I was inspired this week to hear stories from so many of you who are using technology to connect buyers and markets, and, in the process, create income for yourselves. This kind of thinking will really set Africa alight!
One post really caught my attention: “It’s through OLX that I’m able to place food on the table for my family. What I just need is to get a wind of it that you want to sell something. I take photos using my phone and post it on OLX. Within a few days your product is gone and I pocket a few coins out of it. So my ‘little business’ is technology oriented.”
“Wow, wow, wow!!!” was my reply to Ken in Kenya.
When we later contacted him, Ken said he works as a police dog trainer (he’s a civil servant) and discovered he could use his phone to take pictures of things for sale which he posts on OLX. After posting the items (which have included even animals like goats and dogs), Ken waits for customers to call him on his phone. Like Econet’s Ownai online classifieds in Zimbabwe, OLX is a free mobile marketplace for all sorts of goods and services. You’ll find many such free platforms online.
To make extra money for his family, Ken even does commission sales for his friends, and arranges delivery. He also trains privately-owned dogs after-hours Sometimes he even sells puppies online (not police pups) thus expanding his potential client base.
I told Ken that there are people sitting at home who should be doing exactly what he’s doing… using a unique mix of skills, technology, fresh ideas and local knowledge to create their own little (or big) “technology businesses.”
In the palm of your hand today, you have at least one exceptional tool to open doors and close deals. What are you waiting for?
# Imagine what would happen if every smallholder farmer, informal and cross border trader across Africa discovered what Ken has discovered!
# Imagine what would happen if every single person who runs any kind of business in Africa set up a website (Africa has the lowest penetration of business presence on the Internet in the world)!
These are things you shall begin to see. What we need is young people to go out and show others how this can happen so easily. This is all technology — changing the lives of people.
Techno-entrepreneurs like Ken give me so much hope for the next generation on our continent. (I highlighted Ken today, but you’ll hear about others later on). With the power of technology, everyone can be a winner: What do people want and need? Maybe it’s not invented yet. Maybe it’s available somewhere, but not in your country. Maybe it’s a service in short supply and you can bridge that gap. Maybe it’s old technology but you have the imagination to do something new with it, like Ken did.
No one really knew how much they “needed” a mobile phone till very recently in historical terms. Now most people can’t imagine life without one, or more. Technology makes it possible to build new bridges of all kinds. Do you know where you want to go?
To be continued. . .
Author: Strive Masiyiwa is a London-based Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of diversified international telecommunications group Econet Wireless