2017 saw the most notable rise in accessible technologies and tech-based start-ups around the world. As enterprises seek to provide global services by creating simple, one-size-fits-all products, they are breaking down national barriers and tariffs, essentially levelling the playing field.
On no continent is this clearer than Africa: while Africa has lacked essential infrastructure for decades, the popularity of smartphones and collaboration between African and European start-ups, like SEC2A (Start-up Europe Comes to Africa), are enabling inspirational African entrepreneurs to circumnavigate outdated, inefficient procedures to make life easier and business more worthwhile.
Financial technology, aka fintech, is one of the key trending industries at the moment, with clients increasingly preferring faster, cheaper and more mobile applications to the slower, more traditional banking systems. In a continent where 80 percent of adults have never had a bank account, yet more than half a billion people have smartphones, fintech represents a massive opportunity for Africans.
Some start-ups have already started to take advantage of this emerging tech trend. M-Pesa is a mobile wallet application that has processed transactions to the equivalent of 50 percent of Kenya’s GDP. Meanwhile, South Africa is also offering mobile payment in the form of Zapper and SnapScan, amongst others.
eCommerce in Agriculture
Farming remains the primary industry for many African nations, although high distribution costs and poor transport infrastructure frequently upset profitability. However, the rise of intuitive and low-cost eCommerce platforms are making it simpler to connect farmers directly with businesses, cutting out the middle-men and their high costs.
Despite increasing numbers of African tech-based entrepreneurs, farming is still on the rise in Africa. By combining these two industries, there is huge opportunity for farmers to sell their crops more efficiently and for higher incomes.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants
2017 saw a marked increase in the popularity of chatbots – AI-powered messaging systems capable of having human-like conversations and answering questions by consulting informational databases. They have become especially popular as first-line customer support, and 2018 is sure to see their popularity grow even more on social media and online businesses.
Sage South Africa have already revolutionised the accountancy industry by creating the world’s first accountancy chatbot, Pegg, where business owners and entrepreneurs can easily manage and track their finances using their smartphone.
Another major problem that African citizens and entrepreneurs must contend with is the sheer scale of its countries. Fortunately, GPS and mobile technology is helping to connect businesses and customers more instantaneously, reducing the time to communicate or use services.
Kenyan-based start-up, Flare, has been nicknamed the “Uber for emergencies” because of its ability to connect users with nearby ambulances, reducing response times and mortality rates. It has proven so popular that it has expanded into neighbouring African countries, such as Nairobi, which has up to 50 different private emergency numbers. Thanks to Flare, the average 2 hour wait time has been massively reduced by connecting users to nearby ambulances directly.
Flare have even begun incorporating fire engines into their app, reducing the response time of local fire services, thus reducing fire damage and its impact on the community.
GPS is also offering African entrepreneurs opportunities in other ways, such as in education. Tutorama, a start-up from Egypt, allows parents to track their children’s progress online by connecting with tutor’s grade systems.
The Future is Green
As nations around the world commit to rapidly phasing out fossil fuels, African entrepreneurs have a huge opportunity to utilise technology and the continent’s renewable resources to establish long-term, clean and profitable businesses.
M-KOPA Solar in Kenya provides solar electricity to low-income homes, while kiosks in Rwanda use solar power to charge customers’ phones. Freedom Won in South Africa been inspired by Tesla to build clean, electric vehicles, while Quaint Global Energy Solutions are using clean energy power plants to power homes in Nigeria.
These are just some of Africa’s green energy success stories, with many others already well established.
With these tech trends set to continue, smartphone usage expected to rise further across Africa over the coming years, and smart applications becoming so intuitive that entrepreneurs need only ambition and imagination to create meaningful and profitable businesses, 2018 is set to provide a whole host of opportunity for African entrepreneurs.