This is the first post of a 14-part series on entrepreneurship in Africa and the companies who participated in the inaugural Unreasonable East Africa program.

I was fortunate enough to spend part of July in Uganda with the team behind Unreasonable East Africa. In addition to being both humbling and inspiring, my experiences there convinced me that Uganda is just a part of an incredible transformation sweeping the whole of Africa. On my flight back home, I wrote “Africa is THE future” in my journal and underlined it a half-dozen times.

Here’s why:

10 Fastest Growing Economies-1

Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.

Africa is at a techno-cultural turning point that will prove to be as pivotal there as the Industrial Revolution was for Europe. Already, seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing GDPs are in Africa, where leapfrog technologies like cell phones being adopted at staggering rates. Add in some of the youngest populations in the world—millions upon millions of newly wired millennials with no shortage of problems to solve—and it becomes clear that, yes, Africa is the future.

The change is already well underway. In 2012, GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa ranged 6.8 percent in Tanzania to over 10 percent in Angola and Sierra Leone. That same year, global growth was 2.3 percent and only slightly better in the U.S. at 2.8 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The total international trade in sub-Saharan Africa hit $735 billion, more than a fourfold increase since 2000 when it was just $169 billion (see graph).

Mobile technology has both fueled and been fueled by this economic transformation. According to the World Bank, there are more than twice as many cell phones in Gabon as there are people. Botswana has 1.6 cell phones for every person. Compare that to the U.S., which still has more people than cell phones. Today, according to the IMF, there are more mobile phone subscribers in Africa than there are in all of Europe.

Mobile Phone Adoption Rates in Africa

Mobile Phone Adoption Rates in Africa. (Click to enlarge.)

These numbers seem almost impossible until you actually visit Africa and see what’s happening on the ground. Take M-Pesa, a system of mobile payments launched in Kenya in 2007, as an example. The company has since become that country’s dominant form of payment. It processes 80 transactions a second, with a total value that accounts for 31 percent of Kenyan GDP. That’s a seven-year-old company handling nearly a third of all the money in an entire country. In terms of large-scale entrepreneurial disruption, Africa is just beginning to scratch the surface.

Here’s something else that bodes well: While industrialized nations are facing declining birthrates and even, in the case of Japan, an aging, shrinking population, 78 percent of Ugandans are younger than 30. More than half are under the age of 15. Even Unreasonable East Africa co-founder and CEO Joachim Ewechu is in his early twenties! He’s a case and point example of how the next generation of Africans is poised to change the trajectory of the continent.

GDPs in Sub-Saharan Africa

GDPs in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Click to enlarge.)

Possibly the most compelling reason to be optimistic about the future of Africa is seen in its legislative offices. The continent has a rate of female leadership that would be the envy of just about any government in the world. As of January 2014, women held a higher portion of legislative seats in Rwanda—64 percent—than in other national government in the world. In South Africa, that figure is 43 percent. In Senegal and Uganda: 42 and 35 percent, respectively. (If you’re wondering, women hold just 18 percent of legislative seats in the U.S.)

Beyond the current levels of growth and the new trends being seen across the continent, the reason I believe Africa is an entrepreneur’s paradise is because seemingly insurmountable problems still exist. As entrepreneurs, we love to solve problems, and nowhere will you find more and more urgent problems than in Africa.

This is still a place where extreme poverty is not uncommon, where far too many people live without access to clean water, medical care, and even reliable food sources. Half the continent lacks electricity; African countries have some of the highest infant-mortality figures in the world; and Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest levels of HIV infections.

Africa is at a techno-cultural turning point that will prove to be as pivotal there as the Industrial Revolution was for Europe. Tweet This Quote

Yes, the problems are very real; I will not deny that. But after spending time with Unreasonable East Africa, I’m convinced that the continent has an abundance of young people determined to build an Africa very different from the one they’ve inherited. And for perhaps the first time ever, these innovators have access to the technologies and the economic and socio-political trends they’ll need to create and scale those solutions.

These entrepreneurs are picking up where decades of aid left off, by launching locally owned, scalable businesses. That’s tough anywhere. But they also have the added challenges of limited connectivity, of needing to reach customers who live on less than $2 a day, and a severe lack of financing because the investment world has yet to shift their focus in a meaningful way onto emerging markets (especially African markets). Yet the obstacles in their way only push these entrepreneurs harder.

