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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Why the Poor Remain Poor in Africa

Tim Harford has an incredibly intersting article titled, Why Poor Countries are Poor. It’s very well written, somewhat depressing and definately worth reading.

The rot starts with government, but it afflicts the entire society. There’s no point investing in a business because the government will not protect you against thieves. (So you might as well become a thief yourself.) There’s no point in paying your phone bill because no court can make you pay. (So there’s no point being a phone company.) There’s no point setting up an import business because the customs officers will be the ones to benefit. (So the customs office is underfunded and looks even harder for bribes.) There’s no point getting an education because jobs are not handed out on merit. (And in any case, you can’t borrow money for school fees because the bank can’t collect on the loan.)

I think anyone who has spent an extended period of time in Africa recognizes this cycle.

Riddle me this though: why was their an upsurge in entrepreneurship, business and optimism in Kenya when mobile phones were made available for the first time in the 1990’s? My answer is that they circumvented the usual government monopoly on communications and virtually cut off a whole bribery channel. Sure, there were still costs involved, but because there was competition among non-government run competitors for the first time in the communications industry, ordinary Kenyans could finally communicate.

Sidestep the government “rot” using technology and the free market. Be relentlessly optimistic. Break the cycle.

(via African Herbsman)

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4 Comments

  1. Now there’s an idea worth pursuing. How can technology and people using it liberate the people from the government?

  2. Well, I’m not talking about it in the armed revolutionary sense necessarily. It’s more about how technology can be used to make monopolies and corruption irrelevant because they are simply bypassed.

    Disruptive technologies have a way of throwing slow moving government beauracracies behind the power curve. They cannot change fast enough, they find themselves using old technology and practices while the rest of their populace rushes by.

  3. Interesting article!

  4. so so so so true, especially the ‘why get an education’ bit. I have a friend who was tops nationwide in both primary and secondary school, got a good Uni degree, has loads of experience, but can’t get a job locally. Option to travel abroad isn’t there coz she’s married. Not sure where cleaning up the rot would start ….

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