Why Jack Dorsey and other major tech figures are suddenly interested in Africa
Jack Dorsey is in good company when it comes to Africa.
The CEO of Twitter and Square announced last month that he would spend up to six months in the continent next year, with few specifics. But he’s one of dozens of U.S. CEOs and global venture capital investors seeing the potential for technology disruption — and returns — throughout the continent.
“We’re seeing a lot of the investment opportunity and growth happening in the tech sector,” said Witney Schneidman, a Brookings fellow with the Africa Growth Initiative and former deputy secretary of state Clinton administration.
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“Jack Dorsey is in the right place at the right time and investing the appropriate amount of time to begin to understand the complexity of the African market.”
Africa has a young and booming population, which Schneidman said makes it a “natural market for any tech entrepreneur.” The 54 countries in Africa have a combined population of 1.3 billion people with an average age of 19, and more than half of global population growth over the next 30 years will happen there, according to a recent UN report. Africa also has the largest population of underbanked and unbanked people in the world, making it appealing for companies in financial tech and payments.
Jim Breyer, an early Facebook investor and partner at Accel Partners, likened the investment opportunity to China in the early 2000s. Breyer, who’s now the founder of Breyer Capital and Co-Chairman of IDG Capital based in Beijing, said promising businesses in Africa haven’t necessarily invented something new — they’re finding “novel ways to leverage technology.”
“Africa similarly presents some fundamental leapfrog opportunities that have been unlocked through the use of mobile phones and other technology platforms,” said Breyer. “We’re seeing some of the smartest individuals from top academic institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere return to the African continent, thereby contributing to a growing talent pool of entrepreneurs and developers.”
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