Nigeria's vice-president told a high powered audience in London yesterday that the best business bet in Africa at the moment would be on those businesses that embrace technology.
Yemi Osinbajo shared this view in a keynote address he delivered during the Financial Times Africa Summit 2017 where he spoke alongside African billionaires Isabel dos Santos from Angola and Nigeria's Aliko Dangote.
"If I were a betting man I would surely put my money on African businesses that demonstrate an awareness of how technology will be an exponential catalyst for business. All over Africa telephony and technology are unearthing riches hitherto unknown. Kenya's M-Pesa has become the largest mobile telephony payment solution in the world. The story of how MTN in Nigeria became the largest mobile network in Africa in less than a decade is still the stuff of legendary investment stories. But the point to note is that those who missed that pioneer telecoms opportunity typically assumed that the Nigerian market was large but not rich enough to translate the numbers to cash. How wrong they were," advised Osinbajo.
The vice president also had high praise for technology success stories such as Nigerian payment solutions company Flutterwave, software development engineering company Andela, online human resource Jobberman and Lagos headquartered online mall Konga - which he said are poignant examples of how young African entrepreneurs are using technology disruptively to create profit in various business lines.
"And evidently, smart money all over the world is paying attention. For example, Flutterwave, saw an investment of 10 million USD, and Konga an impressive 25 million USD, the second biggest amount raised by an African start-up business on the continent. And Andela attracted equity investment from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg."
Osinbajo also lauded what he says is a rise in confidence of local African investors in the opportunities available on the continent. This boldness, he added, is exemplified by among others Nigerian born broadband entrepreneur Funke Opeke's Main One company which launched West Africa's first privately owned submarine cable.
Solar power projects from across Africa, like Azuri technology's PayGo solar systems and the Nigerian Fast Power Program, also made it into Osinbajo's recount of what is working in Africa.
"New jobs have been created, solar installers, maintenance, payment systems. One guy has lost his business in Wuna The phone charger. Every household can now charge their phones. There are millions of homes waiting for solar power. There are opportunities for 'many Azuris'."
Osinbajo also told his audience about recent reforms to make Nigeria more investor-friendly. He also indicated that the government plans to increase its investment in infrastructure next year to more than N1.3tn.
"Practical examples of success include leveraging the use of technology to fast track business registration and payment of taxes, a functioning, tried and tested 48-hour electronic visa procedure, and an Executive Order mandating greater transparency and efficiency across all government agencies. These reforms have led to reduction in cost and time, as well as greater transparency for small and medium-sized enterprises in particular."