These are 3 ways African tech can inspire the West

You can tell you're African if you experience these three signs. One: every year at Christmas your uncle gives a speech about the importance of education. Two: there is no need to tell you, but your parents' biggest fear is that you choose a career in the arts. Three: the wedding reception is scheduled for 5 PM, but 3 hours have passed and it hasn't started yet. Have you been there before?                        

I am East African with Congolese and Tanzanian heritage. I spent my early years in a Tanzanian village before moving to Canada in 2001. After 19 years, the pandemic allowed me to reconnect with my roots. The East African innovation scene fascinated a research friend and me in 2021. We led conversations with tech disruptors and managers that unveiled how exciting the landscape is in the region. In this story, I explore the mobile money revolution, its impact on the SHEconomy, and Whatsapp's role in enhancing the consumer experience. While I can't take you to scenic beaches, I'm happy to provide you with a list of must-visit places in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Nairobi.    



No alt text provided for this image
Africa, 2022                



Mobile money as a bridge

According to fintech expert Oluseye Obadeyi, small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the East African economy. African tech entrepreneurs have demonstrated remarkable creativity in addressing local challenges in healthcare, agriculture, energy efficiency, and financial services. Among all of them, financial services are the most disrupted. For example, telecommunication companies M-Pesa by Vodacom or Airtel outshine traditional banking. They function as mini banks or mobile wallets. Imagine keeping digital cash in your mobile account with Bell, Rogers, AT&T, or Verizon. Why is this happening? Mobile wallets serve as a bridge between a cash-dependent culture and an inaccessible banking experience for people living day-to-day with no long-term financial planning. A question for Canadian and American fintech companies: is there a population in the West that might benefit from a technology like this? If so, how big is the fight to create a banking-adjacent financial experience for low-income or underserved people?    


She is killing it

Let's dive deeper into the topic of financial inclusion, focusing on female entrepreneurship. Meagan Loyst, known as the 'Queen of Gen Z VC,' defines the SHEconomy as a female-driven economy. Whether it is selling chapati, chips mayai, or braiding hair, these informal businesses thrive in East Africa. Mobile money and digital payments offer young and middle-aged women the financial autonomy to bypass traditional banking. Also, platforms like Instagram and Shopify connect them to a global clientele. I can think of the brilliant Kenyan running shoe Enda created by a female founder. When I heard about the brand, I immediately got a pair on their website.    


The SHEconomy is gaining traction more than ever. It influences tourism, wellness, entertainment and many other industries. Taylor Swift, who we all thought was just a ‘sweet country girl’ with a guitar, grossed $1.8 Billion from The Eras Tour. $1.8 Billion. This economy is evolving whether we like it or not and it is taking a major turn. Fintech and other industries should consider how to better serve formal and informal women-led businesses in the West.    


Whatsapp for the win

Since 2022, I noticed a surge in text-based business-to-consumer communication. E-commerce seeks a distinct space, so it uses text as a marketing tool to promote sales and discounts. In Tanzania, Whatsapp dominates as the messaging platform. Unlike one-sided promotions in e-commerce, local tech startups and small businesses use Whatsapp to update and assist customers. The Tanzanian equivalent of Amazon, Inalipa, integrates Whatsapp to support the delivery process and respond to questions. Some Western B2C could mirror this communication approach. When and if relevant, they should consider more open, informal channels of communication to foster loyalty, trust, and offer real-time assistance.    

In a nutshell, growing up in Canada, I didn’t pay much attention to how technology is shaped by its culture and context. But when I lived in Dar es Salaam for 6 months and traveled to Nairobi, I experienced a technological reality that changed my life. That is why I wrote this article. If you want to see the technology companies dominating Africa, explore the Crunchbase alternative StartupList. You can also follow YouTube influencers Wode Maya and Tayo Aina to learn more about the region.    

Let's stay in touch

Subscribe to read the latest posts every so often.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.