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What Is The Sharing Economy And Did Africans Invent It?

What Is The Sharing Economy And Did Africans Invent It?

In a recent TEDxKampala talk, Ugandan entrepreneur and technologist Raymond Besiga talked about a shift from the “this-is-mine” economy to the “what-is-mine-is-yours-for-a-fee” economy. There’s a name for that. It’s called the sharing economy.

Besiga creates technology solutions that address social and economic challenges, according to the TEDxTalks. He co-founded Sparkplug, a software development and consulting firm. Before that, he worked with UNICEF Uganda.

“I do not have all the information regarding how the sharing economy started but I believe that it had something to do with the global financial crisis,” Besiga said on his blog at RayBesiga.com. The sharing economy is connected to the rise of the millennials as a consumer demographic and an altruistic, albeit late shift from the “this is mine” to “what is mine is yours, for a fee” economy, he said.

“During the economic downturn, there was a need to minimize expenditure, optimize personal costs and create new income. The ubiquity of social networks allowed for people to trust strangers if only due to the shared hardship. Tools such as Craigslist and E-Bay were a boon to peer-to-peer transactions. Why buy a saxophone, or a tuxedo when you can rent one from a stranger online?”

These experiences, however, are largely western, Besiga said. “That does not mean that the sharing economy is lost on us here in Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa. Our history suggests that we have always had a sharing culture. It is happening on a small scale each day and with the right technology in place, the volume can grow.”


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While on a road trip in Bushenyi District, Western Uganda, Besiga and a colleague, Moses Mugisha, spoke to farmers in the area and learned they did not have enough income to buy a tractor each to till their pieces of farmland. “When we asked how they (worked around) it, they (said) that it all came down to community,” Besiga said. “They formed a trust in which all the farmers contributed to a fund. Once they had accumulated enough, they time-shared a rented tractor over the course of a week for a not-so-great sum.”

This experience gave Besiga the idea for a new company, Akabbo. Launched in November Akabbo — named for the Luganda word for a collection basket — is a local crowdfunding platform that lets users create campaigns and pool funds using the mobile money wallets.

“We created Akabbo to provide a venue for individuals and organizations to actualize their dreams and ideas through a shared fundraising model on a national scale,” Besiga said. “We are currently working to add international online payments processing for wider reach.”

The point, Besiga said in his blog, is, “The economy of the future is people-powered and will be driven by peer-to-peer transactions. If opportunity knocks, open the door. If it does not knock, build a door.”