Things are about to get dull and boring in the African technology space and I will tell you why. We have come a long way from the excitement of multiple cables landing at our coastlines, the release of the fully featured brand X phone running the latest Y operating system and the building of vanity applications that used any available API to showcase what we dubbed “m-vitus” following the craze of appending the prefix denoting the mobile and internet focus of the projects.
The coming to maturity of the African technology ecosystem with lessons learnt, expectations framed, capital widely available and more accessible will see more hands on deck working to grow opportunities that have survived the onslaught of the startup phase. Even those that start up going forward are cognizant of the fact that the market has grown to expect nothing but revolutionary and solid business concepts having grown numb from the celebrations of earlier years. It is going to take a lot more to push the needle and that will call for silence. Silence in the sense that teams will be hard at work, with the pressure of return on capital – for those using other people’s money, weighing heavy or the need to get beyond proof of concept and on to monetization with a limited a runway being a reality for those on the bootstrapped track.
Consumers in markets like Kenya are now tipping into the adoption phase, powered by a government focus on going digital; Huduma Centers, the eCitizen portal and various other digital channels helping convert the sceptics, the laggards and the plain clueless. A more knowledgeable consumer will only grow stricter in their demand for better quality products and user experiences and technology companies, both present and those to come will see decreased margins for error.
Think about it this way; we have dipped our feet into payments disruption, pushed the growth of m-commerce, driven acceptance of the sharing economy, seen shifts in manufacturing using 3D printing, grown into smarter agriculture and even smarter cities, up-ended education and plugged into a myriad of other opportunities. Our standards and expectations of the possibilities have indeed gone up a notch.
This dullness that I speak of, is not negative by any measure, nor does it point to a projected poor return on investment. Just like those in the manufacturing industry making soap or some other utility that we have come to assume its use in our day to day, once ingrained, the novelty wears off but the business as a profitable engine powers on, sometimes for decades delivering value to everyone in the chain, with periodic shifts that keep markets interested and consuming, which is not a bad place to mature into