While the economic upside can be great—and should help attract investors who have so far been wary of emerging markets—profit seems secondary to the fact that these entrepreneurs are addressing problems like malnutrition, infant mortality, lack of educational opportunities, and crushing poverty. (All examples of what we, at Unreasonable, like to call BFPs, or “Big f***ing problems.”)

If successful, they will unleash an entire continent’s worth of great ideas that will touch each and every one of us.

In an effort to bring this entrepreneurial renaissance to life, over the next two weeks, we’re going to profile some of a select group of entrepreneurs working in Africa. It’s my belief that the next Steve Jobs will come out of Africa, and it’s my hope that these stories give you a glimpse of this new reality we are already living in.

About the author

Daniel Epstein

Daniel Epstein

Daniel has an obsession. He believes to his core in the potential of entrepreneurship to solve the greatest challenges of this century and he has dedicated his life accordingly. Today, he is the founder of the Unreasonable Group, of the Unreasonable Institute and a number of other "Unreasonable" companies.

  • Bruce Campbell

    With all due respect to Steve Jobs, I might hope for something better out of Africa. Under his leadership, Apple made beautiful and innovative products, but I’m not sure he’s the kind of leader we want to emulate. It seems to me that we need leaders that are re-thinking capitalism and re-thinking consumerism. I like leaders like the founder of Patagonia, who encourages to consider whether we really need to buy more of his company’s products. Or Muhammed Yunus, who believes in markets and enterprise but not the extreme concentration of wealth. In an ideal world, we would see a leader from Africa that re-shapes capitalism in a way that is more sustainable both for the countries of African and the world. I’m not convinced the Silicon Valley model is the right one.

  • Damn well said Bruce. I couldn’t agree more. I agree more. Title should be amended to “Why the Next Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) will be coming out of Africa.” Or maybe Elon Musk (who actually did come from Africa =)

  • Alexander

    I knew Africa was developing fast and gaining the technology that they lacked but to be exposed to this information I have a new look on Africa’s business aspect. I want to know just how many more obstacles do they have to go through to start their companies or how they appeal to the population that is stricken by poverty.

  • ryanhaberer

    Africa is only beginning its rise to success. With all of the bright minds and hard working people they have its only a matter of time until Africa explodes and becomes an economic powerhouse. While countries like the U.S are full of lazy people who just want to live off of the money from their parents, people in Africa are working their tails off each and every day just to get by and better the lives of their own families. With the combination of their hard work and creative minds, people from Africa could change the world in a heartbeat with the right resources. These people want to change things and are very willing to do everything they can to change the lives of their people for the better. They want to see their own kind flourish and be successful. Not very many people in Africa ever get the opportunity to show how brilliant they truly are because of the poverty, but with a little bit of help and education I think we would all be extremely surprised what they truly have to offer. These people face problems every day that most of us could never even imagine, and when you have to come up with solutions to these problems it gives you a completely different outlook on things, which in return gives you an edge on everyone else in different parts of the world. I admire the people of Africa’s hard work and can only hope that I use their hard work as an example of how I can change my own community for the better.

  • Boeing7

    Very good point made here Bruce. I would like to point out though that Steve Jobs was more of an innovator than a leader. His main concern was creating the next gadget that people could not live without, not leading Apple.

  • sirvin1

    How long would it take Africa to reach the same level of “success” as the rest of the developed world? Is simply having a entrepreneur come from a place where extreme poverty is a problem enough to solve that problem, or any of the others that Africa is having? Having multiple cell phones is not indicative of a technologically advanced economy, and having a more advanced form of payment than sticks or bottle caps doesn’t mean that the countries economy is advancing at a rate fast enough to surpass any current tech giants in the forseeable future. Having a large population under thirty also doesn’t mean that a country can advance quickly if half of that population can’t read or do simple math, let alone learn code and solve complex equations. The next Steve Jobs may come out of Africa, but there isn’t much he can do for his home, especially by him or her self.

  • Tessa Hochberg

    I am really impressed that you cited women’s involvement in public office as a cause to be optimistic about the future of Africa. So, thank you! Female leadership has many positive externalities on governance, entrepreneurship, public-private partnerships and more. This is certainly an area in which the U.S. should strive to catch up with Africa.

  • dshootays

    I feel that until the world decides to invest in the development of Africa’s businesses and economy, they will not necessarily produce the “world’s next big thing”. I don’t believe that there is a lack of young, eager minds ready to face the daunting amount of challenges in front of them but rather a lack of resources and external support.

