CAPE TOWN, South Africa — In August, more than 3 thousand South African students attended the Standard Bank Youth Expo. Private companies, public organizations and educational institutions all gathered to expose young South Africans to economic and professional opportunities and engage them intellectually.
One of the major themes this year was technology, and among the enthusiastic exhibitors was Africa Nkosi, the marketing manager of Khonology.
According to Nkosi, “We live in a digital global economy where competition has become knowledge-based. In modern theories of growth and development, technological innovation has taken the center stage.”
Khonology is a young South African consulting firm that aims to empower the continent and enliven African businesses through the integration of technology. The firm was eager to present at the Standard Bank Youth Expo this summer, in part because of its belief that technology in Africa will be especially important for the continent’s younger generations.
Africa is a young continent (roughly 60 percent of Africans are under 25), and yet one in four young Africans are out of work. Technology in Africa is tapping into this vast pool of underemployed human capital, and Khonology intends to help promote that process.
According to Nkosi, technological knowledge and literacy should be incorporated into all stages of African education. Some African countries share Nkosi’s ambition. The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, for example, pledged to outfit 1.3 million Kenyan students with connected devices in 2013.
Technology in Africa is already becoming a critical element of entrepreneurship and business. Internet connectivity is rising sharply across the continent, and without many other options for employment, many young Africans look to the Internet and technology for opportunities.
Since connectivity is still limited to certain locations, African tech entrepreneurs often gather and form tightly knit and self-empowering communities called “tech hubs.” According to the Africa Renewal, a “hub boom” is taking place in many African cities, from Accra, Ghana to Mogadishu, Somalia.
Financial technology, too, has been rapidly developing in Africa. 80 percent of Africans lack access to regular financial services, and mobile finance is quickly filling the gap. According to IT News Africa, “the rise of mobile payments not only provides smaller businesses with stable platforms to conduct financial deals but is also leading to the growth of mobile commerce across the continent.”
One of Khonology’s main clients is Capitec Bank, a South African bank that provides simple financial services that can be accessed on a mobile phone.
Khonology is one small firm among a vast sea of tech startups in Africa, with more appearing every day. But the company is a good representation of the ambitions that many entrepreneurs and communities on the continent hold. Perhaps the next Mark Zuckerberg will be African.
– Charlie Tomb