Are tech companies key to African growth?

Esi Cleland
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Africa?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Africa is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


As tech companies begin to take root and grow in Africa, I believe we have an opportunity to change lives, forge communities and build the continent.

In a world where we can have whatever we want, do whatever we want to do and be whatever we want to be, we’re faced with the challenge of answering the following questions: what do we want? What kind of Africa do we want to build?

What we want is to improve the state of Africa. And when we say that we are committed to creating a more inclusive world, what we mean is that we want to build a world in which everyone is able to dream, and to realize these dreams.

Tech companies are uniquely placed to shape Africa’s economic and social empowerment. They have the ability to grow and scale exponentially. The same number of products that would have taken hundreds of physical stores to distribute can now reach customers through a single e-commerce platform. Millions of unbanked people can now send and receive money through their mobile phones. Information that was once only possible to distribute locally can now be broadcast to the entire continent. It is now possible to access an education using nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection.

The potential benefits for local traders are incalculable. For the average African, it could also lead to more jobs, higher wages and better living conditions.

This may require a reimagining of e-commerce to more closely mimic traditional trade in Africa, and a push to bring informal traders into the digital age. It could also mean distributing local language content on the web, or using the internet to teach skills to Africa’s youthful workforce.

What excites me about these possibilities is that they are not merely opportunities to do things well, but also to do good.

Technology companies have also become significantly cheaper to start. This represents another great opportunity to the average African, who perhaps does not have access to funding. Now, all they need is a computer, internet and an entrepreneurial spirit to get going and, eventually, provide jobs to others.

Information technology is one of the few areas in which Africa is not too far behind the rest of the world. The tools and skills needed to be innovative and transformative are not beyond our reach. We are yet to build Africa’s Amazon, Google or PayPal, but these companies all emerged in the last 20 years, so perhaps our own versions are just about to be born.

Because of the unique character of Africa, I expect the continent’s tech companies will look and function differently to those in other parts of the world, but their impact will be just as great. And, essentially, again because of the African context, it will likely be the companies which do the most to improve the social as well as economic well-being of the African people.

We should be excited about what the future of technical innovation will do for Africa.

Author: Esi Cleland is Chief Executive Officer of AfroChic, Ghana, and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

Image: Jeremiah Murimi, a Kenyan electrical engineering student demonstrates how a “smart charger” connected to a bicycle powers a mobile phone at the University of Nairobi, July 27, 2009.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
AfricaEconomic Progress
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The World Bank: How the development bank confronts today's crises

Efrem Garlando

April 16, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum