Many times, we have heard and been told about how Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has the capacity to catapult us from the third world to something close to the first world in a faster way than the usual rhetoric from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) fellows.
Consequently, governments in Africa have invested in ICT infrastructure and almost no speech by an African leader will be complete without him or her hinting on the Utopia that awaits the people once ICT is fully embraced and utilised. We are often told about the beauty of teleconferencing and how children in Kigali will be able to study lessons given by a Finnish, who is located miles away in, for instance.
In the medical world, we often here of how it will be possible to carry out surgery in a local hospital with a consultant in America following the whole process and chipping in where he/she feels the need.
The financial sector seems to have lived to some of the promises we were told now that people are able to make transactions on their mobile phones. In fact, if there is a field where Africa has led in technology, then it is mobile money concept that was popularised by Kenya’s Safaricom through its Mpesa platform.
While the western world is obsessed with smart phones and the numerous things they can do, here in Africa, the mobile phone is the new bank and soon there will be more money held on phones than in our banks. I am even tempted to think that this whole mobile money revolution will in a way slow down the policy shift towards plastic money. Who needs a MasterCard when they can use their phone?
However, where we seem to be losing the game is the one of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). To break it down, this is where a company passes on a task to another instead of hiring people to do it directly. The commonest form is where a company outsources services to another to handle customer service queries.
For instance, a company in the US has people in India taking calls for its customers without them even thinking that the person attending to them is not in the US. I used the example of India because it is one of the countries that have milked this opportunity to the fullest.
On the contrary, in Rwanda and Africa in general, where thousands of youths leave universities with degrees but are never assured of jobs, we seem not so keen on milking this chance. Even after the laying of the fibre optic cables and being promised all the niceties of fast internet, we have to deal with regular fibre cuts and other excuses from service providers.
The inability to generate enough electricity also makes this dream harder to achieve. How can we expect to take on jobs from places where power cuts are totally unheard of? That said, I still think our governments can focus on this dream and still generate lots of jobs for idle youth.
The biggest challenge today in Africa is the growing number of unemployed youth and any measure to find jobs for them must be fully supported. BPOs offer our youth a chance to work for Americans and Europeans without having to risk their lives on boats.