Pause: How will new technologies help us build Africa’s century?

__It’s up to us. Let’s move quickly.

As some of you know, I just returned from the World Bank/IMF annual meeting in Bali, Indonesia where I spoke on a panel about emerging technologies and how they will impact peoples’ lives in every way, especially in poorer countries around the world. You all already know: Jobs will be lost. Lots of them. But, jobs will also be created…

How many? That is up to our own planning and vision — as businesses, governments and civil society, as well as researchers, inventors, and you… Yes, there will be winners and also some losers (especially those who don’t plan ahead). One reason I still have this FB platform is because I want all of you, and all of Africa, to emerge as winners in the digital age they now call the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

__”What is in your hand?” You know you will never stop hearing me ask this.

A few days ago, I published an op-ed [an article expressing an editorial opinion] about something I deeply believe in: Africa’s great entrepreneurial talent. If we can truly unleash Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit, we can lead the world in pioneering technology-fueled inclusive growth, and more. I will give you a link to the op-ed below and share some of it here.

As most of you know, I am co-chairing the Pathways for Prosperity: Commission for Technology and Inclusive Development, with Melinda Gates and Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati. Both of them participated in the panel on “harnessing technology for inclusive growth” earlier this week, alongside me and several others.

At the Commission we’re working to provide developing countries, in particular, with positive ideas and practical tools to prepare and plan ahead for the revolutionary changes that new technologies are already unleashing throughout the world. We want to hear from you, too. Here’s a link for the Senior Class to a new report: “Charting Pathways for Inclusive Growth: From Paralysis to Preparation”…

If our African governments put the right polices in place, including educational curricula and skills training for all ages that prepare our people for the jobs of the future, I am convinced more than ever that we can compete with any region in the world. But we must move quickly.

One key area of research is how to raise value from agriculture – using advances in data analytics, biotechnology and communications to improve farm yields and logistics.

Most of you know that at least 60% of Africans live in rural areas and most depend on agriculture for their very survival. I started the current #Re-ImagineRural series with that thought in mind and also because I passionately believe its huge potential.

I am not alone in believing that agriculture is one of the key frontiers for African entrepreneurs. We’re seeing, for instance, an exciting range of “precision agriculture” apps being pioneered in places like South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.

__Are there any such innovations in your countries?

If we seize the day, the possibilities opening up right now through digital communications, artificial intelligence, enhanced data management and other technologies are limitless.

The Pathways Commission is eager to hear new evidence and ideas, and learn from the voices and visions of entrepreneurs like you on this platform:

__How can technology be a force for good to enhance equality and prosperity in Africa, and other parts of the world?

Please do your homework and help us get the conversation going… in your communities, schools, universities, innovation hubs, workplaces, churches, mosques, local and national governments, and across the continent.

What are the most promising ways that new technologies can help us build Africa’s century? Are we prepared? What needs to be done, by whom, where and how?

“When” is not the question. The time is now.

Let’s talk.

To be continued. . .

by 14 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

14 thoughts on “Pause: How will new technologies help us build Africa’s century?

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    One example where governments and businesses could work together is in providing “soft” infrastructure such as open access “micro-services” to entrepreneurs. India is leading the way in this field via its IndiaStack platform that allows start-ups to incorporate digital services such as identity authentication, route planning or payments processing into their products free of charge. This dramatically cuts the cost of creating a digital service from scratch.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    The success of mobile money in Zimbabwe and East Africa shows what can happen when authorities take an enlightened approach (in this case, to regulation). In spite of stiff opposition from the banks, regulators in these countries took a “wait and see” approach to mobile operators getting involved in banking.

    The result was a revolution… in access to life-changing financial services for millions of people, especially low-income rural women!

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Denford writes,

    An e-commerce app to transform small holder farmers to agri-preneurs by connecting them to input suppliers and buyers of fresh produce can help too especially in areas of Zimbabwe.

    My reply,
    Econet has a business called Cassava Smartech. One of its key business units is called Ecofarmer, and it has been doing that for 1m small holder farmers in Zimbabwe on its platform!
    Here is a little quiz for you:
    How much money do you think Econet Zimbabwe generated from its services to Ecofarmer members last year:

    A. $1,3m,

    B. $13m,

    C. $130m

    I will give the answer at the end of the week.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    John writes,

    Was thinking on the same lines last month when I found myself in a situation in Southern Africa. I particularly mulled over the idea of a product like EcoCash increasing it’s mobile money services across the continent either directly or in partnership with other industry players the way Western Union does. Yes, if that could be enabled, it could eventually facilitate rapid cross border trade of agricultural commodities and in the process enable farmers (including) small holder farmers to access better or promising markets.

