It’s been over twenty years since the world first began to truly embrace technology and internet-based industry. Whilst Silicon Valley was blooming however, South Africa was hobbling out of a period of the nation’s history that had been almost completely tarnished by the racist ideologues of the National Party and its apartheid policies. Decades later, South Africa is now one of the world’s most rapidly developing nations, and the digital and technology sectors have been a notable force behind this development, propelling the country forward and bestowing it the title of Africa’s technological hub.
South Africa now has its own space agency. Launching satellites in 1999, 2009 and 2013, the country’s technological expertise, helped along by a robust approach to technological education, has made it the first space faring African country. Although setbacks have occurred, more are planned, and the space sector can be seen as a barometer of the country’s development.
Online companies in the country are experiencing a period of enormous prosperity. Online shopping is growing, worth R4.2 billion in 2013, as 51% of South African internet users state they regularly buy things online, often inexpensive, small items that match the levels of wealth in the country. Online gaming is also a ballooning industry; sites such as BlackDiamondCasino are offering online games to the increasingly large community of smartphone and laptop-owning citizens, and are attracting international customers too, taking advantage of the global rise in online gaming that is occurring across the globe.
The IT sector in South Africa is booming. According to Business Monitor, computer hardware sales grew 9.6% between 2014 and 2015, software sales by 12% and IT services sales by 15.8%, driven by small companies looking to further integrate themselves within the global business community, a community where information technology is the lynchpin of growth and prosperity. International companies such as Siemens, Alcatel, Ericsson, IBM, Microsoft and Intel all operate subsidiary companies in South Africa, bringing highly skilled, well paid jobs to a country that is often incorrectly perceived as having an undeveloped, low skilled economy.
Home grown companies are also making waves though. South African companies Seemahale Telecoms and CZ Electronics are currently in the process of developing a low cost, locally manufactured smartphone that they hope will lead growth in the nascent African smartphone market. Affordable yet powerful, these devices could add another boost to the country’s economy. Soon we will probably see more and more companies from the country, emboldened by the success of these early firms, release products and services that will truly propel the continent into the twenty first century.