Home Grown Innovation
A large source of growth in the Ghanaian job market has been in jobs related to technology due to the Accra’s flourishing technology sector. This growth is in accordance with the extreme rise of STEM based jobs globally. The USA alone had 3 million more STEM jobs than it skilled workers to fill them and by 2020 will have another million unfilled STEM jobs.
An estimate by the African Development Bank states that 55% of sub-Saharan African economic activity is informal, which means there is a large space for commercial growth and a need for scalable applications, which can better serve this growing market. The companies currently coming out of iSpace are mainly involved in the finance industry and the service industry. This is a trend throughout the startups that are being develop across Ghana and Africa.
African countries have some of the strongest entrepreneurial cultures in the world; however, these same countries lack key resources needed to taken advantage of this extraordinary opportunity. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in its 2016 report identified the top countries with the highest percent of adults starting a business or having run a business for less than 3.5 years. West and Sub-Saharan African countries made up 7 out of the 10 spots of the list. With a strong innovation and a maker culture as well as an appetite for technology-based consumer products, there exists incredible opportunities for entrepreneurship and an abundance of hardworking and innovative people to fill these gaps.
Walking through the streets of Accra, one sees salesmen trying to peddle their latest creation and young women starting their own market shops. Though as the report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor later points out, a high rate of entrepreneurship does not necessary lead to the creation of jobs with many of those same African countries having extremely high rates of business discontinuation. Many of these entrepreneurs are forced into a life of poverty.
In such a time of massive change, Africa does not need to rely on foreign companies, but instead on “home-grown innovation”. Technology is a global force and cannot be controlled simply by a government or private entity.
With a minimal amount of resources, one can disrupt an entire market sector. Companies such as AppZone, VConnect, Sliide Airtime, and Flutterwave are all African technology companies breaking into diverse industries such as financial services, job hiring, advertising, and online payment. While companies who provide similar services currently are developed by companies in other nation, these companies are built by the people of Africa for the people of Africa.
As the CEO of iSpace, Josiah Kwesi Eyison shares results in a lack of developers meaning “ideas just stay ideas”. If one is able to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), it is exceedingly difficult to find trained technical people who can help scale the idea beyond just a small application.
When someone is able to develop a technical application, they can turn that app into a business, hire more people to work on their business, and spread their business throughout new untouched markets across Africa.