Switching On: Africa’s Vast New Tech Opportunity
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
This article was taken from the August 2011 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired’s articles in print before they’re posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.
In 2011, visitors to Africa looking for war, famine and pestilence have to dig a lot deeper than in the past. At Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, hardened missionaries have been replaced by gap-year students clustered around iPads, and on the streets the bad old days have given way to another holy trinity: Premier League football, Toyota Hiace minibuses and cellphones.
Africa’s national economies have grown consistently over the last decade. Even in the depths of the financial crisis, GDP growth exceeded three percent: more than in any other region of the world. Improvements in security, Chinese investments and soaring commodity prices have all played a part in transforming the continent’s prospects.
Beyond macroeconomic factors, though, technology is driving profound changes to economies and societies across the continent. The hundreds of millions of mobile handsets and billions of airtime minutes only go some way to describe the scope of entrepreneurship that underpins Africa’s technological revolution. From mobile payments to telemedicine and advertising, there is a common pulse of innovation, driven by an irrepressible combination of aspiration and necessity. This is the new Africa.