  • omrsrf

    I totally agree with you. I think Africa has a lot of problems that need to be addressed and solved before we seek for next African Steve Jobs. Like you said, having a large population under thirty or having multiple cell phones doesn’t mean we can predict a great future for this continent. I wish that could happen, but growing fast economy doesn’t stop killing kids from a hunger in Africa.

  • amayeux

    I remember reading the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” about the life and success of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian teenager. He was able to bring together bicycle parts, tree materials, and other various objects to create a solar powered water pump for his village. Many people view Africa as a place where the main goal is to survive day by day. In some aspects it is, however like everywhere else, you will find people with the drive and determination to create something big. Although it isn’t a huge concern to find the next Steve Jobs, there is a huge possibility that the next genius that can significantly change the world will come from Africa.

  • Kay

    I am an international student in the U.S. and I don’t see many students from Africa, even though there must be a lot of young people who is willing to study in the U.S. I understand about lack of education resources or opportunities, but I really hope there will be some programs for those who want to study abroad.

  • dcanonic

    When new technology is introduced to a growing nation we tend to see a big increase in innovations and inventions, America in the early 1900’s sparked an inventors golden age and placed the American economy at the forefront of the world. The same is true for India and Japan. Inventors and innovators lead the way to economic growth. Africa is the next logical place to have a big industrial growth spurt as more technology and educational opportunities become readily accessible through the expansion of the internet.

  • yencheskcj27

    I love how this article breaks the American’s stereotypical view of Africans. I’m excited to see what innovations come out of the continent. Africans are positioned to succeed because, as the article stated, extreme poverty is still all too common in Africa, and as entrepreneurs begin to solve their everyday problems (how to obtain clean drinking water for all) they will be able to change the world. I believe Africans will not just innovate in terms as technology as Jobs did, but innovate in order to increase quality of life for millions of people living in poverty.

  • Paul Townsend

    This post by Daniel Epstein is very inspiring. I have a special love for Africa and to hear those words is a great hope that it can come true in our lifetime. I have been to Uganda and spent a month there in 2012. I also first encountered Ugandans in 2011 at Joint Base Balad Iraq where they were contracted to guard the gates and walls of nearly every US base in Iraq for many years. They protected us. Also, I have a Ugandan who designed and manages the website for my nonprofit. He is a self taught IT guy. I agree that the next Steve Jobs could indeed come from Africa. As a matter of fact, he must. Africa for too long has been on the bottom it is time for them to be at the top.

  • Tom Ashmus

    I like this article and I think that would be a really cool thing to happen, I just feel that being from Africa presents yourself with a lot of limitations. Africa does not have as many resources and extra money to spend on studies and research as the United States does. I feel that there are a lot of brilliant minds in the world that will never have the opportunity to really see what they are capable of.

  • epron

    I agree with what was said in this article but I think this idea goes beyond the technological sector. I spoke with the Kenyan Ambassador the UN last year for a school project who held a very positive outlook for the continent based on the rapid development occurring but expressed how the continued portrayal of Africa in the media as this sort of “basket case” is detrimental to the continent’s development and the mindsets of its people alike.

  • Garrett Nelson

    Thank you for the very insightful blog Daniel. I find it quite amazing that 7 out of the top 10 fastest growing economies come from Africa, as there seem to be much bigger and faster developing countries. In this case it seems logical that the entrepreneurial skills would be increasing based on the GDP increase and mobile phone rates within Africa. But based on just these things, how is it predictable that a new inventor/entrepreneur, someone having a bigger and bolder mind than Steve Jobs, would come out of Africa? Is there anymore statistical evidence that countries in Africa will be the surging economy in the future? With that in mind, what do you personally believe will be the next “Apple Computer” or “iPhone”? What will be the next bigger and better? Thanks again!

  • Jack Delabar

    I agree, Tom, and I think that it’s totally unfair. Don’t get my wrong, I bleed red white and blue, but our resources and privileges are so often taken for granted and almost wasted. Some of those people are the definition of hard work and I would love to see what they could do if they had some of the things that we have.

  • Mia Tucker

    Thank you for this insightful article. Oftentimes it seems like Americans perceive Africa as sort of a black hole when it comes to innovation, when in reality it is a continent booming with potential. I hope to see great technological advancements come from African countries in the next couple of decades.

  • thompsonjm99

    thank you for this article! I agree that that Africa is often over looked when they should not be.I agree there is much room for improvment and advancements in Africa as well What do you think will be the next big thing?

  • Ananda Conlon

    It was very eye opening to read about the ratio of humans to cell phones. I was surprised at the results of that study. I would have assumed that the United States ratio would be much higher than that of an African country. We should focus on educating all of the people in third world countries. With all of that extra brain power working towards a greater cause, we would have something that blows one person’s ideas out of the park.

