Every day I scan the African business news, and share selected articles on Twitter and Tumblr. Fascinating hobby aside, it gives me a finger on the pulse of stories swirling around the infowebs. On the last day of the calender year, it’s de rigeur to sit oneself down and attempt to cluster these swirling motes into some cohesive pattern. Here’s my 2 shillings worth for 2015.
Whether its Nestle and the middle class, Africa Rising or falling, or the quality of data, statistics and analysis, the common thread running through these stories which pop up regularly every week is the establishment’s inability to get a clear picture of the African opportunity. The scramble for Africa seems to be defined by the struggle for data, forever out of reach of grasping excel spreadsheets.
Maybe Africa’s not meant to be measured into exactitude.
Solar powering innovation.
The Nigerian solar powered coldhub to help farmers preserve fresh produce and minimize post harvest losses is just one of the many examples of affordable solar driving innovation at the grassroots in Africa. Somaliland’s Hargeisa city boasts streetlamps; grannies are trundling off to India to study solar engineering; Kenyan motorbikes run on the sun; ATMs in Ghana; clinics in Rwanda, and so much more. Its no more the domain of social enterprises swooping in with their well funded and professionally designed solutions.
Women are more visible.
Women entrepreneurs, women starting cooperatives, founding companies, writing code, building apps, changing lives. They’ve suddenly become far more visible in the news. Whether it’s a story on how it feels to be a developer writing code in Lagos, or, a young woman helping dairy farmers sell milk, women from all walks of life are coming out of the shadows.
Mobile phones and Digital Currency
A measure of a market’s maturity lies in its perception of threats. M-Pesa, the financial inclusion industry’s darling, is fending off Bitcoin, the geek’s dream contender for transborder transactions. The African mobile market is no more defined by low cost candybars from Finland. Its all about apps, games, and services on demand. Welcome to the smart and social web, where you can buy your cow, some sheep, and fresh veg. Delivered to your doorstep.*
The digital divide is in the headlines
Africa is not a country. Ghana, Senegal, Zambia and Cameroon are. As social media collapses the commodity chain, linking the county that grew the coffee to the customer who consumed it, the stark difference in the way old fashioned global media still writes headlines for African news stories is glaring. Geographic errors abound, maps are mislabelled, and risk perception shrinks thousands of miles into one singular hotspot. This is one trend that I don’t wish to see make it to 2016.
*Those links, and analysis are available for a fee ;p