Tony Blair to tech leaders: “This is a real moment of opportunity for Africa”

Africa is in an excellent position to take advantage of the positive role of technology in society, Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minister and Executive Chairman of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has said in a recorded conversation to the Africa Tech Summit.

This comes just after a new report was released by the Institute last week, outlining the steps that leaders need to take to grow a USD $90 billion industry by 2030.

The tech revolution continues to redefine what is possible, for individuals, states and societies, Blair told conference attendees. Africa is in an excellent position to harness the power of technology for good.

“Technology is changing the world, it’s the 20th century equivalent of the 19th century Industrial Revolution but it moves at an even faster pace,” said Blair. “This is a real moment of opportunity for Africa.”

He challenged the audience to help create an environment that fosters tech and supercharges startups across the continent.

“The cost of regulatory compliance for tech startups that want to scale is just too high,” Blair said, and investment in Africa’s tech ecosystem is still “way below what other parts of the world are getting”.

“You can have the greatest idea in the world but unless you have the access to capital, it’s very hard to make it work.”

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change works in 25 countries around the world, 16 of them in Africa, brokering strategic partnerships between governments and leading tech companies to harness the power of technology to change people’s lives.

Citing his Institute’s tech-based work in Senegal in the health sector, and in Rwanda in the agriculture sector, Blair said his teams are involved in real projects on the ground and he sees immense opportunity for growth led by African entrepreneurs, tech startups and governments.

“The challenge is both within the tech sector and from government to find ways to give this work legs, to make it move as fast as possible.

“We’ve got to understand the big gap between where we are and where we need to be in Africa.”

Blair told the audience there are three things “that are really important for Africa in order for it to supercharge its tech ecosystem:

“The first is access to funding, which needs to be a big part of the conversation we have with international financial institutions – it’s certainly a large part of the conversation we have at the Institute – as to how they help create bigger pools of venture capital and are prepared to partner with venture capital funds that are looking to come into Africa but we need much more capital and seed funding going into Africa.

“The second is the right regulatory environment in country to support the growth of technology, for things like financial services.

“The third is the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which is a big opportunity that’s going to create the largest free trading market in the world, allowing people to develop products and start exporting them across the continent.”

Home to the world’s largest free trade area, and with the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the world, African tech creators are already generating some of the most exciting innovations in the world. 

Blair told the audience he feels optimistic about the future because all over the world young people are starting their own businesses.

“The question everyone asks is ‘how do we do more’?”

Tony Blair photo licensed from Shutterstock/Ilyas Tayfun Salci


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