Africa’s Fibre Optic Cable Wars
Everytime I talk to a Kenyan or African about entrepreneurship, we all come to the conclusion that the fibre optic cable line (if it’s every built) will do wonders for the small African entrepreneur who is currently struggling and hustling away under the hot sun and dust in capital cities like Nairobi, Abidjan and Lagos.
But will a high speed fibre optic cable really do wonders for the small business man or woman? The South African Experience has shown that in order for such a project to succeed, governments in Africa will have to get out of the telecommunications sector and allow competition. If not, prices for broadband services will remain high and out of the reach of most Africans.
Secondly, smaller banks in Africa are going to have to start issuing credit cards so these entrepreneurs can transact businesses on-line. This has yet to take off in most African countries.
Third, these small businesses will have to find a way to get their goods into the hands of the western customers who’ll most probably be paying for them. Africans are used to exporting bulk agricultural products like coffee, tea and flowers, but how do you deliver smaller goods that are ordered in smaller quantities by individuals? Having direct flights from African capitals to places like New York would help. I think the only African airline that currently does that is South African Airways. Kenya Airways needs to get working on that.
Another solution is for aspiring entrepreneurs to partner with other Africans who are already in the diaspora (or vice versa) – Africans in the diaspora can develop a list of suppliers who’d be willing to send over goods that can be sold on the web. This is still quite difficult to do because people want to be paid in hard cold cash – IMMEDIATELY. Hopefully, as internet access expands across Africa, traders will be more willing to conduct their chores electronically – You send me the goods and I deposit the money into your account via paypal after I receive the goods.
There’s a huge opportunity there and we shall see….