  • JeremyWahl

    Thanks for the article, Daniel. I like the fact that you brought up Africa as a country who the first thing that comes to mind is poverty being in north america. Everybody has a chance at being a mastermind and leader as how Steve Jobs was with Apple. i can not wait for the future to tell if Africans first create innovations in technology but also innovate a better lifestyle and quality of life with bettering the water quality and medicine care.

  • Julia Kramer-Golinkoff

    This article is very interesting and provides a new outlook on Africa. My only question is how far does Africa have in order to catch up to the rest of the highly developed nations? Parts of Africa are so far behind places like China and the US. While Africa may be developing at a faster rate, they have a very far way to go in order to reach our success and moreover surpass the US.

  • Aarynn Bosshart

    Two stats that you provide in this article were shocking to me. 1) seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing GDPs are in Africa & 2) As of January 2014, women held a higher portion of legislative seats in Rwanda—64 percent—than in other national government in the world. In South Africa, that figure is 43 percent. These two peaces of information show that Africa is a much more progressive continent than I would have previously thought. However, it is just that, a continent. There are many countries within Africa, How can change happen on such a large scale with so many different cultures and histories mixed in? I was also amazed to hear that 78 percent of Ugandans are younger than 30. That is hard to imagine because it’s so different in the U.S. I am happy to hear that your experiences in Africa gave you optimism for the future!

  • Trista Radloff

    It was be very interesting to watch Africa emerge! I think that their is definitely a cultural different between world countries and third world countries. While I may be putting too much opinino with little data to back it up, I think USA has become comfortable and used to getting everything. USA doesn’t need to work hard for anything anymore because it nearly seems that it is immediate. Africian citizens are not like that. They have to work hard for the simplest things like shelter and education.

  • Frankie Gaudio

    I believe that this article is insightful and correct in many ways. A strong and unique innovation is made because it betters the lives of other people. It is scalable because everyone wants and needs one. In some places like Africa, there is a lot of opportunity for people to come out with innovations to create better living conditions for people. There are so many areas of peoples lives to improve that the amount of innovations that can be made is astounding. The only thing that Africa is missing in many places is a strong education system. Educating people to think outside the box will allow for a better chance for better innovations.

  • Rhea Lewis

    I did not realize that there were still more people than cell phones in the United States compared to Africa. I would like to learn about other examples of leapfrog technologies in addition to cell phones that the current generation has adopted and read about the entrepreneurs that will be profiled soon. My only question relates to the majority of the population in Africa being young because the article did not specify what percentage of the youth were or are currently being educated, which would also affect the entrepreneurial success of Africa.

  • Mitch Sween

    Thanks for the article!
    I don’t know if I necessarily agree with your philosophy that the best solutions come from the worst situations. I am glad that people are working so hard all over the world though to make things better.

  • vsantoro

    I like the idea. However it is impossible to tell if the next “Steve Jobs” will be from Africa. I personally disagree because of all the opportunities we have in the United States.

  • Nathan

    Thanks! This article breaks the stereotypes that Americans have of Africans. I really liked the chart you had above about the top 10 fastest growing economies. I would have never guessed that there would be such a large chunk of countries from Africa. How do you think we could change people perception of Africa?

  • tspurloc

    I love the ideas discussed in this article. Having grown up in western culture, I often think about the condition of people in other countries. Particularly, African people are who I usually think of first. I am happy to know that so many positive changes are taking place. For the first time ever, I believe that Africans will be able to pull out of their devastating circumstances.

  • Kyree Brooks

    Thank you Daniel for this article which explains so much about the progress of GDP growth of Africa. Without a doubt, Africa is still an LDC, but for how long? As far as technology goes it is amazing to read about how far they have came. CEOs and other philosophers want to see more out of the country. Business owner are beginning to expose their businesses to higher markets and become successful. I agree that they will unleash an entire continent’s worth of great ideas that will touch each and every one of us.

  • Adam

    Agreed, I too now have a new look on Africa’s business aspect. The fact that Africa is now possibly gaining access to the new technology and socio- political trends is fantastic. I think we will see great things coming from this continent including innovators that could possibly change the world. I definitely am going to keep my eye on this.

  • hirthjp18

    You make me very interested to see what Africa will be doing in the next couple years. I never realized the growth that Africa is making and by what you said Its only beginning. With wealth rising in these countries there will also bring along more innovators to help better the countries and the countries around them.

