From Hubs to Economic Development
It is difficult to gauge the extent to which technology innovation hubs contribute to Africa‘s economic development in a broader sense. The innovation hubs are yet to produce a company of the scope of M-Pesa, even though several startups have their origins in different hubs. One of them is iCow, an application that teaches farmers how and when to feed their live-stock and provides them with live information on market prices, enabling them to take their own, conscious decisions on when to bring their product to the market. Local African farmers have long had little access to regional or nation-wide markets due to a lack in both infrastructure and information, a key obstacle to rural development in Africa.
This shows that Africa is changing. The continent has stood for poverty, corruption, famine and disease in the past. Today, some regions of the continent are undergoing profound economic changes. Many African countries, like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Mozambique are among the fastest growing economies in the world.
"Many African Countries, like Ehtiopia, Nigeria and Mozambique are Among the Fastest Growing Economies in the World."
Whilst there are many factors causing perceptions of a boom and media optimism, some analysts argue that much of the current economic development is in fact created by the generation of young entrepreneurs wanting to actively change and shape the future of their continent. Digital media are giving a voice to this young generation and technology innovation hubs are creating the space for them to work in on their business ventures and to come together.
It remains to be seen how sustainable this current economic boom will be and how it will help create economic development on a broader scale. Experts like Will Mutua are concerned that “many Kenyans, and Africans as a whole, expect things to happen within a short period of time, yet the likes of Silicon Valley have been developing for close to 50 years.”
"To many Donors Jump on a Hot Topic and Stifle Natural Growth and Creativity with their Funding."
There is also the danger of an investment bubble. A re-occurring phenomenon in development cooperation is that too many donors jump on a hot topic and stifle natural growth and creativity with their funding. Equally, private investors may be focusing on short term successes instead of building sustainable economies. It is therefore of central importance that hubs find ways to maintain a certain independence and contribute to the growth of sustainable ecosystems. Only by creating lasting local structures will technology innovation hubs be able to contribute to long term economic growth.
About the Author
Geraldine de Bastion is a freelance international consultant with a multicultural background based in Berlin, Germany. She is an expert on information and communication technology and new media for development and advises governmental organisations, NGOs and businesses on digital media and communication strategies. She also works with activists and bloggers around the world.