Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aaargh! Sometimes things are just so frustrating

I read today about a $1.5 million "investment" from AECF to Monitise to "develop m-banking services" in africa. AECF which is backed by the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations is supposedly to be helping africa to develop, which it obviously desperately needs, but I fail to see how this kind of "investment" really helps africa.

If this investment was really to help africa it should be "invested" in african companies that will develop real skills and IP that would stay in africa and be of long term benefit to africa. If it is not going to do this it just ends up being the first world gaining an aura of respectability by appearing to "invest in the development of africa". I can just hear the nay-sayers saying that an "african" company couldn't possibly develop this kind of product to which I say bullshit; there are probably at least 5 small companies in south africa alone which can and have developed mobile banking platforms and this is without even looking at zimbabwean and kenyan companies which could do just as good a job.

If you don't believe me, just ask yourself what IP this investment develops that will remain in africa? What are the software development skills that are developed that remain in africa and loading an OS and installing an application doesn't count as real skills development. My prediction is that on both counts the answer will be NONE and if this was really about the development of africa the answers should not be NONE.

Even worse, this not only takes an opportunity away from an african company but actively keeps african companies from developing by removing potential customers from what is already a small market place. The "investment" effectively subsidises first world software development and helps to ensure that third world software development can't and won't compete.

Now that the rant is over, I have to say that I really hope that AECF is doing this unwittingly and that their intentions really are what they consider "best" for africa but what they consider "best" doesn't make much sense to me.