Innovation and startups in African cities
The seminar will focus on innovation and new economies emerging in the African continent and part of what has been defined as Africa’s digital renaissance.
Over the last 15 years, Africa has enjoyed economic growth above the global average. This has largely been fuelled by mining and agriculture, linked to Western countries and China’s demand for raw materials. Whilst this demand is now slowing down; the rise of African countries is a new story.
Africa has the highest rates of urbanisation; its poor infrastructure, which has previously hampered growth and development, is now a catalyst for innovation. The mobile phone, for instance, has become a game-changer for the continent. Mobile phones users boomed during the 2000s making Africa the fastest growing mobile market with an estimation of over 930 devices by 2019.
The introduction of mobile phones has allowed to effectively reduce the digital gap between urban and rural inhabitants avoiding the installation of landline telephones. Moreover, this has encouraged new forms of business linked to ICT and mobile apps.
One of the most successful stories is M-Pesa, a mobile payment system developed in Kenya. Launched in 2007, it is now used by roughly 2 million people, and estimates suggest that around 25% of the country’s gross national product flows through the system.
It is not only about money flow, new technologies are improving many other aspects of Africans’ daily life, from healthcare to agriculture and personal safety.
Despite the enormous differences among African countries and the fact that the continent still has the highest digital divide rates of the world, the 2017 total funding of African tech companies grew by 51% compared to 2016, and the number of funded startups increased by 8.9%. These data highlight a growing trend over the years recognizing the African continent, with its cities, as a place for entrepreneurship and innovation.