The Evolution Of Technology In Africa

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Speakers the Africa Technology Summit focused on how the industry can take the next steps by better serving SMEs and improving inclusion and access.

The development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the need to develop the consumer market are the priority for technology in Africa, according to speakers at the Africa Tech Summit, held in London on 11 June.

In two keynote presentations, Facebook representatives Kojo Boakye, head of connectivity and access policy, and client partner Catalina Ionescu, identified SMEs as the key to accessing Africa’s economic potential and improving social development.

From Africa Law Business. Story by Andrew Mizner.

With 50% of Africans due to be subscribed to data services by 2025, there is huge potential and the continent is already at the forefront of financial technology (fintech) development, but more needs to be done to reach the population outside of the growing megacities and create social and economic development in rural areas, Boakye said in the morning keynote.

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“We need entrepreneurs” to do this, he continued, explaining Facebook’s own investment in tools which serve small businesses and technology hubs. “African business is driven by the small to medium business.”

This requires more than private sector investment, or even government backing, he argued, calling for full civil society support.

Improving the prospects of SMEs is about accessing global markets, said his colleague Ionescu, in her afternoon speech. She argued that technology is allowing SMEs to do business that was once the preserve of multinational corporations. Currently 56% of the world’s population, or 3.8 billion people, is connected to the internet and that is due to rise to 4.3 billion, of which 3.9 billion will be via mobile phones. Customer behaviour is changing and becoming more comfortable with mobile internet and Ionescu said that 2.7 billion people are connected to Facebook through its various apps.

These developments mirror conference organizer Andrew Fassnidge’s opening remarks that “African tech is growing up.”

That change was reflected in the event’s other discussions. A blockchain-focused panel led by Edward George of Kleos was enthusiastic about the technology as a tool for freedom and access, and George himself argued that Bitcoin was invented to people could transact without the obstacles of banks and regulations.

Even that is not without its flaws and Ted Lin of Binance said that Bitcoin is not well-suited to fast transactions, suggesting that other options had emerged in the market.

Elizabeth Rossiello of BitPesa said blockchain offers users the ability to access services they cannot currently get in their own countries and was enthusiastic that people should have opportunities to trade on financial markets, saying “speculation is not a dirty word.”

Read more at Africa Law Business.