Investing in Africa

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Africa to build schoolhouses. The experience was one I will never forget. We were not able to complete the school house in such a short amount of time, but were promised that the nonprofit group would go back with other volunteers and complete the school. After meeting the people of the township, I grew to love them, and loved my experience. I was proud to be a part of a nonprofit that had such an incredible cause.

You can imagine my consternation when the nonprofit group terminated the volunteer program specific to the little town of Bumburi in Kenya. After venting about it, a friend shared with me that he rarely contributed to nonprofit organizations unless there was more proof regarding expenditures. He said that like the nonprofit I joined for me short stint in Kenya, some organizations carry a lot of overhead costs and give very limited means to the communities they support. Since my journey, I have been reluctant to join efforts with other nonprofits until I see follow through of promises.

On another note, I have been part of the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee for my place of business. This is a strictly volunteer role that I am very excited about. Our company has already done so much when it comes to philanthropy, and I am excited about what is to come. That being said, I saw this fantastic article that reminded me again how much influence companies can have in a local, regional, and even global economy. Given the right messages, investing in Africa can be a great opportunity, and not just for nonprofits. Apparently, investing in Africa and Africans, particularly in the technology scene is ‘hot’ right now.

In the BBC article, Why the World’s Technology Giants are Investing in Africa, the reporter spoke with three executives from Microsoft, IBM, and Salesforce.com about their recent surge in providing technological advances and opportunities for children in Africa to increase the tech footprint. The reporter poses the following questions, “So it’s no surprise that the big technology companies are investing in Africa. But is this the whole story? Is it driven by philanthropy or a desire to get in on the ground before their competitors? Or does Africa offer other opportunities?”

The executive from Microsoft talks about the motivation for driving technology for Africa, saying, “We said we want on focus on young people. We want to focus on skills, we want to focus on small and medium enterprises. We want to focus on access to technology.

There is a corporate social investment part of Microsoft which has nothing to do with Microsoft 4Afrika. And I think that that is a well-established process, we do a lot of donations in that space.

This is about being on the ground and creating huge consumers. There’s no debate about the fact that our objective is enabling economic development.

In proving the value of technology as the enabler for that development, it’s not just creating consumption of technology, but it’s actually more importantly creating the ability for knowledge to be developed, for technology to actually be built in Africa.

Because that actually drives the IT ecosystem, that drives the IT industry, that makes technology relevant.”

Other articles that talk about how investing in Africa and Africans, as well as country-wide potential technological aptitude include:

Investing in Africa’s Energy:, Bloomberg TV

Sweden invited to invest in Africa, AllAfrica.com: “It’s really Africa’s time to focus on development, investing in our people, and growing the economy. We feel that now is the time for our friends who have supported us all along to remain part of this growth. You can invest and get some benefits, while we develop. Investment, not grants. Investing in Africa is probably better than most places.”

Technology could empower Africans to hold their government to account, The Guardian: Technology – could it help Africans participate in democracy?

Opportunities Abound for Technology in Africa, Business Day Live

Seeing the philanthropic nature of these corporations and seeing the good that other nonprofits can bring enhances my faith that there is a way all of us can connect to this human experience – that when we share our prosperity with others, it helps everyone become more prosperous.