How Africa can leapfrog the world

The year is 2026 and Africa leads the world with business solutions leveraging the unprecedented power of the metaverse. Europeans, Asians and Americans scramble to tap into the continent’s skills and world-leading technology stacks.

How does that read to you?

Does it sound realistic or fanciful?

If it sounds fanciful then you haven’t appreciated the latent potential and legacy advantage on these shores that will be unlocked with a healthy dose of collaboration, courage and decisiveness.

But there’s another scenario if it is a stretch too far, one where we may not leapfrog everyone, but we are competitive and have become a hub of crucial IT skills. Again, much of this reality lies in collaboration, courage and decisiveness.

In many ways, this opinion can be read as an open invitation for the industry to get together and collaborate. Besides fear and individualism, there isn’t much preventing wide-scale collaboration from happening. The technology industry is highly competitive, and this means most people have both hands firmly on the steering wheel and their eyes firmly focused on their own lane. If nothing changes, we will witness more of the same, with various competitors fighting for the podium.

The first thing holding this continent’s IT industries back is skills development. We have an abundance of potential, but this is a giant anchor holding us down. Africa is not an off-shore centre of excellence like India or Eastern Europe – sure, we have significant advantages but more focus is urgently needed on mass skills development in South Africa and the rest of the continent.

Many corporates and partners are doing good things and making strides here and there, but we are not making a dent because of individualism.

What if we don’t leapfrog the world…

Collaboration

Collaboration, especially between the OEMs, can make magic happen. If the industry aligns around very specific initiatives – such as mass skills programmes – and works closely with a receptive government, across borders, we will see an industry explosion of the good kind, seldomly seen before. This requires collaboration.

Decisiveness

It requires governments to put meaningful incentives onto the table and the funding will follow. There needs to be a clear vision. Think about it, corporates have funding available for skills development – if large, cross-organisation programmes existed, we would be pushing a skills budget into a snowball that gets bigger and bigger. It is an industry-government win-win. Sadly, one would be forgiven for thinking that there is a lack of willpower. Beyond that, the speed of policy development, adoption and implementation is lagging the industry by too big a gap. There needs to be decisiveness.

Courage

Africa is behind the curve with the adoption of some technologies. With a shift in mindset, this becomes a strategic advantage:

If we look at the metaverse, weaving different technologies and platforms into one experience and creating an opportunity to collaborate across different platforms and industries, is not here yet. Sure, there are elements that are being worked with in isolation, or in pairs, such as augmented reality and video conferencing, but the big arrival is still on the horizon.

This is Africa’s gap: unlike the rest of the world, we don’t have to overcome legacy adoptions. Precisely because we are behind the curve on adoptions, why don’t we make a concerted effort to skip a level and leapfrog into the metaverse? Why don’t we embark on a region-wide aggressive adoption, catapulting ourselves into the bleeding edge and becoming competitive on a global scale?

Return on invested capital is where courage is required. An exercise like this would necessitate a lag between investment and returns. However, because of the lack of legacy constraints, it remains plausible that the continent can leapfrog the world. It’s a big ask, and it would need buy-in, collaboration and decisiveness of the public sector, venture capitalists, banks and all industry stakeholders. Bets would need to be made and there would be spectacular failures, but the success would catapult the continent into the world’s boardroom.

What if we don’t leapfrog the world?

In the event the logistical challenge and financial risk is too much for the collective appetite, by adopting, at the very least, an industry-government mindset of collaboration, decisiveness and courage, we can change the trajectory of the continent, especially in the realm of skills development. That in itself would be a win for everyone because our biggest challenge could become our greatest asset.

The year is 2026 and Africa leads the world with business solutions leveraging the unprecedented power of the metaverse. Europeans, Asians and Americans scramble to tap into the continent’s skills and world-leading technology stacks. Realistic now?

This article was first published on IT News Africa.com

Reach out to Collin if you want to chat further around his ideas and ambitions for skills development on the continent.

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