Africa is big, diverse, rapidly digitising and has huge promise as well as many dangers for export oriented Australian tech outfits.
Grame Barty (ex Austrade) has identified the potential around digital services delivered over mobile phones in Africa is massive.
“The African continent delivers one of the world's top three mobile phone – and increasingly smart phone – connected regional populations and will reach 725 million unique subscribers by 2020,” says Mr Barty
“The entire African population – regardless of location, nationality, tribe, age or gender will shortly be able to access mobile and smart phone delivered services."
“This means that high volume, mass market, low cost cloud based universal new service delivery will be possible,” he writes.
Add in burgeoning electronic payment infrastructure, a growing tech development ecosystem with 173 tech hubs and incubators in Africa and venture capital funding in African tech startups increasing by a factor of 10, from $41 million in 2012 to $414 million in 2014 with $600 million expected by 2018.
But beware - African countries are not for the faint hearted, with bribery and corruption prevalent as well as a lack of infrastructure and security and health concerns.
Africa lacks sufficient skilled, local blue collar and white collar talent, efficient infrastructure (power, transport, logistics, and urban utilities in particular), enforceable rule of law and are often beset by opaque business practices, bribery, corruption, facilitation payments and lack of adherence to contractual agreements, and African leaders can get very populist when it comes to foreign interests (Zimbabwe's President Mugabe looking to nationalise anything white or Tanzanian President John Magufuli who has got tough with foreign mining interests and has threatened to close every mine in the country if they don’t cough up the required taxes and royalties.
There is an opportunity for Australian business to play a part in the upskilling of Africa - maybe with the use of microlearning elearning and the extensive skills Australia has amassed in the VET (vocational education and training space )
There is a massive lower class - aspiring to become middle class - and when this wave happens - massive growth occurs!!!
“Australia has the best vocational training system in the world. Africa will have the world's largest unskilled population. We know that new jobs will need to be created in new industries which creates additional strains for Africa’s economies. Australia’s training system is highly capable of supporting Africa’s countries define this requirement/opportunity and deliver on it,” says Barty
This courseware would not necessarily need to offer accreditation, instead it could be offering simple skill development.
“I may or may not get accreditation for that skill – but before I start in a mine I have to complete an occupational health and safety course or learn the basics of operating a piece of equipment,” Mr Barty said.