Juliet Ehimuan

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Juliet Ehimuan: What My Decade at Google Taught Me about Africa’s Tech Future

December 15, 2022

Looking back at the last 10 years at Google, I am struck by how much has changed, and not just in the last tumultuous year. I have been in tech for all of the 25+ years of my career journey, with the last decade at Google where I now serve as director for West Africa.

I have not only been a witness, but in many ways, also an active participant in many of the things that have transformed the continent from a tech perspective. Over the last decade, ‘Silicon Savannah’ has been more firmly established. All the tech giants – Google, Facebook, Netflix, Microsoft, and Apple – have all opened offices in Africa, and it comes as no surprise that many of these conglomerates have chosen Nigeria as their base – Africa’s most populous nation, with its thriving tech hubs and young, entrepreneurial population.

The World Bank estimates that by 2100, one in three people on the planet will be living in Africa. By 2030, the International Finance Corporation estimates that there will be 230 million jobs on the continent requiring some level of digital skills.

This is the equivalent of 650 million training opportunities. In Nigeria alone, the World Economic Forum expects between 35-45% of jobs to require some form of digital skills. The growth expected, of jobs that require digital skills, has primarily been driven by strong economic growth coupled with digitisation of the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors.

One of the biggest challenges in Africa has been limited infrastructure. Historically, telecoms infrastructure was poor, but the continent was able to leapfrog the land infrastructure era to mobile telecoms. In just over two decades – from 1999 to 2020 – phone access in Nigeria grew from just 200,000 subscribers to 133 million, with 43 million of these added in just the last decade. Teledensity went from 63% to 107% in just the last decade.
This trend is replicated across the continent. Reports show nearly half a billion people now subscribe to mobile services in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 272 million Africans now connected to the internet on their phones.

The Ecosystem of Africa’s Tech Space

Thanks to this mobile connectivity, the continent has seen accelerated growth and adoption of tech-enabled mobile applications in areas such as fintech solutions, money transfers, e-commerce, agriculture, e-learning, social media, music, video and other online platform solutions. Africa now rivals any part of the world in terms of adoption, growth of enterprises, and innovations being created on mobile.

This article was originally published in The Africa Report > Click here.


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