Going A-Courting

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In the universe of Marvel Comics, Wakanda is a secret kingdom in sub-Saharan Africa ruled over by the benevolent, super-powered hero, the Black Panther. In the real world, there is not one but four centers of innovation in Africa that now, incidentally, are receiving boatloads of cash as venture capitalists go looking for new sources of value.

As the World Economic Forum explained, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa received the lion’s share of foreign investment in recent years. It’s no secret why. They are big and growing. Nigeria’s population is on track to become the third largest in the world over the next 30 years. South Africa, Egypt and Kenya, meanwhile, are also among the largest economies on the continent.

They and other African states also need investment desperately, added Bloomberg. Africa is “underbanked,” or in need of professional financial services that fintech companies can provide. Government services are poor. Commercial sectors are undeveloped. Solar power, cooking fuel and the building up of supply chains and distribution systems are obvious areas that need improvements that such tech can deliver.

The result is that fundraising for startups in these African countries is scaling up remarkably quickly. At the top, Nigerian firms received $1.8 billion last year. They have already increased the amount they received for the first six months of this year over last year by 128 percent, TechCrunch reported. Kenya has raised $820 million in venture capital and similar funding so far in 2022, an increase of more than 420 percent compared with this time last year.

Investors are now looking to other African countries in search of better deals in less-saturated markets.

As the Economist noted, these developments are unprecedented. Less than 10 years ago, private capital wasn’t interested in Africa because, they said, it was too risky. Now demographic and technological trends are coalescing in a manner that is drawing the interests of investors far and wide.

“Africa’s population is booming,” global philanthropist Bassim Haidar told Business Insider. “The average age on the continent is under 20, and one in six of the world’s internet users will be in Africa in 2025. Africa is fast becoming the world’s first truly digital-first society.”

That’s truly remarkable for a continent that has long had the world’s lowest literacy rates, on average.

Still, what happens next is a question that will play a role in how Africa’s place in the world evolves when its economy begins the process of tech-induced creative disruption. An increasingly tech-enabled society also gives bad actors and authoritarian governments more tools to control public discourse, the Brookings Institution warned. With its leaders-for-life syndrome, that’s a real issue.

Now, it’s time to choose.

African leaders have a chance to make a high-tech future that is better than fiction.

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