Africa’s ICT challenge needs no quick fix

One of the big ups for Africa from the recently concluded US-Africa summit was the budding attention and interest of foreign investors on partnering with African companies and businesses exampled by business deals like Dangote’s $5 billion deal with two of America’s largest private equity firms- Blackstone and Carlyle.
Foreign investments in Africa have always been focused in mining the continent’s immense wealth of natural resources, and while that is not ending yet, there is also a growing interest in doing business with and not just in Africa.
US President Obama’s remarks at the US-Africa summit best samples this new turn of attention; “We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth. That’s the kind of partnership America offers”, he said to the applause of the audience among whom were America’s as well as Africa’s political and business leaders.
Funke Opeke, founder of Main Street Technologies and Chief Executive Officer of Main One- one of the African businesses invited to the summit, told Ventures Africa that given the many booming business opportunities in the continent, American companies were now seeking to invest more in Africa and to especially partner with home-grown African companies.
Main One is one of those home grown companies garnering strong interests; the company, the CEO revealed to Ventures Africa, had significant discussions with several potential partners on business and financing opportunities in Africa.
However, even though the growth of the African market is gaining headlines, it is still relatively small in comparison to American businesses. Funke, whose company is a leading provider of innovative telecom services and network solutions for businesses in West Africa admits this, but enthuses that the growth prospects of the continent is compelling more investors to take a closer look into Africa.
An overview of Africa’s economic outlook produces amazing statistics – with 10 of the world’s fifteen fastest growing economies, $15 trillion GDP by 2050 according to current growth rate, and the world’s youngest with about 65 percent of the total population below the age of 35 years, and over 35 percent between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
Despite these impressive statistics, Funke cautions that the continent will not get the development it desires overnight especially in the sector, where her company is a major stakeholder. Despite an impressive mobile phone penetration rate of 80 percent, Africa’s broadband connection still lags at a miserly 16 percent, way below the world’s average of 35 percent.
The CEO tells Ventures Africa that the summit could not directly speed development in Africa since Africa had to be ready to consume and generate value from for that to happen. For it to happen, she adds, Africa needs to have the right enabling environment, investment, and purchasing power in order to close the gap.
However, Opeke believes that as more partnerships are formed between African companies and American high tech companies, those relationships should result in the transfer of technology and skill that will help the growth of in Africa.  (VENTURES AFRICA)

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