China has long been considered a global force and it has in the past few years shown that it is ready to take a front seat in leading global change-making. That could soon be a shift that might be a starring example for one of the world’s emerging hubs, Africa. Why the term emerging has been used for Africa is no doubt but clear in the continent’s place as one with the youngest population with a largely untapped market in many areas including tech. And that is where China comes in.
Africa with its youthful population is highly desirous to many outside the continent. The African people themselves are taking their chances and wanting to change the narrative of being a consumer continent to also a producer. And while the continent is really late in technology, the successes achieved by Flutterwave, ChipperCash, and PayStack have left valuable footprints for other African tech entrepreneurs and developers to blueprint. Others like Andela, Autocheck, and Releaf have done marvelously well and are starlights for other emerging companies.
With all those inspirations from Africa’s own, there is an external inspiration the continent could take a look at when thinking about its tech space; China. The Asian powerhouse has now outlived that tag and rightfully should be considered as the global power player, especially in technology even if it is not at par with America yet. There are still great lessons to be learned from the rise of Chinese technology.
For instance, while in 2014, Visa had 57.7% of the global general-purpose card transactions market share and UnionPay had just 10.1%, the parameters changed drastically less than a decade later. The state-owned financial technology company rose to 32.3% in 2020 while Visa fell to 40.2% and in 2022 out of the 624.86 billion worldwide card transactions, UnionPay had 40.03% and Visa fell behind with 38.7%.
While China’s place as the world’s high-tech manufacturer would take decades to break and probably half a century for Africa in its current state to break, the possibility of Africa doing it is clear. China’s advancement has been pushed by innovation but not just innovation only. China was tagged the global copycat and that tag is still evident in many places and some of the products were not of the same quality as the original they created success. Call it copycatting to success or whatever, it was an act that could be more politely termed brute-force innovation.
With a growing population heading towards a billion, China knew they needed to take matters into their own hands to get the hundreds of millions of poor people out of poverty. And what did they do? They imitated other technologies, however, imperfect, they did. They found used the booming population to provide cheap labour, cutting down costs and ensuring the final product has a cheaper price that is convenient for the low-budget buyer. That appealed to many including Africa who soon became the destination for those products as the continent sought cheaper options to satisfy its own growing population.
Africa’s tech space is clearly untapped and with a young and active population that is hungry for success, the continent could be of good by turning to the Chinese example and brute force its way to the top. There can’t be a shortage of labour as the continent’s youth are talented and hungry for success and have shown that they are capable given the examples in the earlier part of this article.
And with a large population that is clearly unsaturated in terms of digitization and technology, Africa should be ready to spark itself into action; first with the aim of producing the tech to feed itself and then secondly afterward. From automobile to computing and agriculture technology to financial technology, the continent is well placed and has the capacity to brute force its way into global technology thinking. China has done it before and Africa could learn from it as well.
If UnionPay has been able to overshadow Visa in less than a decade, it shows everything is possible in tech and Africa could lead its own technology revolution, first with the goal of serving its population and then taking over the world. Everything is under the continent’s feet and it just needs the perfect example, and China is here to show the way.
Africans on China (AoC) is a media-tech platform and consultancy on a mission to create a self-sufficient Africa that relates with the world, especially China, on mutually beneficial terms. We are led by a team of passionate African professionals who are experts in their field. Together, we bring decades of strategic and business expertise in the African and Chinese business and educational markets.