a16z Podcast: Things Come Together — Truths about Tech in Africa

We often hear stats like “more people have mobile phones than toilets” about places like Africa, but what does that actually mean for people? “It is b.s.,” (no pun intended!), argues one of the guests on this episode.

connectivityThen there are statistical predictions about mobile penetration and usage — for example, that there will be one mobile phone per African within just three years. But how do we make sense of such stats, in context? It may make more sense to measure household per device(s) not just per person … and whether women, too, truly have such access given power structures. Finally, since access is mainly about affordability, what good is a smartphone with an internet connection if data plans are prohibitively expensive? Watching just one 7-second YouTube video could cost a low-income African family an entire month of groceries. Yet mobile and wi-fi may be collapsing and renegotiating Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. Perhaps the truth is at the heart of these contradictions…

With three experts from various backgrounds and regions of Africa — Nkiru Balonwu of international music media company Spinlet; Alan Knott-Craig of free wi-fi non-profit Project Isiszwe; and Nanjira Sambuli of Kenyan startup incubator iHub — we explore the nuances of what connectivity in Africa really means. How does this change app design? What does it mean for doing business with Africa? What does it mean for businesses in Africa trying to compete with Silicon Valley (is there really local advantage)? All this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast.

photo: David Mutua