10 Reasons to invest in South Africa includes a developed first world economic infrastructure and a growing emerging market. The investment potential lies in its diversity of sectors and industries. South Africa is also a major trading nation, exporting and importing billions worth of goods every year. It is a gateway into African markets.
African economies are well positioned to benefit from rapidly accelerating technological change if they can harness the current open landscape for innovation.
East Africa is already a global leader in mobile payments, while mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are on an upward charge. Apart from being able to leapfrog the limitations and costs of physical infrastructure, the continent stands to benefit from having the youngest, tech-savvy workforce in the world in the next decade.
Africa’s working age population is expected to grow by 450 million people by 2035, according to the World Bank and the continent is projected to have the largest working population of 1.1 billion by 2034, notes the World Economic Forum on Africa. Recent GSMA data shows that mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are up 18.4% between 2016-17 to 33.8m registered accounts.
However, we cannot wait 12-15 years before adequate job creating initiatives and policies are unlocked. The answer lies in harnessing the power of the digital economy today to create African solutions for African problems. An important part of this will require promoting and partnering with African innovators to unlock sustainable growth.
We are already witnessing the significant potential of digital innovation in the remittance and mobile wallet space. Penetration of smart phones is expected to hit at least the 50% mark in 2020 from only 2% in 2010, according to the World Economic Forum, offering the continent a clean canvas for tech-based innovation. It is an opportunity we must not miss. These are exciting times and are forcing us to think differently to come up with true Pan African innovation and development.
MFS Africa is a good example of how carefully harnessed and supported technological innovation can have ripple effects through the continent. It now operates the largest digital payments network in Africa and connects over 170m mobile wallets through 100+ partners, including Airtel, Ecobank, MTN, Orange and Vodafone across 55 markets. It has about 15% of the African population connected to a platform.
M-Pesa, launched in Kenya in 2007, is an often-touted example of African technology making waves even outside its own borders. After capturing the local market for cash transfers it has spread to three continents and 10 countries.
MicroEnsure, meanwhile continues on the path of developing pioneering insurance solutions for low-income people like micro-health, crop and mobile insurance. These are solutions directly aimed at emerging customers and it is little surprise the company continues new customers by cleverly partnering with telcos.
Access.mobile is another major success story, testing and growing its health innovation offerings for seven years in East Africa. The company works with health systems to hone their communications with patients in lower-income but also in growing areas and it hopped the pond in the opposite direction from most smaller startups and landed one of its first American clients. Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital, a Los Angeles facility that works largely with lower-income Hispanics, was looking for ways to use health data to achieve better outcomes within its population.
These are examples of the role models that will inspire our next generation of innovators. We need more and tech-savvy banks need to continue supporting them as they grasp future opportunities.
Just consider that Findex data shows that sub-Saharan Africa is home to all eight economies where 20 percent or more of adults use only a mobile money account: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Opportunities therefore abound to increase account ownership: up to 95 million unbanked adults in the region receive cash payments for agricultural products, and roughly 65 million save using semiformal methods.
Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent to ensure these opportunities are not lost. We are therefore innovating ourselves at a rapid pace to harness the benefits of the digital age to drive financial services inclusion. Mobile payment solutions like Snapscan is now available at over 25,000 merchants and a vast user network across South Africa. We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations.
The future will be about solving genuine customer problems rather than putting a band aid on them. One area in urgent need of change, for instance, is remittances, where Africa is still one of the costliest places in the world to remit payments – fees as high as 10% to 20% are still endured. We need to harness technology to genuinely solve this problem.
Sometimes when we talk about banking in cashless society we look too far out – but we don’t have luxury of time. Knowing your customer (KYC) is about understanding what they need today based on their culture and context and then unlocking the already available data to provide the solution.
Technology, for instance, can solve the unbanked problem on the continent. However, this does not mean you can “plug and play” by taking something that works in one country and expecting it to work in another. Success will increasingly be centered on having a Pan African view of the problem, but local implementation.
The future is certainly bright for Africa as exponential innovation continues to drive change across the continent we call home, disrupts industries and replace legacy technology. It is now time to grasp this opportunity with both hands before the innovation wave passes us by.
