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Wednesday, Oct 16th

Talking African tech investment needs

Talking African tech investment needs

Digital economies, future workforce development, edutech and agritech.

These are some of the key sectors Amrote Abdella, regional director for Microsoft 4Afrika, and Teresa Mbagaya, a principal for educational investments at Omidyar Network, believe are ripe for investment.

The pair spoke as part of the Women in Tech Africa conference, in Cape Town this week.

Mbagaya outlined that tech investments across Africa are on the up, rising from around $200 million in 2017 to $350 million in 2018. And these investments are having a drastic impact on the sectors listed above.

Starting off with her key focus area, Mbagaya noted there is a 100-year gap between the developed world and developing nations when it comes to education. This means children in countries such as South Africa will have to wait an additional 100 years before they reach the same level of education as their western counterparts.

"Unfortunately, we don't have 100 years." EdTech is making inroads but more focus, and more support from government and other key stakeholders, is needed, she noted.

It all comes down to addressing a niche market and social needs, added Abdella. There are a number of agritech start-ups that are already having a significant social impact across Africa.

Highlighting an example, she pointed to AGIN, which uses mobile and cloud to connect farmers to money. Using only their mobile phones, farmers can capture data about their farm size, location, soil composition and crops. This information can be provided to banks and insurance companies that offer farmers goods and services that enhance their productivity.

Mbagaya noted that 75% of the African continent is under 35-years-old. This makes future workforce development an essential investment area. She asserted that we need to come up with ways to fund organisations that are working to identify the key skills and jobs that are required in Africa, and businesses actively working to connect young people with employment opportunities.

Training platforms that offer assessments, and also connect young people with potential employers, like Harambee, are a great example of this.

Most of us are familiar with sharing economies, which are actually quite pervasive across Africa, noted Mbagaya. In fact, over the last decade, it was businesses that fall under the digital economy that created 90% of the new jobs across Africa.

We are seeing more and more countries starting to use this sharing mindset to do other things, like providing access to employment opportunities, for example. "These platform economies are all about finding new methodologies for utilising digital economies."

This is all made possible thanks to mobile technologies, stressed Mbagaya. Businesses like Sweep South in South Africa and a Nairobi-based venture called Lori, a logistics platform that is upping efficiencies in cargo-transport, showcase how mobile is already having an impact.

These businesses not only have a financial impact but they have social outcomes, which she believes is especially important when addressing one of Africa's largest populations: the informal sector.

If we take advantage of all this, we expect to create about 500 000 new jobs in Kenya, one million in SA and as many as two million in Nigeria, she concluded. "This is tangible impact realised just by using the existing ideas and models but in new ways."

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