By Olusegun Oruame
Nigerian Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has hinged Africa’s future on disruptive technology and the entrepreneurship of the continent’s young people. Osinbajo, while speaking at the recent Financial Times Africa Summit in London, said the continent is increasingly coming to terms with the need to adhere to global best practice, build robust institutions and encourage the emergence of visionary leaders.
His words: “I think that the main lesson that Africa has learnt and African governments have learnt, is that there is no African exceptionalism. What makes Africa work is what makes economies work anywhere: honest, visionary, leadership and good governance, letting the private sector and markets lead, diversification from resource based revenues, and developing the human potential that is so available within the continent.”
For Osinbajo, Africa’s telecom story reveals the latent potential of the continent to become a market for 21st century technology services; and the rising profile of the continent’s disruptive technology entrepreneurs is indicative of the new vista of opportunities for Africa to leapfrog its economy. He told the forum’s audience:
“The story of how MTN in Nigeria became the largest mobile network in Africa in less than a decade, is still the stuff of legendary investment stories. But the point to note, is that those who missed that pioneer telecoms opportunity, typically assumed, that the Nigerian market was large but not rich enough to translate the numbers to cash. How wrong they were.
“Today, companies, such as Flutterwave, a payment solutions company; Andela, a software development, engineering company; Jobberman, an online human resources company; Konga, an online mall. These are poignant examples of how young African entrepreneurs are using technology disruptively to create profits in various business lights, and evidently, the smart money all over the world is paying attention,” said the Nigerian vice president who was in London to raise the profile on Nigeria as an investment destination.
“Regarding the question of, what makes Africa work, I am pleased to say that, searching for answers is not as exasperating as it might have been a decade ago. Today, we can demonstrate with clear examples that what makes Africa work, are the ingenuity and the resilience of the people, especially seventy percent youth population, leadership and good governance, allowing the private sector and market to function, focusing on infrastructural development, and of course, the incredible opportunities that abound.
“Somehow, everyone has an ouch, that if you are not around when Africa truly gets going, it will be much like the skeptics who stood on the sidelines in the 1990s, convinced that China was going nowhere. How wrong they were.
“But if I were a betting man, I would surely put my money on African businesses that demonstrates an awareness of how technology would be an exponential catalyst for business. All over Africa, telephony, and technology are unearthing, literally, riches that were hitherto unknown.”
Africa has every reason to be optimistic about playing active role in the emerging knowledge economy. While recession may appear to have slowed down gains in parts of the continent, there is an economic rebound that cannot be ignored, Osinbajo argued.
“The Africa growth story is real. Major global analysts appear at least united in the view. South Africa has the highest number of economies, projected to grow above five percent by 2030.
“The Nigerian government is intent of bringing about rapid, sustainable and inclusive growth, in order to improve the lots of the dynamic and hardworking people of Nigeria. And we realized that the scale of the challenges is huge, given our large, rapidly growing population, and the relentless match of other parts of the world. We are, nevertheless, determined and optimistic, that Nigeria, along with the rest of the continent, will bring about an Africa that would work for its people and contribute to global growth and prosperity.
“I am convinced that, what makes Africa work is what will work anywhere else. And I think it has been tried and demonstrated in so many African economies, especially in the past few years.”