By Nnamdi Oranye, Fintech Author and International Remittances Lead at Standard Bank Group
Gender equality is a fundamental human right but remains a distant dream for many women worldwide. The United Nations’ HeforShe is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality. Its goal is to achieve equality by encouraging both genders to partake as agents of change and take action against negative stereotypes and behaviors, faced by people with feminine personalities/genders. Grounded in the idea that gender inequality is an issue that affects all people—socially, economically and politically—it seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement that was originally conceived as “a struggle for women by women”.
The HeForShe movement is gathering momentum globally as a cohort of select leaders from both the public and private sectors join the drive and stand out as visionaries on gender equality. On behalf of Standard Bank Group, Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala, has become one of the global “Thematic Champions” in the HeForShe movement. These leaders have committed to implement game-changing policies and concrete actions towards gender parity.
“Achieving gender equity is a moral duty, a business imperative, and just plain common sense. Women embody half the world’s talent, skill and energy – and more than half of its purchasing power. So every sensible business leader must be committed to achieving gender equity in their company and to contributing to gender equity in the societies in which we operate,” says Tshabalala.
In the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report, it is estimated that it will take more the 217 years to achieve workplace equality after gender parity took a step backwards in the past year.
Concrete commitments made by Standard Bank Group in order to bring about tangible change include reaching parity in executive positions and to improve the representation of women in executive positions from its current 32% to 40% by 2023. Another is to lift the representation of women on the Board from 22% to 33% by 2021.
Standard Bank is also committed to increasing the representation of women Chief Executives in its Africa Regions network from 10% to 20% by 2021, while Standard Bank South Africa will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021.
While progress has been made in certain countries in Africa to close gender gaps, others remain behind the curve. Namibia and South Africa both score in the Top 20 in the WEF global report on gender equality – after closing 78% to 76% of their gender gaps – but Sub-Saharan Africa still displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than practically any other region.
Launched by Emma Watson and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014, HeForShe represented the first global effort to actively include men and boys as change agents for gender equality at a time when most gender programs were only targeting women.
The Sustainable Development Goals call for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, but campaigns such as last weekend’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women highlight that there is much work to be done. The U.N. recently reported that nearly 20 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year.
Originally conceived as a one-year media campaign to raise awareness about the role of men and boys in gender equality, the HeForShe website garnered more than 100,000 male supporters in its first three days. These males affirmed their commitment to the cause by declaring themselves “HeForShe” and saying that gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Early adopters included a clutch of celebrities and politicians, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and actor Matt Damon.
Since then, 1.6 million men have signed up online, including at least one man in every country of the world, and its “Impact Champions” include the presidents of Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, and Indonesia, among several other heads of state. The issue has also been the subject of 2 billion conversations on social media.
But HeForShe is not without its critics. Many in the gender equality community say they would like to see the movement make more concrete demands of its male champions, and have called for civil society to play a greater role in developing and monitoring the movement.
“Now is a good moment for reflection and discussion about HeForShe, which has achieved high visibility, clear successes, and also drawbacks,” said Gary Barker, co-founder of Promundo, an NGO working to engage men and boys for gender equality, which has advised the HeForShe campaign since its launch three years ago.
“Having that amount of reach and star power on board means there’s huge potential, but we need to harness it before the movement loses momentum … [and] we need to push UN Women to go further and ask more of men,” he added.
In the video, South African slam poet Koleka Putuma delivers a powerful recitation of the poem she authored, entitled, “Love Letter to Africa.” Putuma uses the medium of spoken word to express her love for Africa, and to highlight the unique traditions, legacies, and culture of the African continent. Her words are carefully chosen and beautifully penned, but to see her speak the words that she has written is a spell binding experience. Every part of her body speaks to her audience, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.
Putuma earned a degree in Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town, and she has traveled the globe delivering these mesmerizing performances in places as far afield as Glasgow, Scotland, and New York, USA. She was recognized on the Forbes Africa Under 30’s list of creatives making waves for 2018.
Other works by Putuma address important social issues facing African women, including health and education.