Why innovation is better in Africa

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Christina Scott Memorial Lecture

Toby Shapshak
Maven Media
Why Innovation is Better in Africa

unique problems have resulted in a singular brand of innovation, out of necessity, often using mobile technology. Africa’s innovative spirit has produced mobile payment systems like M-Pesa (through which $148m a day or 40% of Kenya’s GDP is transacted); mobile money (Africa has half of the world’s such services); solar power like M-Kopa; Zipline drones delivering blood in Rwanda; and other ground-breaking inventions. Many of these great success stories have emerged because of the rapid uptake and innovative use of mobile. While the rest of the world is still grappling with how to transition to mobile payments and drone deliveries, Africa is already doing it. Africa is not just mobile-first, it is a mobile-only continent.


In this presentation, Toby Shapshak writes and speaks about how innovation is better in Africa. His TED talk on how Africa is solving real problems has had over 1,4-million views; and he has been featured in the New York Times. Toby is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine, a contributor to Forbes, and writes a weekly column for the Financial Mail. He has written on Africa as a mobile-driven continent for CNN, The Guardian in London, and Forbes.


Toby has spoken four times at the South by South West (SxSW) conference in Austin, Texas; and has given presentations at The Guardian’s Activate: Johannesburg, Intel’s IDF conference in San Francisco, Germany’s Zukunftskongress (Future Congress), Sweden’s The Conference, AfricaCom in Cape Town, TEDxGateway in Mumbai, Pivot East in Nairobi, and Tech4Africa in Joburg.


As a news and political journalist, he ran the Mail & Guardian newspaper’s website when it was the first news site in Africa, shadowed Nelson Mandela when he was president, and covered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Amongst many other distinctions, he won the ICT Journalist of the Year award in 2002. He has interviewed a range of tech industry luminaries, including Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.


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