  • Kaylie Mae Kuhnke

    agree with you also. i had heard that Africa was developing fast but did not know to what extent. the technological advances they are making is amazing and great for Africa’s business. like you i would also like to know how this is going to affect the poverty stricken parts of Africa. Is it helping them at all? and if not how can they change so that it will?

  • Caleb Franklin

    I like this article because most people seem to have this view on Africa and how it is an open continent with no technological advancement, when in reality a good chunk of Africa is fairly advanced compared to what we Americans tend to think. I agree that there is great potential and it does seem like the young generations in more developed parts of Africa are very determined to make a change in the continent and provide a better future for their children.

  • Steven Bichler

    I couldn’t agree more with you as Africa starts to become more developed through creative thinking their innovations will help change the world for the better like many other innovators have done before them.

  • Steven Bichler

    If Africa can make the developments that are needed there, the potential for innovations are so positive for all that everyone should be trying to help them with these innovations and developments.

  • Nicole Myers

    Thank you for this article! My immediate view on Africa is much different than you described in this article and I think a lot of Americans have the same views as me. I thought that most of Africa is underdeveloped and you proved the exact opposite with this article.

  • Nicole Myers

    That is a great idea. We should educate everyone equally so we can work for something great. Everyone has their own ideas and it would be nice to be able to bring them all to the table.

  • Austin Dorman

    There are so many people out there that have amazing ideas but lack the funds to present those ideas. It would be amazing if we were able to go in and hear everyone’s great ideas or mind sets, but unfortunately there are just too many to bring them all to one table! However, I do believe that in the future we will figure out a way to hear more of these no-name peoples ideas.

  • Austin Dorman

    I was thinking the exact same thing. I don’t picture Africa nearly as developed as this article depicted. It’s sad that most American’s will agree with us too.

  • Camillewuensch

    That would be amazing if Africa rises to the top. With all of the younger people there I sure they could find many that would be willing to put in as much time and effort as they can to be developing many new things. Like in the article Africa has many more problems and bigger issues than the US does, so I feel like they would come up with some great ideas and they would be way more affordable than if they were made in the US. Great article!!

  • Nicole Myers

    I am glad I am not alone. Anns classes help out with the understanding of this through projects similar to the bake sale (raising money for the girls) etc. also the videos that she shows us about clean water and how it can really change if we help out

  • Bravo sir. I LOVE this article and I have been talking about it just as much as I have been reading it. I have been telling all of my friends for years that you can not count Africa out. Africa will make a comeback. Everyone has written out Africa as a place that will never be more than a giant charity case. Some of the smartest young people are coming out of Africa. Technology is going to foster this great shift very soon. Although there are major setbacks (or BFP’s as you so eloquently put it), their minds and hearts are in the right place. Once a person has their mind made up to be better, they do better and no one will be able to stop that. I am eagerly awaiting the day that everyone will start backing them up.

  • Austin Dorman

    Exactly! When I think of all the different fundraisers and things I’ve seen for Africa I was amazed to see how different it truly is from my perception of it. It’s amazing how wrong our perceptions of some things can be!

  • Hillary12

    I agree! I have read about African students being in studies with students from Brooklyn using a new technology. The African students ended up getting the hang of the new technology quicker than the students from Brooklyn. Africa is developing and will be able to grasp technology faster than Americans because we as Americans are used to the technologies now.

  • conner_faulkner

    As globalization and technology is spreading, everything is becoming more accessible to everyone everywhere. Plus, the Africans are having more opportunities to be innovative, due to the lag of modern items and current news reaching Africa.

  • nbaker3

    The premise of this article makes sense since people in Africa need innovation far more than anyone else needs it. It reminds me of America about 200 years ago when they were on the rise. They took advantage of the vast amount of resources and innovated. Africa, though it is a mess, actually has large amounts of natural resources. The question is whether different cultures in Africa will collaborate.

  • Alex_C_B

    I can’t wait to see how Africa continues to develop in my lifetime. Growing up with technology, I couldnt always see the effect it had on the U.S. at large. But to see Africa become more unified and technology advanced would be interesting to study.

  • Jcwilson480

    Do they really need consumerism in Africa? Ya industry and production could bring more stability to the entire continent but it will also lead to consummerism. That in itself might not be a bad thing but coupled with an unstable up and coming economy it could lead to a bad deal for everyone involved.

