AUSTIN, TX—Mobile phones are kicking off a revolution in Africa, with everyone from farmers to villagers relying on apps to make electronic payments, check on expiration dates for medicine, and predict future storms or the best prices for produce. In a SXSW session titled “The $100bn Mobile Bullet Train Called Africa” (which would also be a pretty good name for one of the indie films playing at this massive convention), Tech4Africa founder Gareth Knight explained the contours of this revolution.
Knight then explained how mobile devices are disrupting traditional markets, citing the case of an ex-pat from Ghana who, after raising money “from friends, family and fools,” started rice farms in his home country. “He communicates with 2,000 farmers in the West of Ghana using SMS, he sends out text messages to all his farmers,” he said. “He’s crowd-sourced rice production, and he’s selling that to the rest of the world.” That collective is now the second-biggest rice exporter in the country, largely thanks to the ability to leverage mobile technology.
The crowdsourcing/collective approach is interesting albeit probably very fragile when corporations starting to enter the markets.