Private/Public synergy

In International Development, Technology on November 25, 2006 at 1:10 am

When I see a couple of articles like these, about investing in Africa – the BBC’s about a new Guinean internet cafe and the recent In-Depth Financial Times report about African Infrastructure – it makes ideas swirl around my head.

As I may have eluded in previous posts here, development is holistic and multifaceted. You can’t just build infrastructure or invest in schools alone, there has to be a point to the infrastructure or jobs for the educated, among a million other things that will equal a brighter future.

The internet cafe in Guinea is a great example of the kind of entrepreneur that is trying to make it in Africa. There are millions like this guy, just looking for a break. According to the FT article I linked, and also other research shows it, there are so many barriers to starting a business or enforcing a contract in Africa. The institutions and infrastructure are just not there yet.

The internet cafe is a great case in point – here is a small business that has great potential. The technology is capable of helping lots and lots of Guineans make connections and use information to improve their lives. You would think the government would do what it could to help them out…

This makes me think that the private sector can have a big effect. Why not enlist the Google Foundation to help finance internet cafes or broadband infrastructure in Africa. It could work along the same lines as their city-wide WiFi in San Francisco. Imagine Cisco, Google, and perhaps some local Telecoms partnering in a concerted effort, aided by organizations like the IMF or World Bank. The IMF or WB would be there to influence hesitant governments to speed up or streamline business registrations and clear up red tape – they would be the stick, Google and Cisco the Carrot.

Just a thought…


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