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Interview: Technology is key to Africa’s economic transformation

To stay ahead of the pack, today’s entrepreneurs must adapt continuously to an evolving workplace and help shape what it looks like tomorrow.

Early start: Frans Hugo, 90, owns and edits three newspapers in South Africa's remote Karoo -- and drives 1,200 kms every week to deliver them
Early start: Frans Hugo, 90, owns and edits three newspapers in South Africa's remote Karoo -- and drives 1,200 kms every week to deliver them - Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL
Early start: Frans Hugo, 90, owns and edits three newspapers in South Africa's remote Karoo -- and drives 1,200 kms every week to deliver them - Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL

What will 2023 present in terms of the economic outlook for Africa? Zandre Campos, CEO of ABO Capital explains to Digital Journal the important of technology, renewable energy, education and the workplace.

Digital Journal: Africa is developing rapidly throughout the continent. What trends do you expect to see in 2023?

Zandre Campos: As the continent continues to develop and its population grows, the demand for technology and automated services will only rise.

In 2023, we will see an expansion of high-speed internet and mobile networks. Currently, Sub-Saharan Africa has nearly half a billion cellphone subscribers (projected to reach 615 million by 2025). Over time, a dynamic mobile app ecosystem will be advanced where developers will co-create technology that increases accessibility in sectors such as banking and education.

Furthermore, we can expect to see increased use of renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, can help improve access to energy in rural areas, often not served by traditional energy grids. Access to renewable energy sources will improve the lives of millions of people and support the development of African communities.

Lastly, we cannot forget: Africa does not exist in a silo. Our continent is part of a flourishing global community, with many developments underway worldwide. In our increasingly interconnected world, technological breakthroughs and cutting-edge initiatives in one region will undoubtedly affect others in profound ways as we continue to exchange knowledge, ideas and commerce. For example, SpaceX’s recent satellite Internet project could bring an extraordinary technological boost to African nations, including alleviating connectivity issues and delays in broadband access.

DJ: ABO Capital has a focus on education reform in Africa. How do you anticipate education infrastructure evolving in the coming years?

Campos: First and foremost, we must embrace the notion of a continuously evolving education system, rather than a fixed blueprint. Our education infrastructure cannot only teach – it must also adapt to the changing needs of our future innovators. A methodology that worked effectively decades ago does not necessarily apply today, so we cannot train our students in the same manner, simply because it’s a deep-rooted tradition or what we’ve professed in the past. We cannot teach just to teach – these teachings must be rooted in purpose and reflect today’s realities.

Secondly, we urgently need to address the issue of access. While Africa is home to some of the world’s brightest minds, quality education remains out of reach to many. Reforming the continent’s education infrastructure and expanding access to it for more of our students will be critical in supporting Africa’s next generation of brilliant minds.

In the coming years, we will see partnerships within the private sector contribute to further education development in Africa. One of the best ways for the youth to learn how to contribute to their economy is by learning from experience, especially when it comes to business and entrepreneurship. Government education ministries and schools should consider partnering with companies big and small to offer students work experience, internships and mentoring.

In addition, technological innovation will revolutionize education in Africa. For example, the Complexo Escolar Privado Internacional (CEPI) School in Angola, which ABO Capital owns and operates, started using a virtual classroom platform for 1200 students in K-12. This platform, which can also be used as a Content Management System, contains individual student logins and can be used effectively before the start, during and after the Virtual Classroom Session is completed. This increases technological literacy and access to learning resources with the touch of a finger.

DJ: Can you explain more about the CEPI School and if ABO Capital has any plans for expansion?

Campos: The Complexo Escolar Privado Internacional (CEPI) School was founded in 2009 and has been under ABO Capital’s management since 2016, as part of our efforts to expand access to education in Angola. In September, we announced our partnership with Maple Bear, a globally renowned Canadian education system that brings bilingual instruction and international academic standards to schools worldwide. Through this partnership, more than 200 students from pre-K to second grade will receive bilingual instruction and international educational standards from schools around the globe, setting students up for success in life.

We’ll expand the Maple Bear curriculum by the next academic year across the remaining primary to high school grades. Additionally, we are in the process of building another CEPI School, which is set to be completed in late 2023. With our eyes toward the future, we look forward to expanding the Maple Bear franchise to other schools that are committed to offering students more educational opportunities – in Angola and beyond.

DJ: How can investors and venture capital firms support African entrepreneurs and startups, harnessing their economic potential?

Campos: While venture capital funding has cooled worldwide, one region firmly opposes the trend: Africa, specifically Angola. Since its decades-long civil war ended in 2002, Angola’s GDP per capita has surged from $710 to $6581 (adjusted for purchasing power parity), and its economy is now Africa’s eighth largest.

Venture capital firms have the opportunity to invest in a growing economy and support Angolan entrepreneurs due to the privatization and location opportunities. Railways and coastlines offer great potential for businesses like fisheries to draw in tourism to the continent.

While currently overlooked and undervalued, Angola’s exciting growth prospects mean that venture capitalists with foresight and a long-term view will be well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

DJ: A hybrid work structure appears here to stay. How can leaders foster creativity in a hybrid environment?

Campos: To stay ahead of the pack, today’s entrepreneurs must adapt continuously to an evolving workplace and help shape what it looks like tomorrow. Forward-thinking leaders will see this moment as an opportunity to foster more creativity from their employees and attract talent on a global scale to support their business goals and initiatives further.

Leaders can support their employees in a hybrid environment by creating an intentional workplace that will establish a structure for hybrid work that includes clear boundaries, promoting a healthy work-life balance. Additionally, setting aside dedicated time for check-ins, brainstorms and opportunities will strengthen collaboration, foster team cohesion and enable a leader to set up employees for success by offering a creative outlet to celebrate results and critical initiatives.

Finally, entrepreneurs must continue to build – whether it’s ideas, connections, or bridges. At the end of the day, it is up to us to shape what our future looks like.

If globalization has taught us anything, it’s that the only constant is change. Market conditions will continue to shift, with or without us. Take the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras, for instance. Designed to withstand the most extreme weather conditions, it still ultimately failed when a hurricane altered the path of the very river underneath it. While the bridge stood in the same place after the hurricane, the river itself was no longer there. This applies to so much more than architecture. Rigid ways of thinking – and doing – are becoming increasingly obsolete in today’s dynamic, ever-changing world.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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