(Digital) Entrepreneurs in the Developing World: E=3rd World Square

Ever wondered where the most entrepreneurs worldwide find themselves? Not in funky wallpapered-NYC lofts, it turns out. Uganda, at 28.1%, leads the worldwide trend in ‘growing your own money’. In fact, the “entrepreneurially spirited” United States hovers in the lowly 4-4.9% category. Not quite what you’d expected, is it?

A weak economy drives the pressing need for an individual to take matters into their own hands if they’re going to satisfy their family’s most basic needs, while a first-world country offers its workforce cushy jobs with medical, company picnics, and retirement funds. What sane person would want to break out into the scary world of being their own boss when you have a corner office – or a cubicle – to dust? And let’s face it – a business owned by an individual selling packets of crisps on the sidewalk could hardly be equated to garage-started giants the likes of Facebook (market capital of $231.6 billion) or Apple ($741.8 billion in market capital).

In fact, Big Business are nowadays all about technology. In a “boring” industry such as IT, arguably the most measureable tech-influenced industry of the lot, all of the Inc. 5000-listed IT companies made a combined $19.3 billion in revenue in 2014, and the industry’s three-year revenue growth rate is 122 percent. Apple, meanwhile is #12 on Forbes’ 2015 World’s Biggest Public Companies ranking, and #1 for market value. The influence of technology, and going digital, is hard to quantify, since it spans most processes in most industries across the business world, but we all know that there’s no turning back from it…ever forwards and upwards from here on out.

Enter the Great Equaliser. Developed countries, in a large sense, owe their exalted economic status to the triumph of technology on their home soil, a luxury that, historically, didn’t extend to their third-world counterparts. But while the US and Europe are walking around flashing their iDevices in between presentations to their middle-level managers, streetpreneurs are silently mobilising their own tech-enabled forces with such innovations as moWoza, a mobile app creating a supply chain between informal traders and taxi drivers in Mozambique.

Kenya, meanwhile, is on the Google Trends regional hotlist for the search term ‘internet marketing’, with India hot on Ireland’s heels for ‘digital marketing’, and South Africa tops with ’emarketing’. Kenya’s Konza Techno City, a public-private partnership that aims to be a sustainable green city enabled with smart technology, promises a middle-income status for Kenya by 2030 by generating $1.3 billion in GRP in Phase I. Morocco boasts Maroc Numeric Fund, which provides capital to internet startups, and Nigeria incubates its tech and internet startups through the Wennovation Hub, a business training and mentorship program.

According to The International Telecommunication Union (May 2014), there are nearly 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, equivalent to 95.5 percent of the world population. In developing countries, where the internet is accessed most often through handset means, mobile-cellular penetration was expected to reach 90% by the end of 2014, compared with 121% in developed countries, as per the ITU‘s 2014 facts and figures. 

The time is now for entrepreneurs across the developing world to go digital in their business approaches. After all, the journey to a successful (online) endeavour follows the same recipe for success whether you’re a (4-4.9%) UK startup or a (16.7%) Taiwanese be-your-own-boss.

Feature image by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash