AS the dust is settling after a general election that handed President John Magufuli a second term, life is going on in Tanzania with the ecstasy to the winners and disappointment to the losers giving way to the wisdom from an old adage that there is life after elections.
The election was not a magic wand to dispel social and economic complexities brought about notably by the outbreak of Covid-19.
In a UN report released this year, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under- Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that with the future of the world being shaped by Covid-19 pandemic and humanity's response to it, critical insights are more important than ever.
The report, Recovering Better: Economic and Social Challenges and Opportunities is a UN overview of the compilation of the High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs. The report highlights on the human tragedy of the pandemic which has not only claimed many lives worldwide but has also imposed many additional socio-economic challenges.
"At the aggregate level, economies are in recession, leading to falling public revenue and shrinking fiscal space. Additional stresses are arising in economies dependent on tourism or commodity exports, and with disruptions in food supply chains," the report notes.
More worrying is the fact that uncertainties about the future course of the pandemic and its socio- economic consequences will persist for the foreseeable future, affecting consumption and investment behaviours.
To address some of these existential and perceived challenges and morph them into opportunities, Sahara Sparks will host a series of events in Dar es Salaam this week, according to Vanessa Kisowile, Lead, Sahara Sparks Events.
The event organised by Sahara Ventures in collaboration with South African based MyGrowth- Fund will mainly focus on the Future of Africa Beyond 2020. Kisowile noted that the idea is to re-imagine the future of the African continent by looking at the lessons learnt from the unprecedented events and exploring what is in store for Africa and Africans.
"There will be serious discussions with the view of finding solutions and some of the areas of focus will be on what is important for Africa when it comes to job creation, investment and the business landscape in general," she said.
"Sahara Sparks 2020 is putting on a spotlight the paradigm shift Africa is experiencing as is the rest of the world from how business is done, to priority sectors in the region to the future of work, workforce and workplace that is brought by unprecedented incidents, shifting in socio-cultural environments, digital adoption and economic transitioning that both private, public organisations and individuals are and have faced," she added.
According to Kisowile, by 2035, Africa will contribute more people to the workforce each year than the rest of the world combined. She said that the continent needs to create more than 18 million new jobs each year, Africa's readiness to convert informal markets into formality is critical for its future.
"The future of work in Africa is no longer whether it will be formal or informal, but how digital platforms and new technologies might make this type of work more productive and of a better quality for workers themselves," she said.
On business capitalisation, in the midst of a massive sociopolitical, environmental, and cultural shift, Africa has experienced a great tech-shift of all time.
Although a lot of SMEs were already using tech platforms to advertise and sell, and a lot of big companies were transitioning into tech adoption, even further the Covid-19 crisis has forced the majority of this community to rely on tech platforms for operations, sustainability and relevance.
Is this trend to become the future of African businesses or is it just a survival mode to absorb shock? According to Sahara Ventures, technology has played a crucial role in facilitating growing globalisation and digitalisation which has impacted hugely social-economic development of African communities.
Technology can bring efficiency, address pressing business concerns, and convenience to human society. But emerging technologies have encouraged information overload, data ownership and concerns on privacy issues and what is critical is to ensure that technology adoption is inclusive, systematically supportive and has positive impact.
Perhaps one of the most important areas that need to be addressed about the future of Africa beyond the challenges posed in 2020 is the need for Africans to realise the importance of the need to invest in Africa. Even though the amount of capital flow to African Tech Entrepreneurs has increased exponentially in the past few years still in comparison less capital and transactions are happening in the continent.
Out of US$136.5 billion that went to ventures across the US alone, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor, only US$2.02 billion raised in equity funding came to Africa, as per 2019 Africa Tech Venture Capital Report by Partech Ventures. The continent needs to create its own capital.
The question is how can the continent nurture local and regional investor networks that encourage the flow of capital to the local startups and enterprises in the continent using local resources? MyGrowthFund Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder, Vusi Thembekwayo has opined that at this point no one has any idea what happens next, but Africa's biggest problem today is fragmentation, thus the need for Pan-African conversation.
"There are 55 different economies, 55 different markets, and 55 different legislative environments. We are trying to build these things called businesses to help these people called entrepreneurs. I have done it for over a decade and I have come to this realisation, we are not collaborating, we are not coordinated and we are not working in a single fashion to achieve a single goal," he said.
The agriculture sector was one of the most affected sectors in 2020. The agriculture value chain in Africa was massively affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Most of the African countries are agrarian economies but is it viable for the continent to continue to practice the same kind of agriculture that has been practiced in the past 50 years? What next for the sector?
What role can technology play to ensure effective resilience and recovery of the sector? These and many other questions need to be addressed and deliberated to secure a better future for the continent as both part of her recovery from the effects of the pandemic and a strategy to march towards economic salvation.
The business world is changing and there is definitely a shift going on; innovation and technology are playing a great role in changing and defining the future of business, these changes drive how businesses and the workplace operate.
The Sahara Sparks 2020 conference intends to leverage technology to convene with a development agenda alongside the single goal of shifting paradigms.
According to Kisowile, this year the firm has partnered with MyGrowthFund Venture Partners, a Pan-African Impact Investment firm based in South Africa and the US to deliver the Sahara Sparks 2020 entrepreneurship conference.
"The key issue is what next after the challenging year, 2020. Optimistically, how do we take the lessons of 2020 and move forward?" she said. Being Pan- African oriented, the event will attract speakers, investors, and startups from across Africa.
The aim of Sahara Sparks 2020 is driving the digital and platform economy such as finance (FinTech), education (EdTech), insurance (InsurTech), agriculture (AgriTech), and the services digital economy driven by the sharing economy, the gig economy, and the informal sector.
According to a Bank of Tanzania report, despite a positive outlook of the country's macroeconomic indicators, financing of economic activities in the private sector in previous fiscal year slowed as the COVID 19 affected demand for new loans.
"How is Africa strategically investing and capitalising on technology and globalisation to accelerate individual and regional socio-economic growth? The event will also explore investment opportunities and encourage transactions to happen to finance early-stage entrepreneurs," said Kisowile.
This year's event follows up on the 2019 event with the theme Africa in The Fourth Industrial Revolution and was attended by over 900 stakeholders from across the continent.