Africa as a continent is about to explode in terms of possibility and potential, says editor and publisher of Stuff South Africa, Toby Shapshak.
Speaking at Global Marketer Week in Marrakech, Shapshak discussed how Africa is developing useful SMS-based solutions to be able to meet everyday needs.
“Six out of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa,” said Shapshak.
By 2040, one billion Africans will be of working age making it one of the largest workforces in the world – rapidly overtaking China.
“The kind of innovation we see in Africa is innovation out of necessity," said Shapshak. “Because we don’t have the things taken for granted in the more developed markets, we have to think of cleverer ways to work around it."
He cites M-Pesa, a mobile-phone based money transfer service, as an example of this kind of innovation.
“It works on the most basic and most simple of mobile handsets. The bottom line is that more people can conduct business just by using their mobile phone,” he said.
“Many people forget that pay as you go was developed in Africa about 20 years ago and now it’s a business model that is used all over the world,” he added.
Africa is a tough environment, says Shapshak, where the traditional forms of marketing are not as widespread.
“It’s a mobile-first environment. People have skipped straight past desktops and laptops and gone straight to mobile,” he said.
There are no fancy smartphones in the market. The most popular handsets are old Nokias – but Shapshak says that this is what’s driving the innovation and creativity to reach people in the market.
“What this shows you is that everything is possible. Just because you live somewhere where there are no traditional marketing methods, it doesn't mean you can’t reach people,” said Shapshak.
Laura Bracher, Marrakech