The Digital Economy as an Important Driver of Long-term Growth in Africa

The reality is that experiences with promoting the digital economy in sub-Saharan Africa have been mixed. Following great hopes in the promise of “digital connectivity” in the early 2000s, many scholars have observed that the ability of African businesses to turn connectivity into success in global markets has been limited.

The future of Africa’s tech scene is equally uncertain. Despite great potential, the tech startup scene is underfunded, and several tech hubs have had to shut down due to bankruptcy.

A recent study analysed the historical case of global business services in Kenya and South Africa to examine why governments and businesses make certain investment choices over time, and how they can learn to be more in tune with the context of sub-Saharan Africa.

The main finding is that global templates of success, such as meeting global standards and developing scalable business models, often stand in the way of realising the full potential of locally specific skills and business opportunities.

As I show below, this has fundamental implications for today’s digital startup scene in sub-Saharan Africa.

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