Ask any millennial or gen z what comes to mind when asked about innovation and often most will associate it with garage start-ups from Silicon Valley to traditional Westernised corporates often referring to up and coming technological developments, apps, smart devices and artificial intelligence. Picture the back-yard car garage, self-help books written by electric car business men & airline moguls, a set-up of computers and nerdy adolescence in pop culture-printed t-shirts, spread out on bean bags, eating pizza and debating computer logic as they strive to replicate the successes of modernised “innovative” listed companies, Apple, Spotify, Uber – you get the point.
Here’s a question. What if we had to picture the same scenario but a bit differently? What if the next big innovative idea was the brainchild of a young African, living in a third world country, with little or no exposure to technology, sitting under a tree on a farm? What if that same young person thought of an innovative concept that had an impact on everyone in his/her small town or village and dare I say it – changed lives? Not quite the same Hollywood rags-to-riches feeling, right?
Are we as a developing country too far gone down the rabbit hole and influenced in believing that innovation or invention only happens in the West or Europe, and that’s where our investments need to be focused? And even if we are, how fit for purpose are these advancements? Are they designed for the youth of Africa and made to solve for the challenges we face as a continent day to day? We could very well be unknowingly sitting on undiscovered opportunities to innovate as a continent because our gaze is too laser-focused on everything happening outside our own land instead of looking in and changing our perspective of Innovation on the African continent and context.
What does it really mean to innovate on the “dark continent” when other continents are leaps and bounds ahead of us when it comes to technology? Is there an opportunity to catch up or to surpass them – and is that even the right way for us to view innovation? We have a chance to change the landscape of opportunity for our up and coming generations of entrepreneurs and innovators and free them from the handcuffs of limited thinking when it comes to innovation.
The African youth hold the key to the African dream coming to reality. We just don’t realize it. According to a survey conducted by the United Nation in 2017, 60% of the population on the African continent was under the age of 25.
We need to look at a side of innovation the youth of Africa completely ignores because we find it boring. When you mention innovation the first thing that comes to mind to most of us is “which app can I build that will change the world?”. Don’t get me wrong there is some technology and innovation from Africa which has improved people’s lives. The most famous one being M-Pesa which has changed how the unbanked transact and providing financial inclusion.
I want to take one step back and forget about the idea that innovation can only be achieved by technological advancements. Technology is an enabler, it helps accelerate as petrol does to a fire. But let’s not forget that invention happens when there’s an opportunity for something new. Innovation happens when there is a need to improve something that may already exist. Man invented the spear because he needed to hunt in order to live.
Africa is blessed with many problems which provide an opportunity for us to find solutions, to invent and to innovate. We have weak and, in some cases, non-existent infrastructure. The lack of regulatory requirements provides a great environment for new ideas. We also have many resources such as mineral and land which are not utilised their full potential.
At SV Capital we have chosen to focus on financial inclusion specifically directed at building investment products that are easy to understand, affordable and have a social impact. Projects that have a social impact and provide attractive returns to our investors are at the core of what we do. These investments are targeting individuals and savings/investment clubs (Stokvels/ Chama) which have always been excluded from participating in the investment industry. This is due to the complex nature of the products as well as the high investment minimum amount requirements that exist in the market.
The industry we have chosen to focus on is agriculture and livestock farming. Small-scale livestock farmers have always struggled to receive financing from conventional financial institutions and this has affected their growth potential. We have partnered with these small-scale farmers to turn their livestock into investment products, providing individuals and savings/investment clubs with the ability to invest and own livestock.
SV Capital has had this offering in the market since 1 September 2017 and has had a small but significant social impact by creating permanent jobs with our partner farm and delivering great returns to our clients. Our aim is to continue thinking of innovative ways to have an impact on the African continent through find solutions to current problems.
We have shown that innovation can be successful by identifying a real and current problem and applying basic principles to find a solution. An African solution to an African opportunity, by African people.