  • Shae Moyano

    Well when I started reading this article I thought it was going to be about a young inventor that was founded in Africa that was going to be the next Steve Jobs. Felt like the title of the article is very misleading.
    Ok I like this article because it gave me information on Africa and their economy growing. I didn’t know they were actually improving.

  • Shae Moyano

    I feel like though African’s need to fi their poverty problems first before creating a ‘Steve Jobs’. I know it isn’t their intention and they are working on it, I just figured it would be higher on the priority list.

  • csturk

    Yvon Chouinard, yes! You make a great point. I think that the entrepreneurs that will really make changes in Africa will be a whole new type of leader. They are faced with challenges that no entrepreneur in the US has to face, but they will still need to be on the forefront of innovation and creative thinking. I think many people are misinformed or unaware of what Africa is really like. I never would have thought of Africa as a place that has more cell phones than people. An entrepreneur that can bring technology that can improve the quality of life as well as break down barriers of innovation will become something great, but not necessarily Steve Jobs.

  • Amy Rink

    I completely agree you with! America, Japan and even China have had growing technology for a long time now. Seeing what’s to come from Africa is really intriguing to see. The technology there is developing rapidly and it will offer many great business opportunities from it!

  • rschneider2800

    I’m not really surprised by the numbers on the fastest growing economies because when your starting from 0, little innovations can jumpstart microecnomies. The problem is sustainability of those economies. once you get to a point you plateau and would need a revolutionary innovation to increase that plateau, but it is interesting to think about the limited resources and innovative ideas that come from that.

  • SkylerZahner

    Africa has a great deal of work to put in order to become a dominant power in the world and show that they are efficient. This article has a very positive outlook for the country which is a great thing and can be extremely motivating however the entire continent needs to come together if they wish to change what they have inherited.

  • JeremyWahl

    i think this is awesome that Africa is developing and the people in Africa are becoming more creative and being more of an innovators. Steve Jobs was one of the best innovators and what a creative genious. i also like hearing good things from countries that we always look at for being poor creating something special.

  • nherzick

    The title made me laugh.

  • kgallaher

    Great article! I think the next Steve Jobs, or anyone innovative in general, could be anywhere. Sometimes those who are overlooked are the ones who will be most successful. Anyone could change the world.

  • Anniep1023

    With more and more education being provided in Africa, I do believe that the next great innovator could be from Africa, or anywhere in the world. Because of growing education, creativity and innovation are becoming more and more prevalent in developing countries, which is a great thing! If we can start supporting these innovative individuals on a larger, global scale, then not only does that individual succeed and prosper, but the world does as well due to their unique contribution.

  • wegener61

    I think that “the next Steve Jobs” in Africa would be the one to help end some of the huge problems, not technological ones, like transporting water or food to those in need, we have the ability to do this already, but the one to implement it effectively will go down in history.

  • epmcinty

    This article was very interesting and brought up some great points. I find it amazing how Africa has some of the top 10 GDP’s and how technology has driven it to a global growth percentage almost as high as the United States. I think Africa is definitely the best place for entrepreneurs, as it is one of the most developing areas in the world and innovation/growth is absolutely necessary. Looking forward to seeing the phenomenal investments and innovations that will stem out of Africa and who knows- maybe the next Steve Jobs might be as well.

  • hansends21

    I would love for this to be true! Steve Jobs is great and all, I mean I am an apple user all around, but I think it would be great for someone from Africa to become a leader, and maybe for a more important cause.

  • TykwinskB25

    Africa is becoming more developed and because of that someone is bound to come up with some idea and produce a major contribution to the world. I would not be surprised if someone from Africa or any country came up with the next big idea. Everyone is creative, it’s just a matter of creating resources.

  • kgonyo

    I completely agree with the final thought – by living in poverty for so long, Africans understand what their communities really need in order to improve the quality of life. Rather than figuring out ways to enhance technologies that already exist, they might have the insight to create new technologies that have the potential to grow just as much as Apple products have.

  • DavidMizelle1

    The large amount of BFP’s as you put it certainly give an abundance of opportunity for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, but don’t those problems need to be solved before whatever innovation is created there will have an effect on the outside world? It’s fantastic that companies like M-Pesa have started up and are doing well in Kenya (and other countries they’ve now expanded into), but isn’t their service mostly the same as the online banking done in the US? That’s what it seems like according to the Wikipedia link you connected, at least. I wouldn’t count that as an innovation of new ideas so much as a relatively localized problem being solved with current technology that is already in use in other parts of the world.

