In May, Pariti co-hosted a digital conference with Tech Cabal titled Bullish on Africa. The conference brought together entrepreneurs, investors and analysts to discuss a future of Africa's tech industry. Below are some of the key takeaways from that event.
"We need to make sure that tech is in the hands of more people,” says Amandla Ooka-Ombaka, Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company. To her, technology startups should enable the creation of quality jobs. This is point is especially important now during a pandemic as unemployment is skyrocketing among the most vulnerable populations (from already high levels). The current pandemic has forced a lot of working professionals to work from home, but the reality is, that represents only a small proportion of workers. A major challenge for all stakeholders in the ecosystem - startups, investors and governments - is how to leverage technology to create inclusive, sustainable employment opportunities across the continent.
One of the recurring themes of the conference was that the current pandemic revealed opportunities that weren't readily apparent. We know that online education, e-commerce, digital payments have been accelerated. But other types of companies have been positively affected in less obvious ways. For example, take Ubongo, a media company based in Dar Es Salaam that focuses on edutainment content for children. Founder Nisha Ligon shared a story of how the pandemic accelerated their "two year plan to a two month plan." Overnight, as schools began to shut down and governments struggled to provide remote educational programs, Ubongo went from the supplemental form of education to the only educational content reaching many households. The pandemic created an opportunity for Ubongo to launch five new markets way ahead of schedule.
It can also force governments to take action that can jumpstart an entire ecosystem. Regulatory changes that you expect will take months if not years of debate can change in an instant. Take South Africa where the government quickly enacted a law allowing for medical professionals to prescribe medication through telemedicine. This presented a monumental shift in the sector which would drive an increase in value to telemedicine providers. Sheraan Amod, the CEO of Recomed, a South African online health booking platform, said the government has passed laws in the past month "that will move the sector about 5-10 years." In moments of crisis, be prepared for rapid changes to the regulatory environment that can dramatically affect the viability of your business.
Before the pandemic, Africa still had a massive shortfall in infrastructure - transportation, telecom, power, healthcare etc. As Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO of 54Gene noted, "when you have decayed infrastructure, it’s difficult to layer a tech solution on top of it." This is true across pretty much every sector. The technology the ecosystem builds is only as effective as the infrastructure we have in place to deploy it - both physical and digital. This view was echoed by the investor panel that stressed that there is funding, perhaps now more than ever, for ventures that are solving some of these infrastructure challenges.