African entrepreneurs are using technology in innovative ways to overcome structural barriers to prosperity. New approaches are enabling them to leapfrog over the traditional development paradigm and start making more money for themselves and the community.
Cutting Out Middlemen
For example, one use of technology is to cut out middlemen and reduce expenses going to third parties. New platforms are enabling individuals to sell directly to customers and offer better value for money.
For example, farmers are using this approach to better plan their agricultural output and ensure most of it goes to market. Selling directly reduces the risk of post-harvest losses, which is common when using third parties.
African entrepreneurs are also resorting to technology to improve delivery services across the continent. Geographical and infrastructure limitations prevent many businesses from shipping effectively, particularly when sending goods internally. However, drones may provide a solution by flying goods over impassable regions to remote communities, connecting them to the rest of the economy.
Interestingly, companies like Zipline are already experimenting with this technology in Africa. It is only a matter of time before it goes more mainstream and becomes a part of the fabric of the continent.
Providing Telehealth Solutions
Africa is also overcoming some of its structural issues by providing telehealth solutions. These enable clinics to reach people in distant locations and coordinate local resources more effectively.
One model is to have doctors in central locations, like cities, and then stock local clinics and pharmacies with medications. When doctors write digital prescriptions, patients can take these to their local dispensary and get the medication they need without having to travel as far.
Telehealth is even more critical in Africa where access to medical care is challenging and there are few doctors per head of population. The technology enables more efficient service provision.
Enabling Roadside Card Payments
Another way entrepreneurs are using technology to overcome barriers to prosperity is by using roadside wireless credit card devices. Instead of accepting only cash, these individuals are looking for ways to make payments more convenient for their customers, driving sales.
Given the improvements in internet access in Africa, these technologies are becoming more commonplace. Handheld devices can now take money from customers as the continent generates more banked individuals.
We are also witnessing how technology is enabling entrepreneurs to democratize finance. Multiple African companies offer innovative online payment solutions and cross-border transfers, making life considerably more straightforward for the average consumer.
For example, an entrepreneur in Lagos can easily send payments to a bank in London and vice versa. This flexibility changes the nature of doing business on the continent, opening up access to capital and vendors who provide inputs to the business.
Finally, technology is facilitating improvements in learning. Entrepreneurs are using technology to overcome the physical barriers to education and allow children to do it from home.
Education provided online is also considerably less expensive than that available through conventional means. While public schools might be free or discounted, quality can be lacking.