The Digital revolution is happening in Africa on an exceptional scale affecting almost all facets of life. Innovators on the continent are using technology in a manner that is disrupting even established institutions. A case in point is the mobile money technology that provides financial services to those even without bank accounts. Despite this being a revolutionary technology, there are many that trace their “origin” to the African way of life. For this reason and in significant ways, the digital revolution is repackaging traditional African practices to make them more effective today.
What practices were there in those pre-internet days? What made African life meaningful in those days? These are some of the questions that innovators are asking in order to come up with ingenious innovations. What does this mean? This means that traditions that held together and helped communities live meaningful life are still important for innovators today. Technology is coming up with solutions that meet the needs of the older members of African society and the smartphone-generation in areas such as finance, entertainment, and communications.
Digital Revolution for Personal Finance
An example is the story of Wemimo who grew up in a financially-challenged family in Nigeria and lived through a challenging school life. His family was often unable to pay his fees. For this reason, his extended family started pooling their monies into an account with friends and making it possible for each member to draw from the pool in turns. This is how Wemimo was able to get an education in Nigeria and later pursue further studies in the US.
This problem brought about a digital revolution in the form of Esusu, a mobile app that Wemimo (and his colleague Goel) tout as a “digital platform that makes personal finance easier than ever”. The app digitally revolutionizes the traditional African practice of pooling resources together for mutual gain. It functions more or less in the same way as his parents used to do in the past. The process is simple; download the app and register, invite your friends and family to do the same, Save money as a group regularly and then allow each member to make withdrawals. For this one, you can save together for different reasons other than just paying school fees!
Digital Revolution on Stokvel and Bitcoin for Camels
Similarly, this revolution is happening to a savings model and practice called stokvel in South Africa. Stokvel has existed for many centuries in South Africa has been digitized. It appears in the form of the Stokfella app that makes collective pooling of resources possible. For this one too, you do not just pool resources, but also learn financial literacy.
From West Africa to South Africa and the digital revolution story is the same in Eastern Africa. Somalia grapples with and subdues the effects of instability and few banking institutions with digital revolution. People here are digitizing their hagbad (ayuuto) social lending and financial traditions leading to a cashless society. This social lending model allows them not only to pay schools fees and weddings but also medicine. What more? The camel commerce in Somalia has been digitized by a startup called Ari.Farm (that has been re-branded as Agrikaab). Is there anything else surprising? Yes, you can use bitcoin to buy a camel.
Do you have an African tradition that you would like to digitize? Tell us in the comments below!