SA should be the tech gateway for the rest of Africa
The tech sector is heeding the call from the president to ensure job creation, economic growth and innovation
President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the Financial Times Africa Summit in London last weekend. He led Team SA to engage with investors and business leaders with the aim of attracting further investment, both in Africa and SA. The summit’s theme was “Africa in Motion” and placed a special emphasis on youth, entrepreneurs and innovation, among other key topics.
In the field of innovation, I have no doubt SA can compete at the international level. Many think the country lags behind in the tech arena. I disagree. SA has consistently produced many exceptional and well-known tech entrepreneurs, such as Mark Shuttleworth and Vinny Lingham, and the entrepreneurial spirit in SA’s tech space remains strong and vibrant.
However, as the world navigates the digital revolution, people are concerned that automation and digital solutions will lead to job losses. This comes while the key priority in the country is the exact opposite — creating sustainable job opportunities. In the current economic climate, sustainable job creation may seem like a pipe dream. However, if we position SA at the forefront of digital innovation in the region, we stand the chance to not only create more jobs, but also to upskill and re-skill our current workforce.
Both Johannesburg and Cape Town are hubs for the tech industry and there are numerous tech companies providing cutting edge products and services. Companies such as Axxess, redPanda Software, Wantitall and Parcelninja are leaders in the local tech industry.
These companies, and many others — including Osidon — are providing digital solutions to everyday problems. Contrary to popular belief, this will not lead to job losses, but will rather lead to job creation, bolstered by digital processes. The tech industry is not looking to replace human capital, but rather to empower employees using digital solutions.
In his address at the summit, Ramaphosa said Africa is a continent of entrepreneurs, a critical ingredient for growth. With the support of government in the fields of tech and innovation, we can create an enabling regulatory environment, provide incentives to tech companies and provide access to digital opportunities for all South Africans.
As I see it, the tech sector is heeding the call from the president to ensure job creation, economic growth and innovation. Ramaphosa said South Africans are not just consumers of tech, we are also inventing, adapting and customising technology for our needs. This is proof of our country’s appetite for tech solutions.
Furthermore, he reiterated that the continent is young and dynamic with vast potential and great promise. Initiatives such as the placement of students from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in internships in the economic sector, through the Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Fasset), will ensure youth in this country are able to grow the economy, attract investment and fight the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Through alternative and disruptive education pathways, on-the-job training, and skills development initiatives, we can ensure the private sector is provided with a consistent stream of both digital and non-digital skills.
As we head towards the second SA investment conference in November, one of the key ways to grow our economy, is to increase investment in the tech industry. SA is a key player in Africa’s economy and a major emerging economic power. That’s why international companies such as Sage and Xero have chosen SA as its gateway to the rest of the continent.
In addition, countries interested in outsourcing their tech services can look to SA. With our high-quality education system and affordable wages, we are the ideal country for outsourcing tech activities. We have the means to become intermediaries for major superpowers such as China, the US and Europe.
In the tech industry, SA has a great competitive advantage. We are destined to become the Silicon Valley of Africa.
• Ferreira is the co-founder and CEO of Osidon.