Weekly Photo Challenge: Accessible Change

Cell tower photographed in Tukuyu, Tanzania

Cell tower photographed in Tukuyu, Tanzania

Mobile phones have revolutionized communication and entrepreneurship in many African nations—Kenya and Tanzania included.

This cell tower located in the hills and valleys of Tukuyu, Tanzania, symbolizes connectivity and accessibility. It represents technology that not only affects day-to-day life, but impacts economic development.

Before the rampant use of mobile phones, and I’m talking approximately 10 years ago, communication was tough! Living in Canada and having to contact family members in remote villages in Africa was next to impossible. Today, almost everyone is just a phone call away. There is rarely a need to rely on the sole landline phone in the village.

Mobile Banking

I’ve witnessed first hand how mobile telephony has rapidly changed the lives and businesses of many Africans. In fact, the mobile revolution in Africa has surpassed that of many western nations. It is arguably more pervasive and affordable. Even our grandmothers who live in remote far away locations have cell phones, and not 1 but 2!

In emerging economies, cell phones are used for more than just talking. Mobile telephony has significantly transformed money transfer, education, banking, agriculture, and healthcare. It’s impossible to ignore the impact that M-Pesa—a mobile phone–based money transfer system—has had on its millions of users since launching in Kenya in 2007.

Using M-Pesa, folks can:

  • Pay bills
  • Deposit and withdraw money
  • Transfer money
  • Purchase airtime

… and all without a trip to the bank! To quote Melinda Gates:

More people in Kenya are moving money through the M-Pesa system than the banking sector

An ad for M-Pesa at the market in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

An ad for 3 competing mobile money solutions on the same poster at a market in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania: M-Pesa, Tigo Pesa, and Airtel Money

Power Shift

The mass adoption of mobile telephony has resulted in healthy competition that further enriches Africa’s cultural fabric. This has resulted in huge price reductions; in fact, calling the West from Africa is now 80% cheaper than the reverse! This has created a change in the power dynamic, with Africa now driving the conversation on progress.

Rampant monopolization being witnessed in the West is not allowing real change to take place in many sectors, as the pace and direction of change is under corporate control. The change conversation has to be defined by the end-users and competition is key to fostering a client-centric environment; this is something emerging economies have understood.

What does change mean to you? What kind of change are you witnessing in your society? See what others have said here: Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

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16 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Accessible Change

  1. Thank you for breaking this down in such a personal way .. SO many things we, as Americans, take for granted ! Lest we forget that even waking up this morning was a blessing.. Yet we also take even our advanced state of technology as a given .. I’m learning alot about Africa from new friends I’ve gained here from Africa and you my lovely Sista .. And I thank you

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    • Any time dear Berna. For me the interesting aspect is the changing dynamic between emerging and “developed” markets. When it comes to telecommunications, I honestly believe that African nations are driving progress, and folks out in the West have a lot to learn. These are very exciting times for Africa. So much has changed, and so fast!

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      • Yep, pretty much how the surge of technology first hit us on this end..Wasn’t a slow process at all..Though by time folks here first saw the likes of the Internet; I’d already been on it in the Military. So I’ve been on the Net so long I can keystroke in my sleep..I totally agree folks out here could learn from African Nations..Far TOO much waste here; long forgotten is waste not, want not..Which is why our environment is acting so crazy now! I could go on & on about this topic so I’ll stop right there..Again, its awesome you’re sharing so much with us. I’m loving learning about Africa..which by the way is on my list-of-places-to-visit-SOON..My eldest son has already been there to do research for his Doctorate; and he shared so much with me. I love it

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      • Oh, you were in the Military. That must have been a whole other worldview!

        As for our wasteful nature, I agree. There is far far too much waste in this world. Where in Africa would you like to visit?

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  2. This post was fantastic. I’ve had several conversations with friends and family lately about how technology has changed our lives in recent years. I’m glad to see that you feel, on the whole, it’s impacted Africa for good. It certainly *has* made keeping in touch with people around the globe much easier, as well as paying our bills and many of the other things you mentioned. Sometimes I wish for simpler times—times when you had to look at a map rather than pulling up your GPS on your smartphone, or when you couldn’t be reached when you were driving, and that was okay—but, on the whole, I think technology has done us a lot of good.

    Great pictures and post!

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    • Thanks for reading Jessica!

      I know, in many aspects of life it seems like things are either all the way on or all the way off. Seems like it’s hard to find a balanced happy medium. Simple is great. I always joke that I don’t mind having “boring” quiet weekends once in a while because too much “noise” and stimulation can get overwhelming. When I was back home in TZ, I was reminded how much I do enjoy simplicity and that we can honestly thrive without all this “stuff.” But with regards to technology, I think the greater message in many African nations is that people now have greater opportunities and more tools to grow their businesses and become self-sufficient. Technology is paving the way for jobs, which are sorely needed in emerging economies (obviously here as well).

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