Africa is closely watched as the next big growth market. There are many reasons for optimism: the African continent is home to some of the youngest populations in the world, it promises to be a major consumption market over the next three decades, and it is increasingly mobile phone-enabled. An emerging digital ecosystem is particularly crucial as multiplier of that growth.
Despite these reasons for optimism, the promise remains unfulfilled. Growth in Africa has stalled; both the IMF and the World Bank have cut their 2019 economic growth projections for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The World Bank projects that if poverty reduction measures and growth remain sluggish, Africa could be home to 90% of the world’s poor by 2030.
Despite these sobering statistics, the rapid spread of mobile digital technology [can] help various countries “leapfrog” ahead in economic development. Based on size (of economy and population), economic growth, median age, quality of governance, and digital momentum :
–South Africa – South Africa is a regional leader buoyed by strong consumer demand for digital businesses and an institutional environment that offers supportive regulations, comparing favorably against key emerging market nations in Latin American and Asian/Southeast Asian regions. South Africa is also a regional leader in the deployment of several emerging technologies, such as biometric data and payment cards to deliver social security, drones in mining, which helps keep it at the innovative edge.
–Kenya – Home to what’s known as a “Silicon Savanah” in Nairobi, Kenya has a growing, tech-savvy ecosystem. Thanks to the popularity of M-Pesa, the mobile payments capability, over 70% of Kenyans have a mobile money account.
–Rwanda – Rwanda has been moving to transform itself into a digital hub.
–Egypt – The digital technology sector is Egypt’s second-fastest growing sector. The country is also producing a large number of skilled graduates.
–Nigeria – Nigeria has a powerful entrepreneurial climate, with innovative ventures, and Africa’s leading startup investment destination in 2018.
–Ethiopia – While it has the most ground to cover among the six countries studied, Ethiopia is experiencing positive developments in several areas that can facilitate digitally enabled growth. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, has a background in and understanding of the tech sector and has been implementing reform in a number of sectors.
[Harvard Business Review]