By Olisemeka Obeche
Leaders across Africa must tap into the continent’s booming information technology sector to create a knowledge-based economy for its teeming young entrepreneurs. So spoke experts at the Lions@frica Marketplace summit.
Dr. Mimi Alemayehou, Executive Vice President, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), submitted that with over 700 million mobile subscribers and widening internet usage across Africa, the continent has become a fertile investment ground for innovative technologists and young entrepreneurs.
She lists such progress as the mobile telephone market’s growth featuring innovations in places like Kenya with M-pesa and dual-sim technology. Add that to the waves in ICT with leaders like Microsoft and IBM whose significant investment in the continent is creating opportunities, and Africa’s place in the new world looks brighter.
Regrettably, Africa’s quest to transform into a knowledge economy is being hindered by poor infrastructure, low capacity building and lack of access to capital for innovators. “There is also a lot of challenges with the issue of creating enabling environment for technological innovation. There is still need for a lot of improvement. What some of the development finance institutions have found out is that technology investment especially for start-up culture is relatively new,” she said.
Walter Jones, United States Executive Director to the African Development Bank (AfDB) highlighted the need to create enabling environment for business in order to groom a new generation of innovative technologists and entrepreneurs. “You need to re-examine your natural tax code which scares people away from starting business. There is need to create an environment that support people taking business risks,” he noted.