The Economist in Africa

samfloy~10 March 2018 /East Africa/East Africa Business

On Tuesday The Economist came to Nairobi to host an event on innovation in Africa. I went along (as part of the sponsorship deal for the podcast) and wanted to share some of the key things covered.

Unlike other conferences I’ve been to, there was a refreshing level of debate between panelists which facilitated getting to the crux of a number of issues.

Here are some key aspects:

1. Will Africa take a different development sequence?

Europe/ US/ Asia developed through ‘industrialisation’ i.e. building factories. Africa is developing in the time of mass connectivity and so will digitalisation side step this pattern?

Yes: many more opportunities to cheaply connect globally, especially regarding the gig economy
No: some things require “old fashioned” value creation i.e. you can’t smelt minerals with solar power alone

2. What is AI’s role in Africa’s development?

More than just an internet connection, Artificial Intelligence and robotics are developments that take jobs ordinarily fulfilled by humans.

The paradox: “AI may take jobs, but there are no jobs to take in Africa”

3. Kenya is an innovative tech hub?

Internationally recognised as a leader in FinTech through M-Pesa. However, the founder of Bitpesa (interviewed here) argued:

“M-Pesa was 10 years’ ago. What’s happened since then? What’s next?!”

Her answer: Kenya needs to embrace blockchain technology

4. China’s role in Africa

On the whole, China felt underrepresented from the conference. The country has a deep presence on the continent which may seem strange given the infancy of domestic markets.

Crux of the relationship: China is de-localising manufacturing of low value processes as they focus on AI

On the whole, it was a thought-provoking day with considerate people discussing the development of the region. If you’re interested in other events, take a look here.


In other news…

Quite a long one this week so I’ll just leave you with this quote I read recently:
 

“Justice is what love looks like in public”


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