Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Why Elon Musk And Jack Dorsey Have Big Plans For Africa

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When Jack Dorsey, the founder and CEO of Twitter and Square, told people

he was moving to Africa for a few months in 2020, it raised some eyebrows

in Silicon Valley. After all, tech companies have consistently looked to

China and India when they talked about reaching vast, untapped populations

who are slowly coming online and needing smartphones, cloud computing and

mobile payment infrastructure.

But it turns out in 2020, that sounds a lot more like Africa rather than

China or India.

For years, it was known derogatively as the dark continent, while

colonialism and general ignorance about Africa's people skewed

perceptions. Even today, if you listen to American media cover Africa, you

mostly hear about famine, Ebola and violence from militant groups.

And while countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have had to deal

with a recent spate of extremist violence.

Africa is a big continent and much of it is open for business.

Today, Africa has more than 600 active technology hubs, organizations with

the local address, facilities and support for tech and digital

entrepreneurs. That's up from 442 in 2018.

Big tech companies from the U.S.

have noticed and are beginning to focus more and more on Africa as the

next big market.

Africa is home to 54 countries and a population of more than 1.3

billion people. And according to the U.N.'s

world population prospects of 2019, that's expected to explode to 4.3

billion by the start of the next century.

The African population also remains young, very young.

The median age in 2020 is projected to be under 20 years old .

In 2019, s ix of the top 15 fastest growing economies in the world were

projected to be in Africa, according to Focus Economics.

The list includes Ethiopia at one, Rwanda at two, the Ivory Coast at five.

Tanzania at 10. Senegal at 12, and Ghana at 15.

African startups last year reached $2.02

billion in equity funding.

That's a new milestone, according to global investing firm Partech

Africa's 2019 report on VC funding for African startups.

Ben Lynette is a venture capitalist in San Francisco.

His company, Lynette Capital, invests in African startups.

One of Lynette's investments is in Flutterwave, which provides payment

solutions for companies like Uber.

I'm really optimistic from a general standpoint that tech enabled startups

can be the driving force that has historically been lacking at building a

lot of basic infrastructure, allowing people to get into the middle class.

Last year, the African Continental Free Trade Area was formed with the

goal of creating a single market on the continent and dealing with the

ongoing issues like infrastructure and bureaucracy.

The agreement couldn't have come at a better time since many believed the

continent is poised to take off.

According to the London based think tank Future Agenda, Africa's total GDP

could at 2.6

trillion this year and GDP growth is projected to accelerate to 4.1

percent by 2021, according to the African Development Bank.

With a growing middle class, that number could easily head higher as the

continent tackles its lack of critical infrastructure.

Only 43 percent of the population has access to electricity and internet

penetration on the African continent is only about 40 percent as compared

to the more than 60 percent of the rest of the world.

Infrastructure is one reason, but another is cost.

American tech companies know this.

But so does China. The country's Belt and Road Initiative demonstrates how

serious China is about helping African countries develop the roads and

travel infrastructure necessary to grow businesses.

In 2017, there were more than 200000 Chinese citizens working under

contract in Africa, according to the Johns Hopkins China Africa Research

Initiative. And they worked on ports, pipelines, power plants and

railways. At the same time, a number of U.S.

technology companies are working to gain a foothold in Africa, and some of

the locals are trying to make it easier.

David Osei is the CEO of Silicon Accra, a 60 acre technology park.

He's building in Accra, Ghana.

The park will include residential and retail units as well as recreational

facilities. It will also house the African Institute of Mathematical

Sciences. The park will open in 2022, but he's already talking to large

American tech companies about locating there when it's fully complete in

2023. Africans, we love Americans.

because when an American to do a partnership with you they leave knowledge

behind. They leave you with experience, they leave you with empowerment.

I'm not saying we don't get that with the Chinese necessarily.

But I'm saying that we are yet to have that model from the Chinese.

We see the Americans come in willing to participate, willing to train.

So we want Americans to come to the party or else they will come and

realize that there's a little bit too late because Africa is growing

exponentially. At the same time, companies need qualified workers to fill

positions on the continent.

But that is improving as well.

Charles Laba is the head of GMEA, a Ghana-based tech group that works with

fintech, manufacturing and oil industries.

Laba has worked with tech giants like HP and Cisco for the last 25 years.

And he says when he first went into business in 1990, finding qualified

people was difficult. That's beginning to change, though.

And so they actually quite a few other people in Ghana who have come in,

who have been educated outside and come back to Ghana.

The end result is a larger pool of qualified people and increased

dependence on technology.

The challenge about coming to Africa is really finding the right partners

who is going to collaborate with you .

You know we still have our challenges in terms of the policies and in

terms of creating actually conducive business environment, which

actually respects the rule of law. Big tech understands that, a nd it's

already begun to maneuver.

In November 2019, Twitter founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced he

would be moving to Africa.

Analysts who cover Square weighed in on the move, saying Africa was

untapped and underserved, that the region was the future of payments, and

that Dorsey's move was forward thinking.

Jack, I think, is looking at Africa as a huge growth vector for the

company. I think if you ask him, his perspective will ultimately be around

users and revenue. And then lastly, I think he's got a view that he has to

figure out some way to decrease the hiring pressure here in San Francisco.

