Innovation

Innovation in Africa is the purest form: innovation out of necessity.

Not Angry Birds, the innovations emerging from Africa allow farmers to check where they can get the best price for their produce, fishermen to be warned about storms, people to check whether medicines they are buying have expired, and rural cellphone users to send mobile money to each other using text messages. Even the pay–as–you–go payment system was pioneered in Africa.

Shapshak has been writing about innovation and technology for the past 15 years and is writing a book on how it has become innovation out of necessity in Africa. He spoke at TED Global in June 2013 about how Africa is solving real problems for the rest of the world.

East Africa accounts for about 80% of the world´s mobile money transactions, an industry that is projected to grow to $617–billion by 2016. All started in Kenya using the M–Pesa payment system which uses SMSes to send money like modern–day digital cheques. Now, half of Kenya´s GDP goes through mobile money.

An estimated 80% of adults in Africa are unbanked, or some 326–million people. But they have a SIM card – it´s the bank card of Africa.

With 1–billion people, Africa has 14% of the world´s population, most under the age of 30. The continent is where China was when its boom years began.

Africa has been historically typecast as the “hopeless continent”. But a decade after being labelled that by The Economist, the magazine renamed it the “hopeful continent”.

Six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the last decade were in Africa, according to The Economist. Sub–Saharan Africa´s real GDP growth rate has risen to an annual average of 5.7% over the past 10 years.

And it is set to continue. The IMF forecasts that seven of the top 10 fastest–growing economies over the next five years will be on the continent. African economies will grow at 7% a year over the next 20 years, making sub–Saharan Africa the second–fastest growing region in the world after Asia.