This past week at the Global Entrepreneurship Conference (GEC) in Sandton, a host of African business leaders discussed the critical role of technology in the growth of African economies.
Andile Tlhoaele, founder of Inforcomm (INC), was one of the speakers at the event on hand to share his business knowledge based on years of experience with local and international IT & Telecoms companies in South Africa and across Africa.
This past June, Tlhoaele launched “76@40” to celebrate his 40th and to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soweto uprising. 76@40 is a creative initiative designed to support start-ups and SMMEs on the continent.
As part of this work in supporting SMME’s, Tlhoaele has over the years addressed many small business owners, university graduates, and learners on topics including the importance of partnerships to run a successful business, opportunities for youth employability, and the importance of mentoring using his experience as a case study.
At the GEC this past week, Tlhoaele spoke about the advent of the so-called 4th industrial revolution that is building on the third digital revolution and is characterised by the fusion of technologies that are blurring the lines between the digital, physical, and biological domains. Technology and telecommunication organisations worldwide are driving towards continuous innovation and disruption to enable this revolution, and one of the ways to embrace this rapid innovation is by enabling tech startups.
Tlhoaele believes that this is especially important in Africa as the interplay between technology startups and tech giants is imperative to the development of the African continent and to ensure that Africa plays a critical role in the new wave of digital disruption.
As Tlhoaele explained;
“You cannot disrupt what you don’t understand – Africans are poised to take advantage of opportunities to solve their own challenges, this includes using digital to disrupt conventional ways of dealing with challenges, starting with digital citizens, digital education, and digital health care. The notion that to be educated you must be in a classroom must be challenged. We must ask how do we use digital to ensure that kids in rural communities get access to world-class education and quality health care.
Connectivity—whether the Internet or mobile phones—is increasingly bringing market information, financial services, and health services to remote areas and is helping to change people’s lives in unprecedented ways.”
Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, World Bank Economist stated it simply, “The mobile platform is emerging as the single most powerful way to extend economic opportunities and key services to millions of people.”
New information and communications technologies (ICT), in particular high-speed internet, are changing the way companies do business, transforming public service delivery and democratising innovation. With 10 percent increase in high speed Internet connections, economic growth increases by 1.3 percent.
Within this context, according to Tlhoaele, it is important that “we disrupt the notion that East African markets are served from the Middle East and Asia and North West Africa from the Europe and North America."
The panel discussion also looked at the ways that start-ups are promoting tech solutions to African businesses, the importance of start-up innovation in tech, and the roles played by both start0ups and tech giants on the continent.