Africa is the world’s greatest opportunity

Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship

At a Carbon War Room meeting recently we were joined by Strive Masiyiwa, one of our founding Carbon War Room and B Team members and a leading entrepreneur in Africa. It was great to hear him speak about Africa, which he described as the worlds greatest opportunity. Out of the 10 fastest-growing countries last year, six were African. They all had 7% or above growth, while most African countries had 5% or above growth. While statistics arent always accurate, the trends are very promising indeed.

Strive told us that when Nelson Mandela came out of prison only 10 African countries had regular elections. Now less than 10 dont have regular elections. There is improved security in Africa too, said Strive, though there are obviously still areas of concern. He saw the main problems as inequity, poverty, education and environmental issues. Africas environment is a very fragile ecosystem and there are still 30 million kids not getting primary education.

By 2050 half of the additional two billion people in the world will be under 25 and half of them will be in Africa. 60% of the worlds unused arable land is in Africa, while its middle class will exceed Chinas by 2030. One of the most promising areas is the revolution in the telecom industry, which has resulted in most Africans having mobile phones. Strive revealed 58.1% of Zimbabweans have mobile internet access. Africa is leapfrogging other continents through innovations linked to mobile phones, such as M-Pesa, a highly advanced microfinancing and money transfer service used in Kenya and Tanzania.

Where Africa is opening up the energy sector to the private sector with massive incentives for renewables, similar growth is happening there. One good example is Strives company Econet Wireless developing solar lanterns to charge mobile phones. More than 400,000 solar lanterns have been distributed in Zimbabwe alone, meaning people dont have to buy kerosene chargers.

They've now created a solar charging station that provides a charger for the phone, light and other power sources helping transform the lives of people living in rural areas. Their Green Kiosk Initiative champions employment creation, while the Energize the Chain scheme donates hi-tech vaccine refrigeration units to rural hospitals. By becoming a telecommunications and energy company, Econet has shifted its business model to drive change for people and the planet as well as created a brand new lucrative revenue stream for its bottom line.

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