“Has Africa finished rising yet?” Someone asked me at dinner a few days ago. I am in Lagos and the only friends I have in the city are either entrepreneurs, work for startups or work in tech. This makes perfect sense, my re-introduction into my home country was through a journalist’s lens. The questions I ask are socio-political, they relate to infrastructure and the conversations I have with friends follow this trend. It is a small part of Nigeria, but it the part I know well and I am intimate with.
Four years ago, you couldn’t take a breath in Africa without someone telling you its on the rise. Africa is rising, our mantra to the West. We said to them: come, our continent is ready and we want to show you what we can do. Africa is rising multinationals chanted, they invested in a foray into the continent. This was it, Africa’s time. No one ever asked, who decided this, no one ever asked about the global roster that had Africa next on its list.
While Africa was supposed to be rising for the tech ecosystem, its creative industry that had always been on par and even exceeded global standard pivoted – building on quality and creating global appeal. Everyday people began experimenting with platforms that allowed them to be creative and have fun, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook opened up the world. African fashion and culture began permeating the West. The Ankara jungle of Nigeria proved its potential as a key global player, and the Jollof wars came in vogue with heads of states and celebrities wanting a say. African cities were the subject of sultry tales about young 20-somethings, destinations for world travelers and location for famous Hollywood moments. While we waited for Africa’s infrastructure to catch up with its entrepreneurs, its music, movies and dances graced the world stage and captured the world.
African entrepreneurs have had to force the ecosystem to match where their vision is. They have had to drag governments and users with them on a journey that required stepping back a few steps before achieving the intended beginning. Africa began to rise, then investors decided they weren’t sure it should. Then Starbucks, Burger King and Krispy Kreme, lacking more places in the Western world to go, came here. Then investors too, came back and brought with them the multinational’s renewed interest.
African startups haven’t been able to compete in the same way that counterparts in more established markets have. Africa rising put a spotlight and added pressure on a young ecosystem to deliver on impossible scale. When a business that worries about basics has compete with one that only thinks about scale, there is a disconnect. Still, the successes did come.
Africa is the next frontier, I suppose we had to come before space. The next billion users will come from here and the race is on to see who wins the continent. The battle is on between Africans and the West to see who can save Africa first. Who will solve the access problem, who will bridge the skills gap and who will reform the education and healthcare systems.
“Project Africa” is fully on the way and the objectives are set, get Africans on the global stage.
Has Africa finished rising?
Did the sleeping giant awake from its slumber ready to begin the long haul reimagining of a story that has long been told by hunters?
What does a risen continent actually look like?