Innovative and open Africa

Team Finland Future Watch, Tekes' BEAM programme, Finpro and Aalto University organised a Doing Digital Business in Africa event on 12 November during Slush. The topical issue drew a full room of listeners.

Africa comprises 54 countries, with more than 2,000 languages spoken, and has four out of the world's ten fastest growing economies. When planning to do business in Africa, you have to take into account the huge cultural mosaic.

Those invited to the Doing Digital Business in Africa panel were Vice President Risto Ojanperä from Elisa Corporation; Managing Director Pertti Lounamaa of Pajat Solutions Ltd that creates data collection systems; Faraja Nyalandu, Executive Director of Shule Direct who has created a Tanzanian educational portal; and Kolapo Ogumgbile, founder and Managing Director of TalkingBookz!, a Nigerian company that makes audio books. They discussed the level of digitalisation in Africa now and in the future, and how Finnish businesses could access the African market.

Mr Risto Ojanperä, Mr Kolapo Ogumgbile, Ms Faraja Nyalandu and Mr Pertti Lounamaa.

Risto Ojanperä told that Elisa has chosen a strategy of internationalisation, with a focus on the developing countries. The company has already launched a large digitalisation project in Zambia. He described African entrepreneurs as open and innovative. Of course there are many cultural differences, but they are encountered at a very personal level.

Kolapo Ogumgbile described Nigerians as enthusiastic to learn and to experiment and try out new things. In order for Finnish companies to make it to the African market, it is crucial to find a local partner.

Faraja Nyalandu stressed consumer behaviour and needs. You have to adjust your product to suit the customer. Many Africans may have a mobile phone, but not necessarily a smart phone. Therefore the services have to be simple enough – the services provided by Nyalandu's company can be accessed through text messages.

The age structure in Africa is quite different from that in Finland or elsewhere in Europe. In Ethiopia, for example, the average age of the population is 18. According to Pertti Lounamaa, we should be aware that many Africans may have a lower level of education, meaning that more time must be reserved for training.

Digitalisation will help integrate Africa into the world economy. Africans adopt new products and services easily, because they are not afraid of trying out new things without a guarantee of success. Legislation is created afterwards on the basis of user experiences.

The event was hosted by Sirje Nikulainen and Mika Jantunen, who founded Amatka Ltd. Amatka is a company founded by Finns in South Africa to create information and understanding for Finnish companies of potential in the sub-Saharan market.



Text: Sanna Nuutila
Picture and video: Susanna Lehto

Sanna Nuutila
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