Conclusion: Drawing your own Maps again
Africa’s mobile boom has had some real impact on different economic sectors. The recent strong economic growth that some parts of the continent has seen is no longer exclusively linked to higher commodity prices. Small local businesses, larger regional corporations as well as non-profit organisations are building products and mobile applications that are based on the wide-spread use of the mobile phone. This will hardly tackle all of the continent’s infrastructure problems. The economic development is held back by the lack of fixed-line, high-speed broadband networks. These are still a pillar of service economies built around the Internet, despite the spread of the mobile phone. But the mobile phone has helped to improve the financial and economic participation of many Africans that were previously excluded from any opportunities. The spirit of entrepreneurial change can be felt across many of the continent’s hub cities such as Nairobi, Lagos and Cape Town. The growth of Africa’s middle classes opens up opportunities to businesses as well.
Activists are also relying on the mobile phone to monitor politics and to improve awareness amongst the population through more accurate information, in particular during times of political and ethnic violence. The mobile phone has enabled powerful crowdsourcing tools such as Ushahidi to emerge. It has also helped initiatives such as Map Kibera, which has put the small Kenyan town on the map for the first time through digital citizen mapping.
In former times, the continent’s maps were drawn by outside explorers. The spread of Internet access through mobile phones today allows Africans to draw their own maps and populate them with their own content even without Internet access. With its impact on industries ranging from telecoms to agriculture, the mobile phone helps to put the continent’s development back into Africans’ own hands.
About the Author
Mark Kaigwa is a consultant, technologist and blogger based in Nairobi, Kenya. Technology continues to transform Africa as innovation is accelerated in particular by the breathtaking spread of the mobile phone. Mark leads by advising brands, businesses and nonprofits aiming at impacting the hundreds of millions across the continent. In his most recent work, he led the digital advisory for “MamaYe”, a fiveyear campaign that aims to use information, advocacy and evidence to improve maternal and newborn survival in six Sub-Saharan African countries.