The #Internet is the best thing for Africa since breadTHE idea for this post was conceived in September 2011, the first time Bra Willy visited Kenya and fell hopelessly in love with it because of the can-do spirit of its citizens, as exemplified by strides made in the digital technology sphere. As many of us who work in the digital space now know, there have been great stories written by and about Kenyans in key areas such as crowdsourcing apps (Ushahidi) and mobile money (M-Pesa). In his visit to Nigeria early last year Bra Willy learnt about iROKOtv – the Nigerian answer to Youtube, also dubbed Africa’s “Netflix”, and the world’s largest legal online distributor of African movies. Given how big Nigeria’s movie industry – the Nollywood – is in Africa, it is not a surprise that iROKOtv comes from the continent’s nation of 169 million people. iROKO has since included music downloads to its suite of apps, called iROKING. Timing could not be more apt to finally publish this post.
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Here goesIN this week when a concept document for www – alternatively called the web – was presented for the first time by its author Tim Berners-Lee to The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva 25 years ago, we would like to reflect on how this life-changing invention (no pun intended) has been one of the greatest things to happen to Africa.
Let’s make our point. Africa has been seen as a dark continent for a long time. It has been our observation though that a fair amount of negative stories (see images above and immediately below left) about this “dark continent” were not written by its own inhabitants. In the interest of keeping the focus, we will not explore reasons behind the drive to besmirch Africa. But in our own view, this has primarily been because ordinary Africans who have great stories to tell generally lacked resources to get the word out to the farthest point of the world, thereby achieve some level of balance in the types of news about the continent.
Thanks to Tim’s invention, the Internet – and especially Web 2.0 (2003), has played a significant role in Africa’s changing image (see images above and immediately below right). Despite the continent’s Internet penetration of less than 20%, currently the lowest in the world (global average is 34%), the 167 million Africans with Internet access have increasingly been sharing their own positive experiences with more than 2 billion other non-African netizens, and this is contributing to the change in perception about Arica – from a continent of need looking for hand-outs to a continent of opportunities ripe for investment.
Increasingly, citizens of the world know that Africa has more than just the wild animals – we have thriving democracies, rich natural resources, working legal systems (checked out #OscarTrial lately?), robust financial institutions, effective stock markets, a growing number of African companies that are conquering the world, vibrant consumer markets with increasing spending power, sustainable economic growth rates that have been the highest in the world, and we are at different stages of developing infrastructure in all key markets to enable movement of goods.
The shared opportunity-related stories are echoed by the existence of KFC, McDonalds and Coca-Cola in various parts of the continent. Burger King has followed suit and recently set up shop in South Africa, and many more global companies are on their way if the current trend is anything to go by. It is worth stating the obvious, this would not happen if Africa is all but a basket case.
has its own challenges and this cannot be denied. But so does the rest of the world. All this notwithstanding, there is a clear indication that the cradle of humankind is on its way up, and note is being taken by the rest of the world. Without any doubt, growing access to the Internet, assisted by falling data costs, has been playing its part.
Now, your turn to play a part
Ready to contribute your African story in celebration of 25 years since invention of the Internet? It’s easy. Just click here and get going