The word “entrepreneur“ seems to carry a certain gravitas. Names like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates often come to mind when thinking about the most well known entrepreneurs. One might think of Silicon Valley as the hotbed of tech entrepreneurs, but a new wave of young, technologically inclined entrepreneurs is spreading in the developing world.
Long have been the days of governments and large non-government organizations (NGOs) dictating development in poorer countries. The age-old stereotype that the young are more technologically savvy than older ones holds true today. While better might not be the right word, younger people around the world are very connected into the technology world.
Because of this, some young entrepreneurs are combining technology and small business solutions to take the lead in changing the lives of fellow countrymen. Instead of a nation’s path being decided by outside investors, young entrepreneurs are putting their own country in the driving seat.
Many of these young entrepreneurs are tired with the status quo, and want improvements quicker than they are coming. So, instead of waiting for an NGO to fix a problem, they are taking issues by the scruff of the neck themselves. “Youth in Egypt want change and they’re not going to wait for it,” according to Waleed Abd el Rahman, a Cairo resident who runs a tech business forum there.
Rahman is working with a number of start-ups. One is developing an app that aims to help users navigate Cairo’s famously traffic-clogged streets. Another is working towards making private tutoring less expensive by providing online alternatives. Fed up with nuisances of their daily life, young Egyptians are taking charge, hoping to make a positive social impact and change the world.
Importantly, the spread of mobile phones throughout the developing world is only making tech entrepreneurs’ lives easier. More than a luxury item, the cell phone is a productive tool in Africa. Small businesses can track their finances and solve problems or inefficiencies. Africa is not the only place that tech entrepreneurs and mobile phones are making an impact. Both are blooming in India as well.
Shivani Siroya, from northern India, began a small company that developed InSight, a way for people to better keep track of their finances by staying up to date via text messages. They can keep track of their income and expenses through the service.
Even expats and foreigners are jumping on the entrepreneur train. Sean Blagsvedt, who lives in Bangalore, India, started Babajob. The platform helps informal workers look for better jobs by texting or calling from their mobile phone.
Gregory Rockson, originally from Ghana but living in San Francisco, started a tech company called mPharma when he heard that people back home were dying of treatable diseases, simply because they could not get medicine fast enough. By the time someone had found medicine for one heart disease patient, he was already dead.
To fix this, mPharma shows which pharmacies have which medicines in an online database. Pharmacies log what drugs they have so that doctors can see exactly where they can get them, cutting down precious time wasted going pharmacy to pharmacy looking for the right medicine. This is a perfect example of a young entrepreneur trying to make change in his country for the better.
– Greg Baker
Sources: Washington Post, PBS, NPR