The African tech space witnessed diverse spectacular events in 2019. From the influx of tech moguls to the continent to the visit of top tech CEOs and businesses from all over the world. The continent practically had a major tech boom from these visits and interactions with our ecosystem. Let’s recall the worthwhile tech happening in 2019.
The biggest occurrence for the year was the visibility of the Africa technology market to the Global Economy.
African technology witnessed diverse levels of growth and innovation in 2019. It also welcomed CEOs of global organizations like Jack Ma of Alibaba and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.
The visit of Jack Ma, the Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba to the continent twice this year has a lot to say about the growth. The digital tycoon launched the African Netpreneur prize and attended the prize-giving ceremony to help startups combat typical challenges they encounter. He then proceeds to Nigeria and Ethiopia to engage and propose new tech partnerships with Nigeria and Ethiopia government. This singular act from the Chinese shows how critical Africa is in the global technology market.
Just like the former, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square also visited 8 African countries to discuss diverse deals with tech startups in Africa. He might even visit and live in Africa for another six months come 2020. He was swift to recognize the African market and its role in being the next huge technology market in the globe.
The scramble for Africa also increased as foreign tech companies, moguls and nations expand ties with Africa. Tech companies in the United States, China, France, etc all found a market in the continent and have established a base in the continent.
The likes of Opera, Transsion, and Jumia had a busy business year exploring the length and breadth of Africa with their services and product offerings. Other giants from America and Europe did not fail to leave their mark on the continent through community engagement and marketing initiatives. Google, Microsoft and Facebook’s have etched their investment in the minds of many through their hubs, programmes and Africa-specific products across the technology ecosystem.
Meanwhile, the scramble for this market also increased foreign direct investment across the continent. Cars45 got a whopping USD400 million investment while Opera led a USD170million investment in Fintech through Opay . 90 other startups from all over Africa raised diverse funds that run into millions of dollars from both indigenous and foreign investors.
Additionally, as the need to increase participation in technology and network with tech professionals increased, diverse tech startups and organizations also brought tech experts and enthusiasts together. This made the tech community some of the best moments in 2019.
And, like the love for tech increased, so did regulations and government’s clampdown on social media activities. The year had so many bills that tend to infringe on the freedom of expression specifically targeted at social media. Laws like hate speech bill, cybercrime law, social media laws amidst others were all proposed in 2019. There were even moments when social media users were arrested and the internet shut down severally like in Ethiopia.
Since government and lawmakers are not relenting in the bid to clamp down on social media activities, the tech community was also ready to combat all sponsored bills. The community championed topics like #SayNoToSars, #hatespeechbill, #SayNoToSocialMediaBill
#freedomofspeech on Twitter and other social media platforms. Also, various petitions were signed to stop the clampdown on social media activities.
This year, there was increased participation from government and world bodies. The African Development Bank (AfDB), for example, partnered Microsoft to create a free learning platform for Africans. So also did the Rwandan & South African governments sponsor the launch of Made in Africa phones- Mara. We also had several grants released by the government to tech startups.
And on the sly side of the great experience is the exploitation of Africans by foreign tech companies. Zimbabwe signed agreements that allow the citizen to be used as ‘Guinea Pigs’ for AI facial recognition tech in China. The same is happening in Kenya with the Chinese Security Cameras. There are allegations that each of these technologies are used to siphon data about the continent from Africa.
Moreso, there were also cases of death and forced labour in Congo cobalt mines. These were the few adverse events in the tech space in 2019.
In all, the African tech space had one of its booming moments this year. One big issue that still spreads through all technology sectors from healthtech, insurtech, edtech, fintech etc is the adoption of technology across the continent. We look forward to a more receptive continent that embraces technology come 2020.
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