Fernando de Sousa (Africa) – Lessons from Emerging Markets
Business Management

Fernando de Sousa (Africa) – Lessons from Emerging Markets

Technology is changing Africa. In time, Africa will transform technology for the world.

Which of the emerging markets represents the best bet for investors? Some might argue that the strongest growth opportunities remain in China or the other BRIC nations. At Microsoft, we believe the answer is Africa. With more than a billion people, Africa is home to 16 of the world's 30 fastest-growing economies. Yet the continent is often overlooked, which we believe is related to a lack of advertising around its own potential. But with a rapidly improving business infrastructure, a booming stock market, and a young and ambitious population, there has never been a better time to invest in Africa and in the African people.

As a company that's been operating in Africa for 20 years, we recognise that this is a continent with a resourceful approach to innovation. When the availability of tools is limited, it tends to concentrate entrepreneurial activity on applications that serve a real purpose. Only 15% of Africans are online, and many have no access to banking facilities, yet more than three quarters have a mobile phone. In Kenya, these conditions helped to spawn M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer company that has gained international acclaim. M-Pesa is widely credited with changing the face of trade in sub-Saharan Africa, and market demand is pushing mobile operators in other parts of the continent to adopt similar systems.

African economies are proving that availability of technology creates demand, and with demand comes investment in infrastructure. This is a continent that recognised early on the limitations of its terrestrial fibre optic cables, the cost and weakness of which was inhibiting the growth of the tech industry. Talks began with companies to install the undersea fibre optic cables that now enable millions of businesses and consumers to get online, fuelling the fast growth of Africa's economic stars, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

This voracious appetite for technology shows no signs of abating. Using basic mobile technology such as M-Pesa to perform critical business tasks was enough when the vast majority of Africans had simple feature phones, but today there is a growing appetite for a more sophisticated technology infrastructure. Of course, there remains a great need for improvements in basic infrastructure in rural areas: roads and rail networks that can support traditional industries such as agriculture. But boosting access to technology has the potential to transform different types of businesses all over the continent.

Under our recently launched Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, which aims to accelerate economic development in Africa by increasing access to technology, devices and skills training, we are working closely with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications to provide rural populations with access to high-speed, low-cost broadband. The ‘Mawingu' white spaces pilot leverages unused TV spectrum and solar-powered base stations to transmit internet connection to areas which lack even basic electricity. With access to the internet, farmers in rural areas could branch out from selling produce and livestock at local market rates, to trading online at higher margins with buyers from across the region. Access to technology brings huge potential for learning new farming methods and skills, fuelling entrepreneurialism, accelerating economic development, and expanding business reach for rural communities.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and Africa is making bold steps at exactly the right time. With its young population hungry for opportunities and employment, and an ever-improving education system, the door is open for Africans to create products and services that not only transform local markets but change the way more established economies view technology.

We believe the next ten years will see African innovation changing all of our lives. As Africa's economies start to realise the potential impact of foreign investment in technology, so the world should open its eyes to what it can learn from this vast continent of passionate innovators.


By Fernando de Sousa, General Manager for Microsoft Africa

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Comments

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Michael Young on February 16 2013

Thank you for drawing attention to the continent of Africa. I work in academia supporting the simulators and operational staff in our nursing program. I wonder where the Kenyans and other urban centers are in terms of using simulators to train their healthcare professionals on best practices and patient safety. These technologies are very expensive, but I am hopeful that we can find creative ways to bring this growing and effective technology available to struggling regions of the world.

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Mujahid Bakht on February 16 2013

Indeed Africa can play positive talent is every where in the world. Just have to look and find it. Mujahid Bakht www.atlasnewsonline.com

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Daniel on February 17 2013

Even though, Africa might be a new emerging opportunity! Measured by human assets, then Africa's ability as a Country to advance, then there needs to be; "lesser disparity between classes of people; rich vs. poor". And violent crime is at a all high, in South Africa. How do you fix this?

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Michael Ayeh on February 24 2013

Technology across health, farming, and education will fetch awareness to bridging tribal views and bringing real solutions to daily common needs thanks for sharing on Africa's globalization.

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Michael on February 26 2013

Thanks for this report. Indeed Africa is on the rise for those that will see that. I believe you only concentrated on the negative side of the continent. Crime or the gap between the poor and rich are not the major problem. If there are more work and people can afford to send their children to school, this will be reduced. However, for your information Africa is a continent not a country. Wise up and size up. Maybe you're one of the people that are being fooled by the media.

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Khalif Muhammad on May 10 2013

How can someone offer their talents to support this movement, I believe Africa movement will change the world, the negative is highlighted to keep people from missing a great oppurtuntity... What are was to seek employment in Africa? I believe Africa can benefit from people who what to see the people and country excel but have proven track records of helping improve business through IT solutions I want to help-I want in

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Fatai on November 05 2013

Perhaps, this article should have focused on Kenya rather than Africa as a whole. What impedes technological growth in one country may be different in another. Generally, it is believed that insufficient power generation is a major issue in most countries, especially in West Africa. Remove this impediment, then you have less crime, more business and employment opportunities, and decreased poverty rate. Currently, most people power their technology devices by generator powered by diesel fuel - a very unhealthy practice. If any organization is working with these countries' governments to bring in technology, I think there should also be an emphasis on power generation.

no-images

Michael Young on February 16 2013

Thank you for drawing attention to the continent of Africa. I work in academia supporting the simulators and operational staff in our nursing program. I wonder where the Kenyans and other urban centers are in terms of using simulators to train their healthcare professionals on best practices and patient safety. These technologies are very expensive, but I am hopeful that we can find creative ways to bring this growing and effective technology available to struggling regions of the world.

no-images

Mujahid Bakht on February 16 2013

Indeed Africa can play positive talent is every where in the world. Just have to look and find it. Mujahid Bakht www.atlasnewsonline.com

no-images

Daniel on February 17 2013

Even though, Africa might be a new emerging opportunity! Measured by human assets, then Africa's ability as a Country to advance, then there needs to be; "lesser disparity between classes of people; rich vs. poor". And violent crime is at a all high, in South Africa. How do you fix this?

no-images

Michael Ayeh on February 24 2013

Technology across health, farming, and education will fetch awareness to bridging tribal views and bringing real solutions to daily common needs thanks for sharing on Africa's globalization.

no-images

Michael on February 26 2013

Thanks for this report. Indeed Africa is on the rise for those that will see that. I believe you only concentrated on the negative side of the continent. Crime or the gap between the poor and rich are not the major problem. If there are more work and people can afford to send their children to school, this will be reduced. However, for your information Africa is a continent not a country. Wise up and size up. Maybe you're one of the people that are being fooled by the media.

no-images

Khalif Muhammad on May 10 2013

How can someone offer their talents to support this movement, I believe Africa movement will change the world, the negative is highlighted to keep people from missing a great oppurtuntity... What are was to seek employment in Africa? I believe Africa can benefit from people who what to see the people and country excel but have proven track records of helping improve business through IT solutions I want to help-I want in

no-images

Fatai on November 05 2013

Perhaps, this article should have focused on Kenya rather than Africa as a whole. What impedes technological growth in one country may be different in another. Generally, it is believed that insufficient power generation is a major issue in most countries, especially in West Africa. Remove this impediment, then you have less crime, more business and employment opportunities, and decreased poverty rate. Currently, most people power their technology devices by generator powered by diesel fuel - a very unhealthy practice. If any organization is working with these countries' governments to bring in technology, I think there should also be an emphasis on power generation.

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