The Africa Tech Summit graciously held sometime in February, 2022 in Nairobi, the Kenya capital territory, West Africa.
At the summit, the erstwhile Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), Tony Blair who was a guest speaker, elatedly opined that the tech revolution continued to redefine what was possible – for individuals, states and societies – and Africa was in an excellent position to harness the power of technology for good.
The British statesman said in a pre-recorded conversation, that, “Technology is changing the world, it’s the 20th Century equivalent of the 19th Century Industrial Revolution, but it moves at an even faster pace. This is a real moment of opportunity for Africa.”
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He therefore challenged the audience to help create an environment that fosters tech and supercharges start-ups across the continent.
He further hinted, “The cost of regulatory compliance for tech start-ups that want to scale is just too high, and investment in Africa’s tech ecosystem is still way below what other parts of the world are getting”.
“You can have the greatest idea in the world but unless you have the access to capital, it’s very hard to make it work.”
It’s noteworthy the Tony Blair Institute For Global Change works in 25 countries around the world, 16 of them in Africa, brokering strategic partnerships between governments and leading tech companies towards harnessing the power of technology to change people’s lives.
Citing his Institute’s tech-based work in Senegal in the health sector, and in Rwanda in the agriculture sector, Mr Blair disclosed his teams were involved in real projects on the ground and he kept seeing immense opportunity for growth led by African entrepreneurs, tech start-ups and governments.
In his words, “The challenge is both within the tech sector and from the government to find ways to give this work legs, to make it move as fast as possible. We have got to understand the big gap between where we are and where we need to be in Africa.”
Mr Blair told the audience there were three things, as outlined in a newly published report (LINK TO COME) by the Institute, that were really important for Africa in order for it to supercharge its tech ecosystem.
According to him, “The first is access to funding, which needs to be a big part of the conversation we have with international financial institutions – it’s certainly a large part of the conversation we have at the Institute – as to how they help create bigger pools of venture capital and are prepared to partner with venture capital funds that are looking to come into Africa but we need much more capital and seed funding going into Africa.
“The second is the right regulatory environment in country to support the growth of technology, for things like financial services.
“The third is the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which is a big opportunity that’s going to create the largest free trading market in the world, allowing people to develop products and start exporting them across the continent.”
It’s worthy of note that the home to the world’s largest free trade area, and with the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the world, African tech creators, are already generating some of the most exciting innovations in the world.
Mr Blair, however, told the audience that he felt optimistic about the future because all over the world, young people were starting their own businesses.
He then concluded by saying, “The question everyone asks is, how do we do more?”
It’s very obvious that though the African tech sector is obviously booming as the days unfold, the prime challenge being faced by it remains insufficient access to the required capital, as was highlighted by Mr Blair. This therefore is one of the major areas the concerned authorities need to seriously consider.
The second main challenge remains the lack of the needed enabling environment to thrive. The environment is so conspicuously hostile that it has ended up compelling most of the tech start-ups in Africa to seek greener pastures elsewhere. This must equally be addressed headlong to avert colossal brain drain, as I have hinted in my earlier analyses.