa is where the future will be built

“ This is where the future is going to be built”

Last year, Mark Zuckerberg came to Nigeria and Kenya made this audacious statement.

‘One million people in Africa have been trained on digital skills, with a projected plan to train 10 million Africans in the next five years on digital skills. Nigeria needs digital skills training for its youths and Google is focusing on digital skills training in the whole of Africa, to empower Africans to write software codes for their local economies. We have commenced the Google Launchpad Accelerator Space training in other regions of the world where we train technology startups on digital skills and we are starting the Google Launchpad Accelerator Space training in Lagos,” Pichal said. — The Google CEO was in Nigeria recently for the Google Digital Conference.

Also, Nadella, Microsoft Executive was in Kenya for Microsoft’s launch event for Windows 10 in 2015.

He said “I’m here in Kenya and in Nairobi to listen and learn. The core mission of Microsoft is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more” Nadella, Microsoft Executive

This year, Jack Ma was in Kenya for a week-long visit in east Africa — Kenya and Rwanda — with 53 other billionaires from China. His goal was to inspire young Africans to take charge and also invest in some brilliant solutions. This is what he had to say:

“I came here (Africa) to share the entrepreneurial dream not to sell Chinese products”- Jack Ma, Founder Alibaba

Why are these foreign tech players coming to Africa?

Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent (the first being Asia). With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world’s human population. Africa’s population is expected to more than double from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion by 2050, the biggest increase of any continent in the world.

In the past decade, Africa has begun to see itself as a force to reckon with in the global scheme of things. This has caught the right attention with the entrance of key foreign tech players to Africa.

“Africa has caught the imagination of the world in recent times as a [potentially] prosperous part of the world.” — Kingsley Moghalu

Africa has attracted substantial support in the past decade from foreign tech players in terms of funding, infrastructure and training . A joint study by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates that external financial flows to Africa have quadrupled since 2000. So we have reasons to celebrate the progress of the African continent which more than a decade ago was dismissed by The Economist magazine as “the hopeless continent.”

We have abundant human resource besides our natural resources and this explains why these foreign tech players are here. Despite what this new narrative is offering, the reality and bubble this narrative births needs to be questioned. The foreign tech company’s inclusion we are beginning to see in full capacity is as a result of the narrative that Africa is ripe for development. There are real risks in the relationship/partnerships that has to be identified, measured and managed properly. What’s important is that investors now realize there is money to be made from those bold enough to help close the gaps in Africa.

African companies are finally beginning to diversify beyond commodities with the help of foreign aid, though we are still in our infant stages. Our population size supports foreign tech companies and by that, they are acting as “first movers”, investing, training and giving back the little they can, to get what they want in various African countries.Should we continue to open our doors to foreign tech companies? This is a story for another day.

The bright side

However, the plus side to all these is that, African startups and companies are beginning to see the grey areas where they can be competitive with their foreign counterparts. And they are packaging themselves to appeal to a broader set of investors like Y Comibnator, 500 Startups,Techstars etc. Will this be sustainable? How much and how long can these foreign organizations actually give to African startups? Will the local investors rise up to the occasion or remain gate keepers? These are questions begging for answers.

My point is that as much as it is evident that this is where the future will be built, a lot of work still has to be done. We have to consciously build strategies and policies that will break some barriers hindering growth across borders. Civilization started in Africa, we shouldn’t be lagging behind again. Africa together can be great again, if we all realize the power in our hands.