30 May 2019

Africa: Embassy Boom Indicates Africa Leapfrogs in Tech

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Cape Town — THE unprecedented embassy-building boom in Africa is an indication the global community is positioning itself to make the most of the ability of the continent to leapfrog the rest of the world with innovation.

This has been one of the prevailing themes at the SingularityU (SU) South Africa Exponential Summit, the first of its kind in the continent, which has brought together some of the world's leading innovators in technology and finance.

The event in Cape Town came on the back of renewed foreign engagement with the continent, with the opening of more than 320 embassies in Africa between 2010 and 2016, as pointed out by Shayne Mann, co-Chief Executive Officer of SU South Africa.

"This is the greatest boom of embassies opened anywhere in the word. Turkey opened 20 embassies alone," he said in an interview with CAJ News Africa.

"Why do you think these countries are opening the embassies?" Mann asked rhetorically.

"Africa is going to be one of the most popular places on earth. On top of that, there is a very young population in Africa. It's going be an incredible growth base as you bring all these youth out of poverty into middle income," he said.

Mann, a co-founder of Mann Made, the local organisers of the inaugural summit, attributed Africa's potential to leapfrog the rest of the region owing to the growing mobile penetration and innovation, singling out the M-PESA.

Launched in Kenya in the East African region in 2007, it is a global success story in the mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and micro-financing service sector.

Mann said Africa could leapfrog the world in that regard, projecting money transfers to eventually drop to "a cost of zero."

"You know what I love about Africa... I have been going to Lagos (Nigeria) and Nairobi (Kenya) a lot. I love the can-do attitude and a belief about a better tomorrow. In Africa, people are smart, clever and educated. They want to do better," the executive added.

"That's what we are all about at SU. We want the world to be a better place. We believe in abundance for everybody. Getting everybody out of poverty and creating a better future for the world."

Presenting at the summit, Will Weisman, Executive Director at Singularity University, meanwhile noted over 2 billion people remained unbanked globally.

He viewed this as an opportunity than a challenge.

"We see this as billions of opportunities," he said.

He projected such technologies as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain, among others transforming such areas as health and education.

SU is a global community that uses exponential technologies to tackle the world's biggest challenges.

Similar summits are scheduled for Nairobi in November and the following month in Lagos.

The event in South Africa was held in partnership with Deloitte, Development Bank of South Africa, Discovery and MTN.

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