Growing Africa’s Digital Eco-system: Bringing High Touch to High Tech?

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Companies like Google, Facebook, SEC2Africa and Oradian are identifying what could be the missing links in the digital ecosystem: knowledge transfer and face-to-face interaction.

The international tech community is nurturing Africa’s digital ecosystem by supporting skills development,
technology adoption and the growth of digital businesses across the continent. Giants like Google and Facebook are leading the effort through direct investment, partnerships and in-market teams in key African markets.
Google and Facebook both opened offices in Nigeria in 2017. Lagos is home to Facebook’s first African tech hub and one of Google’s four African offices (the others are in Kenya, Senegal and South Africa). These tech hubs are leading ambitious initiatives to train young Africans in digital skills. Google aims to train two million people across Africa each year and Facebook will train 50,000 Nigerians per year.

The tech hubs also serve as incubators for startups seeking to attract early stage investment. As Facebook’s regional Head of Partnerships Emeka Afigbo said, “What we aim to do at the incubator is to provide support for high tech startups that do not ordinarily get investments, until they can develop a proof of concept.” Africa is also attracting more attention from European tech companies. In November 2017, the European Commission hosted its sixth SEC2Africa (Startup Europe Comes to Africa) forum in Abidjan, Ethiopia. The forum brought together the top 50 EU-based tech companies doing business in Africa with the top 50 African tech companies in an effort to foster connections between the continents. Many EU firms have in-market teams, especially those in the financial inclusion space, where there is a heavy focus on helping microfinance institutions to adopt fintech tools.

Oradian's Head of Implementation Onyeka Adibeli working with the staff of a Nigerian microfinance institution (MFI) to digitise and eliminate manual pen-and-paper processes.

Oradian’s Head of Implementation Onyeka Adibeli working with the staff of a Nigerian microfinance institution (MFI) to digitise and eliminate manual pen-and-paper processes.

Leading fintech companies are taking a hands-on approach to developing digital skills and readiness among their African customers. For example, Oradian, one of the EUbased finalists at SEC2Africa, provides a cloud-based toolset for financial institutions in hard-to-reach communities in Africa and Southeast Asia. Oradian’s offering includes a cloud-based banking platform, hands-on change management services and membership to a global community. The change management process includes implementation of global best practice, from accounting principles to data security and training of all staff. Companies like Google, Facebook, SEC2Africa and Oradian are identifying what could be the missing links in the digital ecosystem: knowledge transfer and face-to-face interaction. As the fintech market becomes more crowded and business and consumers have more options, going offline and bringing high touch to high tech will be key.

This article was written by KRISTIE OMAR.

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About Author

Born in Zimbabwe and living in South Africa, Miriro is a seasoned publishing editor and writer, having worked with leading brands in investment, business leadership and entrepreneurship. Passionate about Africa’s development, Miriro is also a dynamic marketing consultant with 10 years experience working with startups and large multinational corporations. With a heart for travel, Miriro spends her time discovering the nooks of crannies of Africa’s hidden gems, taking the roads less travelled, meeting the beautiful people and enjoying their food and culture. She enjoys tackling complex strategic challenges in the passion-to-entrepreneurship pipeline, particularly focused on the implications of 4th Industrial Revolution and workforce automation on Africa's travel and tourism industry. Miriro is currently the Managing Editor of Nomad Africa magazine.

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