Wanted In Africa: Functional Tech That Helps Africans

Written by Dana Sanchez

Prior to the mobile phone-based money transfer system M-Pesa, most Africans were excluded from modern financial services, according to a report in ITWeb.

Kenya is a perfect example of a country that has struck the right balance between the kind of technology it’s adopting and how that technology is benefiting its population, said Meryl Malcomess, marketing director at Syspro.

Syspro is a global software development company with Johannesburg headquarters that provides integrated business software including accounting, manufacturing and distribution for variety of industries.

Technology companies looking to do business in Africa should ensure their products and services are relevant to local conditions, Malcomess said.

“Companies need to seize opportunities that technology can bring to support fundamental human needs on the African continent, as well as its role throughout the entire social, environmental, political and economic life cycle,” she said.

Companies should continuously engage with projects that improve lives in Africa, whether it is facilitating sustainable agriculture within communities, healthcare, education, skills development and, ultimately, the creation of a more employable workforce, Malcomess said.

“Companies that continue making the mistake of seeing the continent purely as a sales location, investing big money for huge profit returns without any social responsibilities, will be left behind,” she said.

Prior to the introduction of M-Pesa in Kenya, most Africans were excluded from modern financial services, Malcomess said.

Between 2001 and 2005, Ghana had 1.6 bank branches per 100,000 people and Kenya had 1.3 bank branches per 100,000, while Uganda and Tanzania both had less than 0.6 branches per 100,000, according to research from The National Bureau of Economic Research, according to ITWeb.

ATM penetration in these countries was even lower, ranging from one per 100,000 in Kenya, to less than 0.2 per 100,000 in Tanzania. In contrast, the U.S. had 31 bank branches and 120 ATMs per 100,000 people during the 2001-2005 period.

“The combination of widespread cellular communication and the ability to transfer money instantly, securely and inexpensively, are together leading to enormous changes in the organisation of economic activity, family relations, and risk management and mitigation, among other things,” Malcomess said.

Story by Lebo Mashiloane.