Grow­ing Africa's Dig­i­tal Ecosys­tem

Com­pa­nies like Google, Face­book, SEC2Africa and Ora­dian are iden­ti­fy­ing what could be the miss­ing links in the dig­i­tal ecosys­tem: knowl­edge trans­fer and face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion.

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside Issue11 - Words: KRISTIE OMAR

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the in­ter­na­tional tech com­mu­nity is nur­tur­ing Africa’s dig­i­tal ecosys­tem by sup­port­ing skills devel­op­ment, tech­nol­ogy adop­tion and the growth of dig­i­tal busi­nesses across the con­ti­nent. Gi­ants like Google and Face­book are lead­ing the ef­fort through di­rect in­vest­ment, part­ner­ships and in-mar­ket teams in key African mar­kets.

Google and Face­book both opened of­fices in Nige­ria in 2017. La­gos is home to Face­book’s first African tech hub and one of Google’s four African of­fices (the oth­ers are in Kenya, Sene­gal and South Africa). These tech hubs are lead­ing am­bi­tious ini­tia­tives to train young Africans in dig­i­tal skills. Google aims to train two mil­lion peo­ple across Africa each year and Face­book will train 50,000 Nige­ri­ans per year.

The tech hubs also serve as in­cu­ba­tors for star­tups seek­ing to at­tract early stage in­vest­ment. As Face­book’s re­gional Head of Part­ner­ships Emeka Afigbo said, “What we aim to do at the in­cu­ba­tor is to pro­vide sup­port for high tech star­tups that do not or­di­nar­ily get in­vest­ments, un­til they can de­velop a proof of con­cept.”

Africa is also at­tract­ing more at­ten­tion from Euro­pean tech com­pa­nies. In Novem­ber 2017, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion hosted its sixth SEC2Africa (Startup Europe Comes to Africa) fo­rum in Abid­jan, Ethiopia. The fo­rum brought to­gether the top 50 EU-based tech com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in Africa with the top 50 African tech com­pa­nies in an ef­fort to foster con­nec­tions be­tween the con­ti­nents.

Many EU firms have in-mar­ket teams, es­pe­cially those in the fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion space, where there is a heavy fo­cus on help­ing mi­cro­fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions to adopt fin­tech tools. Lead­ing fin­tech com­pa­nies are tak­ing a hands-on ap­proach to de­vel­op­ing dig­i­tal skills and readi­ness among their African cus­tomers.

For ex­am­ple, Ora­dian, one of the EUbased fi­nal­ists at SEC2Africa, pro­vides a cloud-based toolset for fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions in hard-to-reach com­mu­ni­ties in Africa and South­east Asia. Ora­dian’s of­fer­ing in­cludes a cloud-based bank­ing plat­form, hands-on change man­age­ment ser­vices and mem­ber­ship to a global com­mu­nity. The change man­age­ment process in­cludes im­ple­men­ta­tion of global best prac­tice, from ac­count­ing prin­ci­ples to data security and train­ing of all staff.

Com­pa­nies like Google, Face­book, SEC2Africa and Ora­dian are iden­ti­fy­ing what could be the miss­ing links in the dig­i­tal ecosys­tem: knowl­edge trans­fer and face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion. As the fin­tech mar­ket be­comes more crowded and busi­ness and con­sumers have more op­tions, going off­line and bring­ing high touch to high tech will be key.

Stu­dents use the Wat­son pow­ered por­tal to de­velop core com­pe­ten­cies for their di­verse ca­reer paths. IBM ear­lier in 2017 launched “Dig­i­tal - Na­tion Africa” and in­vested $70 Mil­lion to bring dig­i­tal skills to Africa with Free, Wat­son-Pow­ered Skills Plat­form for 25 mil­lion peo­ple.

The task of get­ting Africa dig­i­tal is just be­gin­ning. Google aims to train two mil­lion peo­ple across Africa each year and Face­book will train 50,000 Nige­ri­ans per year.

Ora­dian's Head of Im­ple­men­ta­tion Onyeka Adi­beli work­ing with the staff of a Nige­rian mi­cro­fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion (MFI) to digi­tise and elim­i­nate man­ual pen-and-pa­per pro­cesses.

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