13 December 2018
I spent the majority of my time in 2018 in sub-Saharan Africa. I got the chance to see firsthand how new digital initiatives are changing emerging consumer markets. Instead of sitting behind my desk in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, I found myself on a weekly base in a huge suburb of an African city. We were testing an innovative digital platform with local shop owners who never used a smartphone before. It allowed me and our client to develop a digital concept overnight and test it the day after. Rapid prototyping in practice! Also, we ran into a major problem: how do you localize a place without an address accurately? Instead of using error sensitive coordinates, we decided to use What3Words, an app that captures every parcel of 3×3 meters in three unique words (find the SO office: dent.chins.soothing).
Our project took off at the right time for Sub-Saharan Africa: infrastructure is improving (3G/4G covering majority of population), smartphone penetration is increasing (33% in 2018 vs 15% in 2014) and digitization of payments is growing (e.g., in Kenya more than half of GDP is expected to flow through mobile payment system M-Pesa). Together with a growing population there will be plenty of business opportunities in this area. I am very curious to see how digital can further enhance the lives of many people and I am excited to be a part of that move!