LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA: Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet (pictured, right), talked up the potential for innovation in Africa, stating “the most exciting thing is that the conversation among young people is about entrepreneurship”.

“There will be African Alibabas. There will be African Tencents and Facebooks. Some of them will be in partnership with others from outside, we should not be afraid of that, and others will be home-grown,” he said.

Citing his own experience in the competitive telecoms space, the executive said: “We faced foreign competitors like the Vodafones and the Bhartis of this world. And African players came out of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt and other places to face them.”

Masiyiwa was the latest executive here in Tanzania to highlight the strength of mobile money, stating that from existing innovation, “one of the greatest outcomes from Africa was financial inclusion”.

“This is an area we have led, perhaps because of our greater need, but virtually every operator in Africa today has a mobile money platform. And those mobile money platforms are opening gates to other things,” he said.

Young enterprise
The needs of the African continent, the executive noted, was something which is driving young people into going it alone.

“The greatest challenge that this continent faces is the creation of jobs. We have to create jobs. 500 people, mostly from this continent, drowned last week trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. It’s happening every week. Looking for a job. It is an indictment against us,” he said.

“We have to create jobs, it’s the number one priority for this continent, and the only people who can lead are entrepreneurs,” Masiyiwa continued.

When asked if Africa could be a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution he took a pragmatic line: “I’m not a politician. We’re not going to lead it. What we should be focused on right now is being part of it. There are extraordinary things happening, things like artificial intelligence, things like drones, driverless cars, all of these technologies that are developing. It’s fundamental that we are a part of that, which means we have to get our policy framework right.”

“Our problem is that when something begins to work, we over-regulate it. If it starts to move, we tax it and it falls over. We can’t do that. We have to create space, and room.”