Africa’s Innovation Story — The future of African Economies Preamble

Africa’s risks are mainly perceived and not real. Unfortunately for us in Africa we are not really very good at telling our own story. But things are changing and people are beginning to understand that things are going very, very well. — Aliko Dangote

Her name is Mai Chipo, she spends most of her time away from her 8 year old child traveling across the border to buy cheap goods in South Africa, Zambia or Tanzania to sell at a flea market in the middle of Harare’s central business district. She makes enough money to pay for a child’s school fees, to put food on the table and to rent a room in the high density suburbs but, very little else in terms of savings.

His name is Thomas, he is a farmer in the heart of rural Zimbabwe, producing maize for his family to consume. The little surplus he produces he sells to members of his local community or aggregators from Harare to pay school fees. He’s been tempted to pursue tobacco farming to improve his income which means accessing a loan or joining a contract farming program.

Peter is 25, he graduated from University 2 years ago but, he’s been stuck at home unable to find employment. He is frustrated by the lack of opportunity in spite of having studied a good course. This has forced him to explore entrepreneurship by selling airtime and prepaid electricity vouchers. The money is good but, the margins are tight and the competition even tighter. He is discovering that it is a volumes game and he’s inadequately positioned to grow and expand.

Sharon is a family woman with 2 kids, a husband and a career. The family can easily be perceived middle class but the economic conditions tell another story. The family is barely able to afford school fees for her 2 children. Furthermore, the cost of living keeps rising, especially the cost of fuel and food. She had made some savings and investments but she’s starting to eat into them to keep the family out of debt and her husband may be facing voluntary retrenchment.

Alice is a 24 year old entrepreneur, keenly interested in using technology to grow the tourism sector. She has developed a very attractive website and she wants to develop a mobile app but can’t seem to gather sufficient traction to grow her business. She’s tried to apply for funding and pitching events but with very little success. Her business is trudging along and not experiencing the growth she was expecting because of the boon in the tourism sector in Africa. The negative perceptions of Zimbabwe and Africa are not making it any better.

There are many more stories like this in Zimbabwe and possibly in most African countries. This reflects the paradox of economic growth and the impact it is having on the well-being of the general citizen. In some countries the conditions for such citizens could fare better in the future whist in other countries the outlook is likely to worsen. And in others the conditions will persist in an unstable state of stagnation.

Different analysts have predicted that African economies experience positive growth in the next few years Tralac and World Bank though it will not necessarily be robust . How will this positive macro growth play out at a micro level? Are things really going well? It will be interesting to assess the potential effects macroeconomic factors will have on the general citizenry in different countries.

Over the next few articles the African innovation narrative will look into different aspects of African economies in an attempt to analyse the future and provide potential prescriptions necessary in the present to mitigate or harness this growth potential. The aim will be to look at how global pressures will shape the continental economy, different national economies and most importantly the ordinary citizen of Africa as well is to attempt to uncover emerging opportunities laden on the continent in different sectors.

Some of the key indicators that will be brought into perspective both at a macro and micro level are highlighted below;

Events: 2018

  • The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) deal (2015)
  • Global commodity price shifts
  • Global economic collapse based on oil prices, food crisis and climate change
  • Key shocks in African economies

o External debt, exchange rate and currency volatility, commodity prices volatility.

o Domestic inflation and money supply shocks are dominant among internal shocks.

o Political instability

Trends 2023, 2028, 2033, 2050

  • The issue of a young population: employment creation, education, entrepreneurship
  • Urbanization and smart cities: sustainable living, opportunity creation
  • Free trade or protectionism
  • Technological change: increasing adoption of mobile phones and the internet
  • Formalizing Small scale artisanal and informal businesses

Disruptions 2023, 2028, 2033, 2050

  • Digital Ubuntu (growing digital collectives) tech hubs and networks across Africa
  • Inclusive markets and innovations (ease of doing business — Rwanda)
  • Local technological solutions
  • Gender parity? The question of equal opportunities.

Milestones

  • The growth and expansion of the digital economy
  • Regional market integration
  • Inter-country trade
  • Growing small and medium businesses

Furthermore, the focus will be on primary industries like agriculture and mining, secondary industries like manufacturing and retail and service industries like, finance, ICT and Tourism. Furthermore each article will try to answer six questions.

  1. What will the future be like?
  2. What are the emerging patterns? (trends)
  3. What are the hidden assumptions of the future? (trends)
  4. What are the emergent possibilities? (trends and discontinuities)
  5. What may change? (disruption)
  6. What steps can we take to move forward? (milestones)

If we uncover that there is a hopeful and positive future for Africa it must reflect in the development and growth of the ordinary citizen on the streets. It is not enough to see positive growth numbers across the continent and nationally yet, the general populace is impoverished and excluded. It is imperative that the future of Africa be shaped for the common man for us to truly see Africa’s lions rise.

Musekiwa is a prolific and eccentric author with amazing titles suitable for business strategy and daily living, which he has published.