Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Most African countries and emerging economies over the last decade have used Information
Technology to transform their economies. A typical example is Kenya, Kenya in Africa is
leading the world in mobile money via M-Pesa. M-Pesa (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for
money) is a mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinancing service, launched in
2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in
Kenya and Tanzania. ( Wikipedia ) One study found that in rural Kenyan households that
adopted M-PESA, incomes increased by 5-30%. In addition, the availability of a reliable
mobile-payments platform has spawned a host of technology start-ups in Nairobi that is
creating jobs for the youth, whose business models build on M-PESA’s foundations.
Information Technology alone cannot be used on it's own to solve our problems but it can be
integrated into other sectors like health, transportation and education to build solutions.

As a matter of fact African states have to critically look inward to bring down all barriers that in
one way or another hinder intra-Africa trade, before development can be achieved for the
continent. We need not herein reiterate that the activities of exploitative foreign companies
have rendered Africa poor and underdeveloped. In the greedy hunt for our resources, these
companies exploit our labour, our land and our minds. Most African governments spend
millions of dollars importing software and technologies for their ministries and other sectors
whereas if they gave the same opportunity to budding local firms , they will be able to build
and customize the system to suit their specifications at a cheaper cost. It is very important for
Africans to build technological solutions to solve our own problems.

We should embrace technology and new media as a way to preserve our rich heritage and
tell the African story our way. We are tired of Africa being labeled as a continent of war, AIDS
and now Ebola. Technology has the capacity to transform our story on the open web.

Africa has the youngest population in the world. The current trend indicates that this figure will
double by 2045, according to the 2012 African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts
from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the
UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the industrialized countries’ Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others. We should not neglect the
work of young entrepreneurs and small and medium scale enterprise (SME's) using
technologies like mobile phones and SMS/USSD to solve key problems. I want to highlight on
the work of some of these companies in Africa. Ushahidi is is a non-profit software company
that develops free and open-source software (LGPL) for information collection, visualization,
and interactive mapping. Ushahidi (Swahili for "testimony" or "witness") created a website in
the aftermath of Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election that collected eyewitness reports
of violence reported by email and text message and placed them on a Google Maps map.
iROKOtv is a web platform that provides free and paid-for Nigerian films on-demand. It is one
of Africa’s first mainstream online movie steaming websites, giving free and instant access to
over 5,000 Nollywood film titles. Farmerline is a Ghanaian technology product company that
builds supply chain and value chain solutions to integrate agricultural outputs of rural farmers
in Africa/emerging markets. Mpedigree's Goldkeys brings a set of mobile and web tools
together in one platform to provide brand owners with complete, real-time, control of key
events in their supply chain, therefore shutting out counterfeiters, fakers, pilferers, thieves,
and leaches of all kind, seeking to prey on your brand equity and investments in developing a
channel to reach your customers. Finally AnansiPedia a Ghanaian innovation by Oasis
Websoft. Anansipedia is an educative platform that allows the seamless sharing of
educational resources to help less privileged students in environments with little Information
Technology infrastructure to have ubiquitous access to better quality academic content. This
will help students in remote areas in one part of the world meet or get free
access to an article written by another student/researcher/tutor in Harvard to enhance
their learning process.

African leaders should start investing in locally made software and technology because it is our terrain and we know the best way to innovate frugally. Intra-African trade can offer real opportunities to improve the quality of life in Africa. It is also
important to deepen our level of reflection on community dynamics and on the constraints
encountered when introducing and using Information Technology for development.