Is The Next Silicon Valley in Africa?

By Neenah Payne

The stories of revolutionary technology coming out of Africa now are nothing short of mind-blowing.

15-Year-Old African Prodigy Wows M.I.T.! features Kelvin Doe, an engineering whiz from Sierra Leone.

Film: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind! describes the invention of William Kamkwamba of Malawi which rescued his family and village from a famine. Although 13-year-old Kamkwamba had to drop out of school, he read books in the library to learn how to create a windmill to provide water for his family’s farm. When he later graduated from Dartmouth College, Kamkwamba arranged financing for farmers, helped build up the school system, and improved transportation in his village. He helped his six younger sisters complete high school. One sister is now a university graduate.

Kamkwamba and his friends installed solar panels in the primary school so students can study at night. When he provided computers, attendance doubled. They installed solar water pumps in the village to provide easy access to water. Kamkwamba started a soccer team. He started a maize business for his parents. He created a minibus service. Kamkwamba continues to work on energy and water projects. He co-authored the book The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, the basis for the film.

Maxwell Chikumbutso’s Game-Changing Free Energy Devices! and 21st Century Nikola Tesla: Maxwell Chikumbutso! show that Chikumbuto, who also had to drop out of high school because of finances, invented the Greener Power Machine, a car that does not need a power source to be recharged, a helicopter, and an intelligent drone. Chikumbutso also invented a mobile broadcast communication backpack, intelligent IP Mesh backpack, MSED powered home lights, and a household transformer that can multiply power a hundredfold. His innovations provide clean energy with no carbon foot print, ending the justification for a “carbon tax” to support global government. Saith Technologies, his firm, will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The decentralized energy provided by Chikumbutso’s inventions may play key roles in The Greater Reset. See The GREATER Reset — Inspiring Vision For Humanity!

Africa Regains Its Stature on World Stage

However, these stories of extraordinary African technological ingenuity and skill are not new or isolated. How African Rice Growers Enriched America! shows that the knowledge and skills of Africa rice growers made South Carolina the third richest state in the US after Connecticut and Louisiana in the 1800s. The South Carolina elite were among the oldest and wealthiest class in America. The structures the African rice growers built have been compared in skill and execution to the Egyptian pyramids.

Africa has been rich in scientific and technological knowledge and skills for millennia since ancient Egypt. However, after centuries of slavery and colonization, the story of Africa was one of poverty, famine, war, disease, corruption, exploitation, migration, and hopelessness. The new face of Africa restores its historic dignity on the world stage as it increasingly takes the lead in several ways.

Why Do Kenyans Win The Marathons showed that after Africans entered the world’s marathons, Kenyans and Ethiopians dominated and took the top prizes. Since 1988, Africans won every Boston Marathon except four. Kenya won 21 times and Ethiopia six. Since 1997, Kenyans won the NYC Marathon 13 times and Ethiopians three. Since 1999, Kenyans (15 wins) and Ethiopians (6 wins) monopolized the Berlin Marathon. Since 2003, Kenyans (14 wins) and Ethiopians (3 wins) have owned the London Marathon.

Africa is also taking big strides in technology now. Africa could become the new Silicon Valley.

See Forbes’ December 2019 article: Tech CEOs Visit Africa As ‘Source Of Innovation And Talent’.

Why Tech Giants Are Going To Africa

The heads of the world’s biggest tech companies have visited Africa. It started with Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella in 2015. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visited Nigeria and Kenya  in 2016. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai went in 2017, while Alphabet’s Sergey Brin visited in 2018. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma went to Africa in 2017, twice in 2018, and again in 2019.

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, Inc., raised some eyebrows in Silicon Valley when he moved to Africa in 2020. Africa is poised to take off as the next big tech market, and both America and China have taken notice. Zuckerberg said during his visit to Nigeria: “The thing that is striking is the entrepreneurial energy. When you’re trying to build something, what matters the most is who wants it the most. This is where the future is going to be built.”

Max Cuvellier, head of programs at GSMA Mobile for Development, said  “What I like the most when I look at tech giant CEO visits is that they seem to recognise the potential of the continent not only as a market, but as a source of innovation and talent. Google’s first AI lab in Africa (in Accra, Ghana) was announced by Sundar Pichai in June 2018. Ethiopia and the Alibaba Group just inaugurated a global trade platform.”

Why Big Tech Is Heading To Africa  describes the growing tech interest in Africa.