And so by creating a more remote workforce, and he may lead by example.

In fact, mobile payments and social media are how big tech hopes to gain

traction on the continent.

Online retailer Jumia offers a cautionary tale about opening a consumer

facing business in Africa.

After much fanfare, it became the first African tech firm to list on the

New York Stock Exchange in April 2019 .

But the company has hit a rough patch and has been forced to close offices

in Cameroon and Tanzania .

After hitting a peak valuation of near $4 billion dollars, Jumia's market

cap has fallen to just over $440 million.

U.S. tech companies know the potential in Africa, and they're well aware

of the potential pitfalls.

Still, many of them are making significant investments on the continent.

Microsoft arrived in Africa in 1992, but it wasn't until 2013 that it

launched the 4Afrika Initiative, its business and marketing development

engine on the continent,

From health care to agritech to fintech.

There's really been quite a bit of investment that has been landing across

the continent, but also just innovation, local innovation that is taking

off as well in different markets and different markets are different

stages as we look at it.

But the opportunity for scalability busy of some of these solutions is

actually quite there. Microsoft is looking to promote its cloud

technology, which it says will provide a number of benefits.

Entreprenuers will be able to deliver new services to market faster.

Businesses will become smarter and make more data driven decisions.

Governments will be more transparent, efficient and accountable, which

improves local climate for business.

And every citizen will have access to key services.

But you have to have critical infrastructure, and more than one tech giant

is focused on providing it.

Facebook's biggest problem of reaching all of its users is getting them on

the internet cheaply. So what are they do?

They help enable startups that are building cheap internet.

To that end, Facebook, Airtel Uganda and BSC worked to complete a 770

kilometer network in northwest Uganda to bring mobile broadband to some 3

million people. In South Africa, the social networking company worked with

Vast to connect with the underserved communities to Wi-Fi.

And in Nigeria, it teamed up with Main One to build out 750 kilometers of

fiber. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook was in

talks to lay an underwater cable that would go around the entire continent

and drive down the cost of bandwidth.

The project is known as 'Simba' for the Lion King character.

Meanwhile, Google has its own plan, called Equiano, named after the

Nigerian-born abolitionist and writer who was a slave when he was a boy.

The plan to connect Portugal to South Africa, the first phase of the

project is slated for completion next year.

Google also has a number of initiatives across Africa, including Google

for startups, which announced last September it had started its first

Africa immersion cohort.

It was a twelve week program meant to share expertise with tech startups

from Africa. One of the companies they worked with is called Kwara, which

provides online and mobile banking services for financial institutions and

members. Amazon has been in Africa since 2004, when the company opened its

development center in Cape Town.

The center focused on networking technologies and customer support

software. In 2015, the company continued to expand with an office in

Johannesburg. Two years later.

Amazon introduced AWS Direct Connect to Africa.

Available in every country in Africa since 2016, Netflix is now

programming to its audience.

Queen Sono is a crime drama series coming in February 2020, and it's its

first African original series.

It features South African actress Pearl Thusi.

More African shows have been commissioned from South Africa, Zimbabwe and

Nigeria. In late 2018, the countries in Africa signing an agreement to

develop the African Continental Free Trade Area, an agreement the director

of the International Trade Center called a game changer.

Africa is taking off and it's a good time to be involved in the transition

of Africa. As 54 different countries to Africa, as one continent on trade.

This year we are launching the African Continental Free Trade, which is a

very big deal because all 54 African countries agreed to now have a trade.

Now, this is not just a trade deal on paper.

But it's going to be trade, That is going to transcend groups and

services, intellectual properties. In November 2019, The African Union met

in Ethiopia to discuss its goals for its member states.

The A.U. also wants to promote continuing education in Africa by creating

a virtual university that will allow students to access from anywhere in

the world. And it's also adopted cybersecurity as a flagship program to

ensure that these technologies are used for the benefit of African

individuals, institutions and nation states by ensuring data protection

and safety online.

African leaders, it seems, also know the importance of Internet

connectivity and are taking steps to improve it.

Elon Musk, who's from South Africa, isn't going to wait.

In January 2020, Musk's company, SpaceX, launched another rocket

containing 60 Starlink satellites.

Musk hopes to have 700 in orbit by mid year and to create a mega

constellation designed to provide low cost Internet to underserved regions

like rural America and Africa.

Even of the continent's demographics are changing.

Consulting firm McKinsey projects that half of the populace in Africa will

live in cities by 2030, which will help increase overall Internet access.

My experience has been very positive in terms of how big tech interacts

with these startups. And as I've said, how they rely on a lot of ways and

it will be easy to paint the picture of Colonization 2.0.

But the reality is we're still so early and we need as a continent, I

think it needs all the focus and energy and resources that can get at this

stage. And we're far away from it being a competition type environment on

the basis of there's just so much to do.

Africa is becoming seamless.

Slowly, we're not there yet.

They do have all these policies, as you said, in place , where it's going

to be open borders, open economies, open movement, and that's going to

change all the dynamic massively.

This inevitably has to happen.

And I actually think if we Africans don't step in and make the best of it,

we're not gonna get anywhere. And so I think inevitably, organically, we

have to grow.

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