by Colin Higgins with Nick James
In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, taxi cab drivers take payments via mobile phone. After depositing some cash at the airport a-la a Bureau de Change exchange, I was set for an incredibly smooth consumer experience. Everyone from roadside merchants to tour guides charges for their goods and services via an SMS service called M-Pesa, which drives business for 18.2 million users. Safaricom, the provider of this service, has been publicly traded since 2002.
The common perception of market opportunities in Africa is distorted, and lacking an understanding of the ubiquity of technology. In fact, the proliferation of wireless connectivity is already enabling the economies of Tanzania and Kenya to participate in tech, leapfrogging traditional barriers.
This has never been made more evident to me than on my trip to Tanzania. As a board member for Asante Africa Foundation, I flew in for a board meeting in Arusha, the fastest growing city in the country. Immediately, the entrepreneurial spirit was invigorating. I saw Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater in Tarangire National Park, and visited rural villages on the outskirts of Arusha. Never was a cell signal out of reach.
As an investor, I was filled with confidence by this experience. The potential of social media and e-commerce to build networks amongst East African business and entrepreneurs is exhilarating. I witnessed a generation of technology adopters void of prejudice. Without investment in or a bias for traditional infrastructure such as paper systems and dated logistics, there is nothing holding these people —and these economies— back.
I am also incredibly proud of Asante Africa Foundation programs, such as the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator, Integrated Teacher Training, and Technology in the Classroom that are truly empowering participants throughout East Africa to realize their potential. That potential is going to justify an incredibly prosperous future of successful investment.
From the airport to rural roadside farm stands, M-Pesa is the lifeblood of burgeoning economies, and Asante Africa Foundation is educating their next generation of producers and consumers. That’s why we are so excited to be hosting the “Intersection Thought Leadership Series,” bringing together investors, corporations, entrepreneurs, educators and NGOs for a dialogue on how to catalyze the vast potential in African economies. Join us on November 13th in Palo Alto to learn more about the future of investment in Africa.
Colin Higgins is the President and an owner of the Golub Group, a Registered Investment Advisor located in San Mateo, California that manages approximately $1 billion in assets for high net worth individuals and institutions. Colin is Vice Chair of Asante Africa Foundation’s Board of Directors.