See the amazing tour in Andela Kenya Office Tour Video (Extended Version).

  1. The Untold Story of Andela
  2. Mark Zuckerberg Visits Andela Lagos
  3. This is My Andela: Hamdalah Adetunji
  4. Why Silicon Valley Has Its Eye On Nigeria
  5. Could Lagos, Nigeria be the next Silicon Valley?
  6. Is Africa really “rising” | Ali Mufuruki | TEDxEuston
  7. Why Jumia Is Beating Amazon And Alibaba In Africa
  8. How Africa could one day rival China | The Economist
  9. Welcome to “Silicon Mountain,” Africa’s next tech hub!
  10. EA Debate: Start-up funding – lessons from the Andela story
  11. Mark Zuckerberg’s Full Speech during visit to Yaba, Lagos Nigeria
  12. Minute-by-Minute: Mark Zuckerberg’s meeting with President Buhari
  13. There’s A Battle Going On Between The Economic Superpowers Of The World

Africa’s Growing Tech Hubs

Mark Zuckerberg’s Africa tour tracks tech’s growing interests on the continent shows that Zuckerberg visited Africa in 2016. It says: “After a surprise Nigeria visit to meet with techies in Lagos, Mark Zuckerberg took his Africa tour to Kenya this Thursday. There, the Facebook CEO visited the iHub innovation space, reviewed the BRCK mobile Wi-Fi device, had lunch with Kenyan ICT Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru and met with tech leaders Juliana Rotich and Erik Hersman. Like the Lagos expedition, the trip was unannounced.”

The article points out:

While Zuckerberg’s Nigeria visit was less anticipated — given the country only recently registered in global tech news — his dropping in on Kenya is less of a surprise. The East African nation of 44 million has become the continent’s unofficial tech capital, dubbed “Silicon Savannah” for its advances in digital finance, tech incubators and local IT innovations such as BRCK and the Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform.

Local telco Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile money product is globally recognized. The company has used its mobile infrastructure to innovate a number of digital products, including solar electricity (M-Kopa), online TV and the recent launch of its M-Pesa integrated ride-hail app (Little), an Uber competitor. The Kenyan government, which established an ICT authority, is one of the continent’s more proactive in supporting its tech ecosystem. And iHub helped spur Africa’s tech incubator movement, which now includes more than 300 innovation spaces across the continent, according to a recent GSMA survey.

The article adds:

From a tech perspective, Zuckerberg’s decision to visit Nairobi is relatively straightforward. Two initiatives he focused on were the BRCK venture and digital prototype startup Gearbox, both outgrowths of the iHub infrastructure Erik Hersman and Juliana Rotich established in 2010. BRCK developed in response to local IT challenges of poor net connectivity and electricity. The solar-powered BRCK Wi-Fi product (about the size of an actual brick) provides device charging capabilities, 3G and 4G internet for up to 20 connections and now ships to over 60 countries. “He got a demo of the next generation BRCK device, and was pretty intrigued by our Kio devices,” said Hersman, referring to BRCK’s educational tablet for primary school students.

The article says:

Zuckerberg’s Nigeria and Kenya trips coincide with Facebook’s expanding Africa presence and the continent’s growing digital profile. Facebook has 84 million users in Sub-Saharan Africa, 17 million in Nigeria, 14 million in South Africa and 5.7 million in Kenya, according to spokesperson Sally Aldous.

As previously reported, a particular Facebook Africa play will be tapping the online advertising market that’s rising with the continent’s shift to digital commerce, expected to reach $75 billion by 2025. Facebook opened its first Africa office in South Africa in 2015, appointing Ogilvy and Mather advertising executive Nunu Ntshingila as Head of Africa. In Kenya, the company has provided financial support to iHub events and workshops (Erik Hersman confirmed). Kenya is also one of Facebook’s Free Basics countries, a program that allows users on Airtel networks to access limited internet services free on mobile.

The article concludes:

As for what to expect from Facebook in Africa after Zuckerberg’s trip, company reps would not provide details. iHub, Gearbox and BRCK co-founder Erik Hersman sees possibilities to upgrade Facebook’s connectivity efforts, “Free Basics is growing but it’s still not the open internet,” he said. “There could be an opportunity to open it up around a business model that works.”

Hersman also believes the Facebook CEO’s visit will also draw more attention to Africa from Silicon Valley. “He could have just visited South Africa, which is what more people would have expected,” he said. “Visiting Nigeria and Kenya sends a message that could get other global tech players off the sidelines. If Facebook is putting some time, interest, and money into these markets others will definitely pay attention.”

