African innovation has not received the global recognition it deserves. The continent is teeming with entrepreneurs and innovators developing new products, apps, and technology solutions that aim to improve lives both at home and abroad. Africa’s new generation of tech innovators have been empowered by the rapid ascent of the humble mobile phone. Our film tells the story of entrepreneurs across the continent and how their use of mobile technology is having a transformation impact on Africans’ daily lives. Supporting this project will shine a light on African innovation and advocate for increased investment in the continent’s technology sector.  

The extraordinary success of mobile technology in Africa came as a shock to many. In the early-1990s, Africa appeared to be an unlikely destination for mobile phone subscriptions. The continent was viewed as high risk, with questionable rewards. In 2000, around 1% of homes across Sub-Saharan Africa were connected by landlines, while today there are nearly 557 million unique mobile subscribers. How did Africa leapfrog almost a hundred of years of telephony development and infrastructure? And what does this technology mean for everyday Africans?

Mobile money transfers also are being used to pay for power from solar panels that off-grid-energy companies install on homes lacking electricity. Uber is a fact of life in urban East Africa, as are homegrown car-sharing competitors.

Mobile internet is the platform of choice in Africa due to its relatively low cost when compared to wireless broadband. The growing uptake in mobile technology has fueled many of the innovative digital solutions and services emerging from the continent, and, as mobile infrastructure advances and the cost of smart devices falls, tech entrepreneurs are developing uniquely African tech solutions to African problems.

Mobile technology has had a profound impact on all segments of African society, but people living at the bottom of the pyramid have the most to gain from access to information. Mobile Africa highlights everyday people whose jobs are made possible by the mobile economy and small business owners whose livelihoods have been transformed through mobile connectivity. It includes perspectives from academics who place the societal impact of mobile phones into context, and government regulators who discuss their plans for encouraging future innovations within their respective countries. 

Driving Efficiency of Technology in Business and Public Service

Boosting connectivity through increasing access and affordability is essential for disruptive development in Africa. Connectivity links consumers to businesses but also enables innovators to share ideas and seek funding and advice through the shared economy.

While mobile connectivity is well-advanced across Africa, internet availability lags behind. Less than 30% of African people have access to mobile broadband (compared to 43% in Asia) and only 15% have internet at home.

Nigeria, there are numerous example of tech companies doing just that, such as the online payment service Paystack and the e-health app LifeBank. While the tech innovations in Kenya and Nigeria have an obvious value in their home nations, overseas investors still view startups in these markets as only dealing with African issues which do not translate to the global market, according to Paul Gabriel, Africa Analyst at Control Risks.

However, the tech sector in South Africa, led by startups in Johannesburg and Cape Town, remains the most advanced on the continent, with the number of exits increasing year-on-year in 2016, and startups such as WhereIsMyTransport and website builder VIGO expanding to the UK and Asian markets, respectively. But despite the positive indicators, overseas investors, who are key to boosting the funding available for startups, prefer to err on the side of caution when investing in Africa. 


Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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