Bruno Mettling details in his book “Booming Africa”, to be published early next year at Debates Publics, how African entrepreneurship, especially women, feeds on the digital transformation. Interview.
Is the African entrepreneurial dynamic boosted by new technologies?
In a decade, digital has dramatically changed the lives of tens of millions of Africans. This upheaval will enable Africa to overcome many of its handicaps. The overall development of Africa is and will be increasingly supported, supported by new technologies. They bring, on the one hand, answers to the deficit in physical infrastructures and, on the other hand, open the continent to the digital economy. Thus, e-commerce and mobile banking offer incredible opportunities for African entrepreneurs. It is a continent that has gone from a situation of massive banking exclusion to the highest rate of mobile banking users. Everything converges to make digital the triggering factor of African entrepreneurship.
Does digital support projects run by women?
New technologies are a way for African women, 49% of whom earn their living independently while retaining a central role in society, to develop their own business. For example, e-commerce allows women away from any distribution channel to market their know-how and products. Today, the proportion of women entrepreneurs is higher on the African continent: 25% of start-ups in Africa are founded or run by women, compared to 17% in the United States. In addition, a majority of African women entrepreneurs reinvest in their community the bulk of the income they derive from their activity, more than men do. As a result, women are an essential growth factor.
More than 5 million women will be able to get out of illiteracy by 2020 thanks to mobile technology.
What are the challenges of female entrepreneurship, via digital technology, in Africa?
The economic impact of including women through digital is real. According to Intel’s “Women and the Web” report, women’s access to the Internet would bring 18 billion of GDP to developing countries. For the period 2015-2020, the digital and financial inclusion of women would represent an economic growth of 170 billion dollars in emerging countries. If women’s access to information and communication technologies becomes more widespread, this would guarantee a rise in per capita incomes of 14% by 2020 and 20% by 2030 [source: GSMA *, Ed]. Finally, more than 5 million women will be able to get out of illiteracy by 2020 thanks to mobile technology. Africa must therefore structure itself and bet on the emancipation of women via digital technology.
Does the ecosystem of support for African entrepreneurs follow the movement?
This environment is in the process of being set up, but in a very uneven way depending on the country. The key is to offer support tailored to all projects, from their conception to their realization through their acceleration. It is important to support both community-based microentrepreneurship projects and more mature and broader projects. Finally, the major public and private players must promote the many initiatives from African countries. Orange supports the Linguère Digital Challenge in Senegal, which helps women launch their business, a hackathon in Tunisia open to young women, the Injaz association in Egypt, which supports entrepreneurs … It is the responsibility of economic actors to mobilize .
Is training the cornerstone of entrepreneurship via digital?
This should be the top priority for states and donors. If we do not massively train young Africans today, then there is a major risk that the pattern of previous industrial revolutions will be repeated. To train young Africans in coding is to give oneself a chance to see the applications made on the continent and not arrived at hand from Europe, Asia and America. Recently, West Africa has graduated its first class of data scientists, thanks to a partnership between Orange, the National Polytechnic Institute of Côte d’Ivoire, the X and Ensea in France. A strong signal, although we hope that future promotions will be more feminized.