I was so excited to see the announcement last week that 54gene had raised $15M in additional funding for their work sequencing the genome of African folks. That type of work – building technology, research, and infrastructure is what Africa’s going to need as soon as possible. The wave of nationalism that has continued to rise in the US and Europe will only increase on the backs of anger at China and Dr. Adhanom, an African man running the World Health Organization as we emerge from this Covid-19 situation. African countries investing in building for themselves will prove key to building the resilience the continent will need moving forward.
For several years there has been this hope that African countries would build their manufacturing capacity to the point where they could compete with Asia for manufacturing contracts because the labor costs were rising in Asian markets, and the labor costs in African markets like Ethiopia would remain relatively lower. Well, that hope is probably not something African leaders should bank on coming out of this Covid-19 situation. The COVID-19 situation has exposed global supply chain issues that clearly have left the U.S. in poor shape trying to fight the virus.
More voices in the U.S. are calling for manufacturing and technology development to be reshored to the U.S. I worry the nationalist wave that has been growing in the West over the past several years will hit fever pitch as we continue through this COVID-19 situation and even further when we come out of it. I worry that this wave could leave African leaders with fewer friendly voices as they try to move African nations forward in their economic development. I think the best way forward is for African countries to really think and identify where and what they can build for themselves. We could see a world where countries don’t want to buy from Africa wherever possible and may not want to sell to them on favorable terms. I’m not here for that kind of world.
Marc Andreessen’s post “It’s Time to Build” struck a nerve for a good bit of Silicon Valley and I imagine will be the rallying cry for the U.S. supply chain to be less globally-connected. I think it’s a signal for African countries to push extra hard to figure out what they can build and do that as soon as possible.
I firmly believe that African countries have all they need to thrive even in a more balkanized global economy. I already mentioned 54gene. Cellulant is doing big things in powering payments. MainOne is providing the connectivity Nigeria needs and I’m sure there are others out there building in incognito. Let’s get behind them to help build the world Africa needs for its future.