Last month, over 40 Heads of State visited the United States to discuss trade and investment in Africa, as well as America’s commitment to Africa’s security. The Africa Summit brought attention to the fact that Africa is the new entrepreneurial frontier. Africa is making its way on the economic map of the world, and the opportunities for African businesses and international corporations are huge: The World Bank reported economic growth for Sub-Saharan Africa, rose from 4.7 percent in 2013 to 5.2 percent in 2014, making it one of the fastest growing economic areas in the world.
During the summit, President Obama announced a 33 billion dollar investment in the African economy, but even more important are local African entrepreneurs who are working each day to create jobs and improve their countries’ economies. One of the most unique characteristics of many African countries is their strong youth population: Africa as a whole has over 200 million youth aged 15-24, making it the youngest continent in the world. And young Africans are making sure they are involved with changing and developing their home. Forbes recently published an article on the Top 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs in Africa. These entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for someone else to step in and solve their problems. They are being proactive and coming up with solutions on their own.
Ecopost Kenya, founded by Lorna Rutto, collects plastic waste and converts it to eco-friendly plastic lumber. Rutto is aiming to solve the issues of recycling and deforestation that are common in Africa by developing an eco-friendly alternative.
Skydrop Enterprises, founded by Joel Mwale, is a rainwater filtration and bottling company. Although in the Western world bottled water is extremely common (there are over 100 water bottle companies in the U.S. alone), the global reality is one in eight people in the world lacks access to clean water to meet their basic needs, and bottling clean water can provide affordable and drinkable water to those who need it.
Cardipad, founded by Arthur Zang, is a touch screen medical tablet which can run heart examinations. Access to basic healthcare services such as screenings can be limited in remote areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, and Zang’s solution allows for heart examinations and remote readings to be done in rural areas.
While local entrepreneurs have a unique advantage in that they know the true needs of their communities, starting a business in a continent that does not always have regular electricity, and where internet connections can be scarce is a challenge new businesses in Africa face. Power supplies in Africa can be limited and even when people have access it is often unreliable and costly. Entrepreneurs in Kenya produced a solution for this with iHubs, innovation hubs which allow people to buy memberships and work in a reliable space to develop their businesses. iHubs are useful for those in the technology community and mobile app development, as they allow businesses to conduct meetings and test products in a shared work environment. iHubs also allow entrepreneurs who are just starting out to run their businesses without incurring the typical costs of an office space.
Africa is a rapidly growing continent, especially in countries such as Nigeria and Tanzania where economies are booming. Young entrepreneurs in Africa are creating businesses to suit the needs of their customers, and it is easy to see how many of these innovations could be used throughout the rest of the world as well. It is just a matter of time before we see these entrepreneurs’ innovations and technological innovations on the global stage.