Africa’s Four Big Tech Hubs

Three ways to look at the ‘Big 4’​ of Africa’s start-up ecosystem is a February 2021 article which says:

I’ve been following the African start-up ecosystem since 2015 and I am fascinated by its quality, growth and impact, not to mention its future potential. The past few years have seen an explosion in terms of activity not only from start-ups, but also tech hubs or investors, and it’s been exciting to watch, and occasionally support through our GSMA Innovation Funds for instance.

So what did I find when I looked at the 2020 data? In short, that The ‘Big 4’, which represent a third of Africa’s population and half of its GDP, attract 3 quarters of start-up deals over $500k, and 6 out of 7 dollars of funding raised through these deals.

The weight of these ‘Big 4’ – Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria – becomes really striking when you put the deals on a map, and group them by region. It is very clear that the four markets attract the vast majority of deals (74% in total), but it also seems that each reigns over a geographical area of influence which it pretty much dominates. That way, it could make sense to consider the continent not only as a collection of 54 individual ecosystems, but also as four extremely dynamic regional hubs, with healthy competition between them.

Africa: Next Tech Frontier

The Bloomberg article Netflix Names Zimbabwean Telecom Billionaire to Board as Part of Africa Growth Push Strive says

Masiyiwa is first African to join the streaming giant’s board of directors. Netflix Inc. appointed Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to its board, adding its first African director as it looks to new markets for future growth. Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairman of Econet Global, a telecommunications company that operates across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Econet offers phone, broadband and satellite service, and is also a major provider of mobile payments. Masiyiwa brings a fresh set of connections and experience as the first African — and the third international media executive — to join Netflix’s board in recent years. The streaming giant already has two directors from Europe, which has been its fastest-growing region in recent years.

Silicon Valley CEOs View Africa as the Next Tech Frontier says:

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai on Thursday, July 27, visited Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. During his visit, Mr. Pichai announced at a conference, plans by the internet giant to provide more than $3 million in equity-free funding and mentorship to more than 60 African start-ups over the next three years. Mr. Pichai is the latest, in a list of Silicon Valley executives that have visited Africa in recent months. Earlier in July, Jack Ma, the CEO and founder of e-commerce company Ali Baba toured east Africa (Kenya and Rwanda) in what his close aides described as a mission to inspire young African IT entrepreneurs.”

“On closer inspection however, the recent visits to Africa by the executives of some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley should come as no surprise; Nigeria currently ranks as number one among Google users in Africa and number eight in the world, while Kenya is a world leader in mobile banking services with more than a third of the country’s population registered as users on the e-money platform M-pesa.

So regardless of how their PR teams decide to dress up these visits, they are a little more than an attempt by those companies to establish a firm foothold, in a mostly untapped market with near limitless potential for growth in the coming years. With growth apparently leveling off in America and Europe, Africa is the logical next frontier for some of the world’s biggest tech companies. With a burgeoning middle-class, a youthful population and increased internet penetration, the continent presents a massive market with opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else.

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Rap Superstar Builds “Crypto City” in Africa

Rap Superstar Akon Moves Forward With ‘Crypto City’ in Africa to Fight Controlled Economy says

Akon plans to build a $6 billion development in Senegal called AkonCity. Rap superstar, and Senegal transplant, Akon is using his fame and changing the world. In 2018, he began a solar investment program in Sierra Leone to bring thousands of solar powered lights and traffic lights to the people, which was successful.

Now, he’s moving forward with plans to build an entire ‘crypto city’ to help pull Africa’s economy out of poverty and corruption. The city will be known as “Akon City” and will trade exclusively in his own digital cash currency called AKoin. Currently, the city is a vacant 2,000 acre plot just south of Senegal’s capital, Dakar but big plans are underway and Akon has already proven his ability to get things done.

Throughout Africa, corrupt governments print money to finance their spending which has created an inflation epidemic on a massive scale. Some countries have seen inflation rates topping 800 percent. For those struggling to get by, watching their money lose most of its value, literally overnight, is a horrifying fate. To combat this problem, many folks across the continent are switching to cryptocurrency.

The AKOIN: One Africa/ One Currency site says: “Akoin is a cryptocurrency powered by a blockchain based eco-system of tools and services designed for entrepreneurs in the rising economies of Africa.”

Top image: Medium/NetPlusDotCom

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