Technology in Africa

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This week, with the help of Joshua To and Brute Labs, we launched MCHOPA.com.  The site features the iconic Masai paintings of Gregory Mchopa, an artist whom Josh and I met in 2007 while consulting for Google.org. Dispatched as Business Development Consultants and lecturers in TechnoServe’s “Believe, Begin, Become” national business plan competition, we read scores of business plans and advised entrepreneurs on framing problems, solutions, and market needs. It wasn’t until our break, however, that we met Greg, dusty Nokia in hand, pitching deals in mile-a-minute Swahili. We offered web services; he agreed to inventory supply; we promised to return him 100% of the profits.  It was a challenge to bring his art to the global market. This week we launched MCHOPA fit with transaction capability, and a custom back-end engineered for instant inventory management. While we hope to build the idea into a more modular platform for web-savvy emerging market entrepreneurs, we have encountered significant challenges along the way.  As I outline in this week’s piece for Harvard’s Internet & Democracy blog, Africa sits on the fulcrum of growth. However, while technology is changing lifestyles, it’s not yet changing livelihoods in Africa.  The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) released its latest review of the Internet in Sub-Saharan Africa, but broadband is but the first step.  In an article I authored this week in the Yale Journal of International Affairs entitled “Bringing Africa Online: Leveraging Technology to Enable Entrepreneurs,” I argue that “technology firms are key to injecting efficiency into financial markets, expanding access to credit and capital, and treating some of the development maladies across Africa.” I discuss the possible roles of public and private engagement, the potential for “Cloud Banking” or an Online Development Bank, and the impact that technology could have in affirming credit worthiness, lowering the transaction costs associated with risk assessment, and facilitating entrepreneurial debt-capital access for SME.

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1 Comment

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    November 26, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

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