  • syla6029

    I think it is great to see an article that isn’t just showing pity for Africa, but making it a positive topic. This brings a whole new perspective to how people can look at Africa. Yes, there are certain aspects of Africa that might be doing worse than other countries but this article turned it into a positive thing. For example their GDP. They now have 7 of the 10 fastest growing GDP’s in the world, that is a fact people just notice about Africa, not all of the negatives.

  • CPanella1

    I love this article because it focuses on the technology and leadership in Africa. My favorite part, while bias since I’m a woman, is it’s discussion on women leadership in Africa. I think another Steve Jobs would be good for our world, but in a different way. Not necessarily his technology advances, but the way he thought and was innovative. Think if we had a Steve Jobs who found the cure for cancer or diseases- our healthcare situation would be much better off then finding the next improvement for the Iphone 20.

  • CPanella1

    I agree with Steve not being a leader per say but an innovator. Which is fine because we need both in our country, but if they could be the same person sometimes it would be beneficial for us!

  • Will Ettl

    This is a very interesting and informative article. I believe how much leadership there is in Africa and how people are preparing for the future that it could happen. The next Steve Jobs could very well be from Africa because they are always pushing for a better life for everyone in Africa not just themselves.

  • Ryan Dow

    I’ve had family that has lived in Africa. Its been one of my dreams to take a trip there and do something for that community.

  • McKennaKJ29

    I loved reading about your experience in the country. It is awesome to hear about countries that are in the technological turning point. Most people just think that these African countries are incredibly underdeveloped, which isnt really the case.

  • DavidMizelle1

    I think it’s important to realize that that is how our country got started to an extent as well. Sure, there was definitely investment that came from Europe, but a lot of our country was built with only the resources available to us. Given time, I think the continent of Africa will be able to accomplish similar feats.

  • Brady

    The facts in Ths article really are mind blowing. So cool! Africa seems to be looked over so much today.

  • Brady

    Very true. Steve jobs really was less of a leader and more if an innovator. Besides, he did have some of the most innovative ideas to date. His legacy is living on!

  • jk

    African entrepreneurship is the Theory of change for Africa. Disruptive innovations for the world from Africa. The seed is already planted .Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program.

  • sophia laValley

    It’s nice to see an article that highlights the positives coming out of Africa. With emerging economies and a young population the continent is positioned to be in many more articles that shine the light on the talented and innovate people there.

  • RBloss

    This article does a good job of providing standout fact and statistics as they relate to the sheer growth and development of Africa as a whole. From quickly growing economies, to the expansion of mobile technology, to the progressiveness of legislative office, all the signs are pointing in the right direction. A direction that has Africa on the verge of turning the page and becoming a technological hub for the world. This article has me feeling optimistic and somewhat surprised. I guess I’m surprised because I’m a pretty well-read and well-educated person and I’ve known for some time now that Africa is advancing leaps and bounds socio-economically, but I did’t know exactly to what extent. So why then am I still skeptical?

    I don’t consider myself a skeptical person. In fact, I’d say I’m the opposite. I just take the facts as I’m given them, break them down, try to figure out other points of view, and then formulate my own options on the matter. I’m not saying Africa couldn’t be a technological hub in the future, it may very well be; but there are a few other signs in my mind that make believing Africa as a technological hub still a little hard. And from where I sit, I think its gonna take quite some time before that page is turned.

    The first thing I’d like to point out is that is that statistics are great, but only when in context. I think any slightly educated person can understand just how easy it is to frame a statistic in order to make it seem impactful. And while I wouldn’t say that the statistics cited in the article aren’t impactful, I do think they are slightly out of context. Here’s why:

    First of all, Africa is huge. It is 11.67 million sq. miles and is comprised of 54 different countries. That makes it difficult to generalize somewhat pointless to compare to individual countries. You also have to consider regional conflicts, terrorist groups, and other potential threats, all of which discourage foreign direct investment – which will be the only way we see Africa evolve technologically in the future. Africa cannot do it alone, and if investors aren’t willing to take on additional risk, it may not be the technological hub of the future as soon as we thought.

    Second of all, basic macro-economic principles will show you that it’s easier to have a high GDP growth rate if your GDP was already low to begin with. In other word’s, its easier to catch up if you’re already at the bottom. A more holistic approach to analyzing Africa’s economic potential would include figures on inflation, unemployment, and investment.

    Finally, I think some of the problems Africa is currently being faced with including high HIV infections, inadequate access to water and electricity, lack of education systems, lack of health care, and regional terror make sustainable development very difficult. I think some of these problems will have to be solved first before we see African nations reach their potential.

