During the closing speech at Swift International Banking Operations Seminar (SIBOS), held in Boston, the world’s wealthiest man, Bill Gates, praised a company from a self-declared independent state in Africa, Telesom, for their innovation calling them “absolutely the furthest along” in terms of mobile money transfer (MMT).
Great innovation derives from a great need. None is a better example than the current MMT systems in Africa. A continent commonly regarded as backward and poor, is setting the trend in mobile banking. This rise of MMT in Africa, according to experts, is due to the lack of banking infrastructure (branches, cash machines etc.). Which begs the question, what is it that is actually holding Africa back?
One thing. Foreign Aid. For example, the foreign aid that is flooded into Africa in the form of cheap goods. Award-winning documentary, Poverty Inc., highlights the dangers that the reliance on foreign aid has on a country’s economy.
Africa must be given breathing room to come out of poverty naturally and not be flooded with cheap goods which in turn ruin the livelihoods of local entrepreneurs. In the case of Somalia, it is the remittance from the diaspora in the West. Remittances account for roughly 25% – 45% of Somalia’s GDP. This is not only ludicrous but unsustainable in the long-term.
In a sense Africa is a blank canvas as the only infrastructure that is deep rooted is corruption. And that will erode with the foundation of a common goal. There is a great opportunity to create infrastructure based on modern technology and renewable energy. We have a great opportunity to create a continent that is self-sustainable.
We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and need to climb out of poverty through innovation and determination, not through remittance and bi-yearly foreign aid packages. Because no country is built on begging.
Kirjoittaja osallistui Suomen Somalia -verkoston järjestämälle viestintäkurssille.