Education”, “Healthcare”, “Power”... These are often the highlights of conversations on the problems facing Africa. What many lose sight of, happens to be one of the greatest problems that Africa faces: a lack of information.
In a broad sense, good quality data will help Africa solve its pressing issues, you know, the ones we always talk about. We can better plan for the future if we have accurate and concise data across multiple sectors such as; food security, education, financial inclusion, healthcare, energy and power.
So how does the data gap affect global companies looking to do business in Africa? Let’s list them shall we;
One Small Step For Business: This is probably the first thing they teach you in Business School; Understanding the market is the first step a business has to take in order to enjoy longevity. But that is nearly impossible because the data available is most times incomplete. The unavailability of data to conduct proper market research by global companies willing to enter the African market has greatly affected their business (if they decide to come through) and their decision on whether to enter the market or not.
Competitive Disadvantage: Unlike the popular saying, competition is not always a good thing, especially if you don’t have the right and adequate data. Businesses need to know what they are up against in order to thrive in a new environment (in this case Africa) and have that competitive advantage. A 2017 article by The Economist was titled “Data, the oil of the digital era” and for good reason. Data has become the ultimate tool used by businesses, politicians and the government to succeed.
Business Strategy: The data gap in Africa makes it quite difficult for global companies to create a strong and measurable business strategy that will lead to business growth. According to a survey conducted by Helical IT, there is a 79% higher chance of a business succeeding if business strategies are influenced by accurate data rather than intuition.
It is safe to say that accurate, high integrity data is an important factor for the economic growth of Africa. Investors and global companies will have more confidence making business decisions in Africa, when they are driven by credible data.
There are various reasons why these data gaps exist in Africa —one of which is the lack of proper data collection tools and techniques. Another reason can be linked to the government’s lack of transparency, which often lead to policies that may retard data collection. In other words, if proper data is collected and analysed, loopholes may be found in the government and people will hold them more accountable.
There might still be hope though; With the rise of the digital age and data giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google, it has become a lot easier to collect data. According to the Internet World Statistics, internet penetration in Africa has grown by 9,942 % since the year 2000. This means that companies willing to enter the African market can take advantage of Digital Listening. Digital listening is the act of monitoring conversations, behaviours and collecting any other relevant data on the internet. This is a very important tool that can be used to help close the data gap in Africa and also help Africa’s economy by providing relevant data (to an extent) to global companies and investors.
If you watched Black Panther, you will know that Wakanda symbolizes a prosperous and technologically advanced African nation with a robust economy; definitely the dream of global markets. But of course, just like the tooth fairy, that nation doesn’t exist. The good news is that it is possible to create an African continent, similar to Wakanda - we just need to solve the pressing issues in Africa, especially Data Gap.
P.S. There might be some evidence supporting the existence of the tooth fairy as seen in this CNN article.