Technology take-up in Africa: Young generation is paving the way for growth

“The poverty gap is a technology gap,” Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Ghana’s science and technology minister.

Growth potential in Africa rests not only on its vast natural resources, but can also be found in tech-savvy youngsters willing to adopt new technologies as soon as they arrive.

As fintech becomes an increasingly bigger part of our lives, technology also continues to develop across less developed parts of the globe. The latest data showed that internet users in Africa increased by 20% over the last year, making it the continent with the fastest growth rates in internet adoption.

According to the Economist, the international trade body GSMA estimates that for every 10% increase in mobile phone adoption in a country, productivity is boosted by 4%. The technology take-up does not stop with consumers; the young show that they are able to keep up with what Silicon Valley is doing. Tech entrepreneurship is also growing: in 2016, tech firms based in Africa raised $367m in investments.

Much of this leap forward is due to the younger generations who are willing to find ways to overcome barriers such as inefficient public administration and extortionate bank fees. Bitcoin, for example, saw huge take-up in countries like Uganda, where unemployment is high and people under 30 have realised they could be mining cryptocurrencies and making some income from their own homes, instead of relying on unstable political and economic systems.

The digital divide in Africa is narrowing, yet there are still barriers to be overcome in order to ensure that technology penetration reaches as many people as possible. Mobile phones are not synonymous with internet access and even if the numbers of users online is growing in Africa, it still remains below 50% of the whole population. The reason behind this is the high cost of connection — reaching over $500 a month in Chad.

There are reasons to be positive, though, as we see that private initiatives to tackle financial exclusion keep reducing the number of unbanked people across the continent. Formal institutions such as banks, insurance companies and credit institutions serve only 14% of the rural population: those living outside urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa. The creation of mobile wallets, for example, will come in handy for those with bank services, to save and keep track of their money.

Technology has been a key element in the latest developments in African business. African people have shown unique interest in adopting tech gadgets and systems to improve their lives — especially with the use of mobile services and applications. With technology, the continent has spotted an opportunity to leapfrog existing technologies, eventually becoming one of the top performers in tech services.

It is time we stopped talking about how much technology will revolutionise societies all around the world. This revolution is already a reality.

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