The intensifying battle for Africa’s burgeoning tech landscape
Long gone are the days when Africa was disparagingly regarded as the White Man’s Burden. Today, Africa is the continent with the youngest demographic in the world, on the brink of a technical renaissance — yet the world’s tech titans are floundering to understand and gain a foothold in this market.
The scale and complexity of Africa’s technical landscape sits at the heart of the problem, and connectivity issues are particularly prevalent. Internet users in Africa represent only 10 percent of the total users in the world, despite representing 16 percent of the world population, according to Internet World Stats. And only 31 percent of the total population has access to the internet, which represents a penetration that is well below the rest of the world at 52 percent.
Africa’s technical future depends on widespread connectivity. As a result, both Eastern and Western businesses are eager to get Africa online. But for every proposed solution, myriad challenges spring up that are unique to the region.
For example, when Facebook’s co-founder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to connect 100 million people in Africa through the now infamous Internet.org initiative, the proverbial can of worms opened.
Naysayers were quick to point out a lack of infrastructure, technical knowledge and disposable income to fund smartphones and data packages (not to mention the need to meet the continent’s diverse linguistic needs) would all hamper his ambitious goal. And there are concerns that the Internet.org initiative is a cover for Facebook-backed digital colonialism.
Photo courtesy of Alikem Tamakloe.