    I know, like many others, that this won’t be an overnight process. Rome was’t built in one day. But I cannot think of another continent in the world more plagued by socio-economic challenges. Of course there are countries and cities that will individually thrive in Africa for whatever reason: natural resources, shipping, technology. And we’ve seen quite a bit of investment from China in recent years. However, my sense of things tells me it will be quite some time before Africa churns out the next Steve Jobs.

  • Tanvir Talukder

    You’ve brought some really interesting facts into this article. I had no idea that Africa is undergoing such an economic transformation with such a young population. Based on this alone, I would agree that Africa is going to become a powerhouse for innovation. But along with the “seemingly unsurmountable problems” that still exist in Africa, it seems clear that opportunities for entrepreneurs are plentiful both locally and globally.

    Entrepreneurs looking for opportunities in Africa should look up to Martin Fisher, founder of KickStart. He invents tools and equipment that poor people can use to start highly profitable small businesses. He successfully established a full profit supply chain in areas in Africa where the equipment is sold by profit making companies, manufactured by profit-making manufacturers, and distributed by profit-making wholesalers. Instead of treating poor people as victims and giving hand-outs, he saw them as hard working entrepreneurs and provided opportunities for them to make more money.

    Young upcoming entrepreneurs within Africa can find inspiration from William Kamkwamba, who built a power-generating windmill from junk parts to rescue his family from famine. At just 14 years old figured out how to build a windmill from pictures in a book, so that he could generate electricity or pump water. People living in his area thought he was crazy at first, but once he was able to demonstrate how the electricity he was generating could be used, people started realizing that his idea could be useful and that maybe they should help him.

    A key component to Africa’s success is for people, both locally and globally, to understand that myths about the creativity, resilience, and moral agency of people who are poor, illiterate, disabled, drug addicted, incarcerated, or simply outside the age range we think of as productive years, are just myths. Innovators around the world have demonstrated that institutions which assume that most people are competent and honest regularly outperform those which expect the worst.

    Steve Jobs is a great symbol of the entrepreneurial mindset, but I believe the Steve Jobs of Africa will be even more driven and much keener to social change. As you stated, “these entrepreneurs are addressing problems like malnutrition, infant mortality, lack of educational opportunities, and crushing poverty”. I can’t wait to see the exciting new solutions that come out of Africa to solve these problems, and the social, economic, and environmental impact they will have on the world.

  • Myles McManus

    I really enjoyed reading this
    article since I am a big subscriber to the belief that Africa will be a driving
    force in emerging market growth going forward, along with India. With the
    constantly increasing levels of GDP output seen throughout Africa, it is clear
    they are making great progress, although work is far from over. I study economics
    and investing and to me, Africa is a hot bed of opportunity for both investors
    and citizens. While much progress has been made in recent years, there is still
    large portion of underrepresented people and needs on the continent. That is
    why I see potential though. Where there is opportunity and holes in markets,
    there are usually entrepreneurs nearby to help fill those gaps.

    Steve Jobs was a visionary that understood
    what we all wanted decades before any of us ever could. This resulted in him
    getting laughed at by some of the best and brightest in the industry, right
    before they came crawling to his doorstep looking to be a part of the revolution
    he was creating. I can only hope that this is happening on the ground in
    Africa. One example I can think of off the top of my head is about Akon, the
    rapper. He had this insane idea to use his wealth and influence to help provide
    constant access to power to people across Africa. He was originally laughed at
    or told his head was in the right place but this was not achievable. Now that
    the project is a success, everyone wants in on it.

    This is why it is so important to
    provide economic and educational opportunities to the people of Africa. I
    shouldn’t take a millionaire to effect change. It needs to be the young people
    on college campuses and locals who see an opportunity to make difference, we
    just need to make sure they have adequate resources.

    This will lead to a more economically
    sustainable Africa and a better place for emerging market investments.

  • Reid Trauernicht

    As I read through the article and the comments that follow, I’ve generalized that Sub-Saharan Africa has a ton of potential but a ton of luggage holding them back from succeeding. They face HIV, starvation and malnutrition, infant mortality, poor education, and strangling poverty.Those issues won’t go away instantly nor can we limit their growth till they solve their problems. The disappearance of their issues will coincide with their economic rise. Luckily the people of Africa have learned to work through them and be successful. I’d like to think that their connection with technology is one of the causes of that. The ever growing influence of technology and a massive youth population makes their potential all that more enticing and in turn the eventual and promising rise from their heavy “luggage.”