“The opportunities of the digital revolution in Africa are mind-boggling – and a true chance for young people to advance quickly.”
That is the view of Leonard Stiegeler, general manager (GM) of Ringier Africa, which runs a variety of businesses in different spaces across the continent.
He says the increase in smartphone usage, falling internet costs and higher connectivity through social networks means many industries are ripe to be impacted and grown through digital advancement.
“Now, many young people in Africa grow up with digital as a natural extension of themselves and they are intuitively playing, learning and working online,” said Stiegeler.
“They understand how to communicate effectively to large audiences through mobile and they are always ready to explore more. This gives them an edge versus others in this large and quickly growing space. If they are then shown how to use this natural affinity to digital to build a career they become very powerful players in the economy.”
Ringier has invested substantially in its own tech groups in publishing, classifieds and marketing in Africa over the last five years, and Stiegeler said its employment, training and partnerships with local entrepreneurs means its impact has been substantial.
However, he believes there are still three issues that governments and the public and private sectors should look at to further develop Africa’s tech ecosystem. Internet access is primary amongst them
“There are hundreds of millions of young people in Africa that do not have sufficient or any internet access yet. If they did they could connect with each other faster, learn more and eventually look to be employed or start a business in the space. Here advances to zero-rate data for certain platforms by telecommunication companies and the likes of Facebook go in the right direction,” Stiegeler said.
He also feels more needs to be done in the training arena, though again major global firms are starting to have an impact.
“While companies need good young people that can help lead the way into the digital future, they often lack an understanding of how to identify and train good candidates. Here programmes by companies like Google to train one million people in digital skills or Edacy to train and integrate developers and other technical professions into companies are to be named,” Stiegeler said.
Meanwhile, more also needs to be done to address the funding gap, as While venture capital in Africa has been growing, it still pales in comparison to the other types of funding that flow into the continent.
“Here. public-private partnerships recognising the impact that startups can and will have for the development of the continent would be a great way forward,” he said.
According to Stiegeler, there are a growing number of initiatives by governments and public sector institutions to support the development of the digital sector in emerging markets and Africa specifically.
“While there are many national initiatives that could be named, specifically interesting is that emerging market governments see that they can benefit from working with each other on the issue,” he said.