Pulling technology into your palm

Pulling technology into your palm

GONE are the days when your grandmother had to wait for days on end to receive a monetary token of appreciation from you, her loving grandchild. She is just a few clicks away from being a few shillings richer, compliments to digital technology. Technology has been, still is, making life easier in more than just one way.

Not only have certain chores been simplified, it has also made doting easier when we bring your grandmother into the equation. Individuals with fertile imaginations come up with brilliant innovative ideas every other sunrise which, with technical and financial support, are converted into products that redefine our way of life.

From mobile money transfers to ride-hailing services, online shopping and bills payment services all make brick and mortar businesses look archaic.

These changes, however, have not been a Road to Damascus moment, they have been happening gradually, we might be slow at embracing them, but they are as real they get. Correct me if you will, but these innovative products we are fond of today are also not homegrown, and thus do not wholly attend to some of the major league problems we face today.

So how do we nurture homegrown ideas that seek to address local problems and scale them to become fully fledged businesses? We know for a fact that talents are bountiful; wanting is technical and financial support to aid innovative startups to morph their ideas into end products that will provide much-needed services to society.

Investment in innovation and the innovation ecosystem as a whole might do the trick. This is an area that has been seriously overlooked and yet it offers untold prospects for both investors, innovators and a keyed up, unemployed youthful population.

As stated earlier, talents are in abundance. Little known tertiary education institutions such as AlMaktoum College of Engineering and Technology (AMCET) offers courses in science and technology and has been producing great students for almost a decade now.

It also operates an Innovation Hub at the college’s campus which puts effort on discovering, nurturing and mentoring students and communities with innovative technological and entrepreneurship solutions to problems facing their communities.

Through programs offered by the college, more and more youth are becoming aware of the need for innovation in bringing changes, and some have brilliant ideas but never get far due lack of interest from investors.

During a recent graduation ceremony at AMCET campus in Dar es Salaam, former Controller and Auditor General (CAG), Prof Musa Assad did not mince words when he told the fresh graduates to abandon the idea of being employed after completing their studies.

The former CAG bluntly noted that the courses offered at AMCET propel the graduates to a better position to hire themselves and become financially dependent, instead of waiting to be employed.

“Colleges and universities produce graduates every year, which means that the market is flooded with eager graduates who are tossed into the overwhelmed employment system, and eventually most of them become frustrated after looking for a job without any success so think more of becoming self-employed,” he told the graduates.

AMCET Registrar Ms Jannat Sulayman notes that more than 90 graduates who were accredited this year, apart from receiving knowledge, were also in the AMCET Hub, which focuses on discovering, nurturing and mentoring university students and communities with innovative technological and entrepreneurial solutions to problems facing their community.

She said this is important because it gives the students time to become innovative and develop programs which will benefit the communities they live in.

These facts alone are testimony to the fact there is no shortage of talents in the country, the more the reason for investors to venture in and finance innovative ideas. Another reason for investors to take interest in innovation is the numbers. In 2018, six of the fastestgrowing economies in the world were from Africa.

The continent’s GDP is expected to reach an estimated US$ 5.63 trillion by 2025, according to the AFDB’s 2018 African Economic Outlook report 2018. Africa is the region with the youngest population with a median age of 19.7 years old and a working-age population that is expected to reach 450 million by 2035.

Tanzania’s population is projected to increase from 53.9 million in 2015 to 186.9 million by 2065. Young people aged 15-34 are projected to increase from 17.8 million to 62.3 million by 2065 and her estimated annual growth by 2022 is pegged at USD 77.6 billion. Dar es Salaam is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and it is expected to attain megacity status by 2030 with 10 million denizens. Just a generation or so ago, the city had a mere 400,000 inhabitants.

Increased urbanization creates opportunities for investors and businesses looking for human capital. It also creates opportunities for the adoption of new technologies and innovations, creating further opportunities for startups with new innovative businesses to address emerging urban challenges.

The growing population creates demand for goods and services which translates into the need for increased production and service delivery.

Technologies that improve efficiency and offer convenience can thus be rapidly adopted as evinced in increased interest in Fintechs and Logistics technologies - pickup and delivery technologies startups.

Despite painting a gloomy picture of the country’s economic growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank’s 14th Tanzania Economic Update (TEU) report has a special highlight on the benefits of investing in Tanzania’s digital economy, both to support stronger policy responses to the current crisis as well as boosting the recovery in productivity and job creation.

The report observes that the country has already made good progress in the ICT sector which it can build upon, including the strong network of existing mobile accounts to streamline new cash transfer schemes and widen the coverage of existing social programs.

Tanzania also is currently connected to three international undersea cables and, working with the private sector, could harness greater internet capacity to ensure continuity of government and education.

This only goes to show that technology is a gamechanger, and the time to invest in digital innovations has never been more opportune. This article originally appeared on the October issue of The Investor magazine.

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