The changing face of Africa’s technology market

There are many signs that clearly point at the fact that the African technology market is rapidly changing. African technology firms and institutions are becoming increasingly competitive, not only in the African context, but also (and more importantly) at global level. Yet, this does not detract from the challenges that affect the African technology market, such as the increased pressure that results from having to compete with emerging economies like China (one of the world’s economic giants), Brazil, or Russia. In this post we take a look at the findings of a recent study that examined how this factor is transforming the face of the African technology market.

Barriers to international trade and business expansion in Africa

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) was recently commissioned by DHL Express to carry out a detailed study on how certain markets are perceived by SME executives and international business groups. The report highlighted that there are massive differences in how African and Chinese markets are treated and perceived by investors and business groups. Despite Africa’s impressive growth rates, a large number of interviewees believed that on the whole, Africa presents few opportunities for growth. More specifically, this study revealed that the African tech market is facing intense competition from China, which was listed as the most attractive market for small and medium-sized companies who were planning to expand internationally. A large percentage of respondents cited limited growth opportunities, a generally unstable political environment, and poor infrastructure as the main factors that prevented them from investing in Africa.

However, this is not to say that there is no interest in the African tech market, as the study also showed that the region is considered as offering great promise for international businesses looking to expand. For example, an independent research study recently carried out by the Top Employers Institute (an institution headquartered in the Netherlands that has been recognising the work of the world’s best employers since 1991), has shown the notable improvement in working conditions and business potential experienced in sub-Saharan Africa, where DHL Express has been certified as a Top Employers company. In particular, the markets in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Uganda have undergone a substantial transformation that will surely help Africa position itself better in the increasingly competitive global tech scene.

Striving towards technology & scientific independence

The wealth of awards and prizes for entrepreneurialism across the continent is encouraging. It is expected that these prizes will have a strengthening effect on the African economy by driving entrepreneurship further, and as Angolan philanthropist Dr Alvaro Sobrinho recently affirmed, that “the boom in African tech innovation hubs […] will play an increasingly large part of all mobile developments on the continent”.

Alvaro Sobrinho is chairman of UK & Rwandan based charity & NGO Planet Earth Institute whose mission is to help Africa develop it’s own independence when it comes to science and technology. Through efforts to raise investment for PHD centres throughout the continent they have lofty targets to help African’s take up their own initiatives to drive entrepreneurial spirit forward.

Dr Sobrinho again: “To me, scientific independence means having science, technology and innovation embedded in government policies alongside resourced and empowered institutions, including universities. It means the ability to produce – and keep! – many more brilliant scientists and to have science in the societal consciousness as a public good for us all.

Scientific Independence will be achieved when Africa is using innovation and research to move from knowledge consumption to knowledge creation, impacting every part of our daily life, from better healthcare systems to smarter food storage or agriculture.”

Written by Tim Aldiss on behalf of the Planet Earth Institute

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