    My reply,
    Your observation is right John.
    When we saw how successful our EcoCash brand was in Burundi, we extended it to Zimbabwe. Then we began to extend it to other countries.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Chuks writes,

    Econet’s [Zimbabwe] overall revenue performance was lifted by its solid fintech (EcoCash, EcoSure, EcoFarmer and similar services) as well as data revenue contributions. The fintech revenue rose by 120 percent to $244,7 million, up from $111,1 million at the end of February 2017, with EcoCash subscribers increasing to 8 million, from 6,7 million in the prior year.

    That’s placing the total income generation at exact $130.6m

    You can read more from here

    My reply,
    Here is what I liked about your correct answer:
    You did not guess!
    In today’s world it does not take very much time for anyone to research [usually a few minutes] to find information using public sources.
    “Guessing” is a terrible habit for serious entrepreneurs!
    It’s a form of laziness.
    Well done you, diligence in answering this question is your pathway to great prosperity!

    Yes, the correct answer is that services to farmers who are members of Ecofarmer generated Econet Wireless Zimbabwe $130m in Financial year to Feb. 2018
    And that is just Zimbabwe. Cassava Smartech operates services in more than 20 countries. And some people think they know us!
    I don’t have to bang a drum every time I do something.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    My high school English teacher would often say to us:
    “If a tree falls in the forest where there is no one listening, does it make noise?”

    It was his way of always reminding us that, “Your not knowing about something does not mean it is not actually happening.”
    Every day I’m reminded that there are so many amazing things going on in Africa that I had no idea were happening. Some of the things young African entrepreneurs are doing in Africa just leave me in awe. There are young people already at work on the African continent whose wealth will far exceed that of the Oppenheimers, Dangotes, and the Motsepes. It must needs be so otherwise there is no real progress.
    These entrepreneurs will come from the digitization of Rural Africa, African AgriTech, On Demand Services, Shared Economies, AI, Biotech, Blockchain.
    They will not come from gold, oil, or telecoms because those are yesterday’s Pathways to great wealth!
    O Lordie!
    I’m so, soo oh excited for you. Go and “code” your way to your billions and I will be cheering you all the way.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    When I was co-chairing the Meeting Of The New Pathways to Prosperity Commission [with Melinda Gates and Sri Mulyani Indrawati in Bali last week], one of the VIP participants [Dr Vera Songwe] gave the example of a company called Bitsource in Kentucky USA.
    Later when I “googled” about them, I was just blown away!
    Here is the story, you can study more:

    From Coal To Code: A New Path For Laid-Off Miners In Kentucky
    Bit Source

    My question for the deep thinkers amongst you is simple:
    “What do you “see” about what is going to happen?”

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    A reflection and ode from an old African hand on doing business in our beloved Africa in difficult times!

    #Entrepreneurs Golden Rules:

    #1. #EntrepreneursDontFightConditions!

    “We fight in the conditions and not the conditions.”
    —A professional soldier does not wake up and say to himself, “Today I will not fight because it is raining…”

    …as an entrepreneur in Africa, this is our reality.

    Each one of us lives in a different country. As much as we would like Africa to be one big country with the same rules and laws, it is sadly not the reality.
    Being one of the first African entrepreneurs to build a business that operates in more than 30 African countries, every morning I wake up to new laws in one or more countries. Sometimes they can be good, but more often times than not, they will be very difficult for us, as a business or for entrepreneurs in general. Then we have our customers…our precious, precious customers…

    Often times we had no idea such a law was coming, and we are rarely consulted about it. We are simply directed to implement immediately.

    I never allow myself or any of my senior executives to complain, or to feel wearied or even upset.

    I just sit my people down and remind them of my second Golden Rule:

    #2. #NothingTurnsOnThis!

    Reminding them of some of the challenges we have faced before, that were often much worse.

    With faith filled words, I rally my wearied and dispirited troops again, and again:

    “Let’s comply fully with what they are demanding of us. If the authorities had wanted our opinion or advice surely they would have asked us before enacting this new law. So get over it. We will work harder, smarter, and wiser. Peradventure the Lord will help us.

    Then adding the words of a great prophet:

    “Remember our God is not a God of the hills, or the valleys. He alone is God, and has He not always helped us even in difficult times?
    So be of good courage. This too shall come to pass.”

