The IRON LIST - November 2, 2018

Industry: Africa will be left in the dark, if it doesn’t speed up.

Good news - there are more people in the world with access to electricity.

Bad news - few of them live in Africa.

This is according to a recent report from Quartz magazine, due to the exponential population growth on the continent. However, this of course cannot be the excuse for why governments and the private sector haven’t been able to keep up with the pace of the digital evolution for the past 30+ years. African leaders have known for a long enough time that human capital development would be the easiest, most sustainable method for tapping into this market.

As Cathy Smith, Managing Director at SAP Africa, sees it, leaders are not taking necessary steps to inspire and mentor a generation of new leaders who will build the infrastructure Africa continues to lack way into the 21st Century:

“One of Africa’s challenges is that the skills of the youth not improving, compared to global standards. This is in spite of the numerous programmes being run across the continent to raise tech skills. Part of the problem is that many of these initiatives are once-off events. What we really need is sustainable programmes, with measurable long-term goals.”

In Karfi’s first eBook Overlooked Startup Industries in Africa, we implore aspiring entrepreneurs to develop a stronger education sector by providing professional development services to instructors and create innovative curriculum to advance the skill sets of African students. This advice might be more salient than ever to prevent Africa’s further technological decline.

Research: The best things aren’t always free.

When efforts are made to research solutions to such issues like access to technology, African governments attempt to take the cheap route. “Eighty-five per cent of respondents report having had research positions with no pay,” according to an online survey of academics based in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s difficult to imagine how African nations expect to compete with prestigious international universities offering some sort of payment to their PIs* and assistants to lead projects with global impact. Accessing funding and resources via the Diasporan community may need consideration to improve the standards in Africa, according to at least one expert - Yaw Bediako, a postdoctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

Opportunities: Rwanda’s new digital economy will support small businesses.

President Paul Kagame is taking advantage of some multilateral strategies to ensure Rwandans aren’t swept into this bleak prognosis for Africa’s digital expansion. As of October 31st, Rwanda and Alibaba Group have agreed to allow small- and medium-sized enterprises to participate in the Electronic World Trade Platform - “the first in Africa so far” according to Alibaba’s press release.

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Karfi’s first IRON Series Webinar will air Monday, November 19th, featuring Kwadwo (“Kojo”) Sarpong, Co-Founder of the African Research Academies for Women (ARA-W). To receive the episode directly to your inbox, subscribe here now. Subscribers automatically enter a chance to win a 1:1 consulting session with one of our guests for the series!