    Learn from me, and you will yet prosper in Africa, oh our beloved Africa.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Debbie writes,

    What are your thoughts on IoT??Do you see Africa succeeding there?

    My reply,
    Internet Of Things [IOT] is all part of the technological revolution taking place around us. It is very exciting.

    We have several key businesses that are involved in enabling IOT, either directly or indirectly.
    One of our most exciting businesses in this space is a company called Cumii Technologies. They have services like Connected Cars, Connected Smart Homes, and Connected Health Devices for monitoring heart and diabetic patients.

    It is a huge job creator. We have trained thousands of young people to install IOT devices in cars and homes.

    We are not the only African group active in IOT. I hope you asked the question not merely out of curiosity but because you are either planning or already doing something.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Entrepreneurship par Excellence!

    Have a look at this little video, and be inspired for the week!

    I visited Kennedy to see this system for myself when I was in Nairobi.
    Drinking dirty water can lead to pandemic diseases like Cholera, and typhoid.
    Unfortunately our municipal authorities in African cities have often failed to provide clean water to poor communities. This has led to a flourishing but unregulated private water supply industry. The fact that water comes from a borehole does not mean it is safe to drink, particularly in a city.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    The death of Paul Allen.

    As many of you know Paul Allen the co-founder of Microsoft died yesterday.
    This is one of the giants of the tech world, a man who with Bill Gates literally invented modern software computing.

    In 2014, when I was working on the Ebola Crisis, I was invited by Paul Allen to visit him in San Francisco to discuss ways he could help!
    I flew to SF, and met him for the first and only time. He was incredibly generous in his efforts.
    We became fast friends. Good man. Very quiet.

    I once again thank God for his life, as I did then.
    My deepest condolences to his family, and friends around the world.

    I will be seeing Bill Gates in Europe later on today.
    I will extend all our condolences through him to the Paul Allen family. Both he and Paul have shown us that it is not all about making money but about changing the lives of others with the money you make.

    I will take the opportunity to thank him for his continued efforts in Africa, including the recent support for our efforts in fighting Cholera in Zimbabwe.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Latest on Leah Sharibu:
    As many of you know the Boko Haram terrorist organization had set yesterday as the deadline by which they would execute Leah Sharibu. Whilst they did not kill Leah they still went along and murdered her companion in captivity, a woman called Hauwa Leman who worked for the International Committee Of The Red Cross, as a nurse helping poor communities.
    Our deepest condolences to Hauwa’s family, and the people of Nigeria on the loss of this young woman who paid the supreme price in service of humanity.
    As for Leah, we will continue to pray and fast before God without ceasing even for a day. Her miracle has begun:
    She will live and not die because she has trusted Him whose testimony she holds.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Be African first!

    PS: I don’t know why Nigerians are not represented in the list of Global Adaption Commission. We have been worst hit by flood killing over 100+ persons within 3months, we have started experiencing earth tremors and low volcanic activities. Please assist.

    My reply,

    I’m your “Nigerian”, just like when I see Akin Adesina representing us [at global meetings] I see my “.Zimbabwean”.

    The world sees us all as Africans, so we should also see in each other Africans.
    If you look for a Kenyan every time you see a group of Africans, problem is when you see a Kenyan, you will ask why he is not from your tribe. It is a slippery path.

    Let’s rather focus on whether that man or woman chosen as an “African” representative is qualified to do so:

    Speaking of myself, I have been involved in Climate Change and environmental issues for 2 decades, I’m a co-founder with Richard Branson of The Carbon WarRoom [a Climate Change global thinktank].
    I worked with Kofi Annan on Climate Change issues through the Africa Progress Panel.
    I know about Nigeria, and the Chad Basin. I have seen the challenges of the Sahara. I know about the damage to our coastal regions. I know about the water challenges of East Africa, and the devastating droughts, floods, fires, and more..east, west, north.
    #Im your guy for this job, and I will fight for you, as an African first. When I stand up to speak they will hear an African first!

    I have served on a UN Commission on Climate Change.
    I spend my own money every year to travel and listen to issues on Climate Change. Always advocating Africa’s own case. Pushing for solutions that involve her youth!

    There is no one on that list who is not a leader on Climate Change issues. We all know each other well, because we have been working together.

    I only accepted after being told that I was replacing Kofi Annan. [Humbled] I hope I’m ready.
    More importantly I hope you will be ready to replace me one day:

    This means you start now to provide leadership at a local level, even if it means organizing others to help you clean your neighborhood, protect waterways, and stop unscrupulous people destroying our environs.


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