Digital business is growing at an unprecedented rate in West Africa. Technology law experts Amanze Izundu and Oluwaseun Samuel Awolola talked to Craig Sisterson about what hinders this growth and what drives it.
While there has been tremendous growth and “massive acceptance and deployment and application of technology” across many sectors in Africa in recent years, things are not close to where they will go in future, Amanze Izundu and Oluwaseun Samuel Awolola opine.
“In Nigeria and across Africa we have the markets, the population, and the consumers to take advantage of technological services being offered,” commented Amanze, an associate at award-winning Nigerian firm Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe (DOA).
Amanze and Oluwaseun point to various new technologies having a major impact on production and service delivery across diverse sectors, from agriculture, financial services and healthcare to education, legal practice and public administrative processes. “Of course, these are some of the sectors that contribute a lot to the GDP of different countries in Africa,” added Amanze.
“In Nigeria we’re really excited about the improvement in the technology sector – the disruption has been really positive, and COVID has played a very important role,” said Oluwaseun, an associate at DOA. “As an example, we did not deploy technology in the judicial sector before now, but now you see a situation where courts perform hearings online. We also have an online filing system amongst other developments and I think it’s a big step towards the future.”
With the global pandemic forcing businesses to quickly pivot both in how staff worked and how products and services were produced and delivered to clients and customers, rapid technological innovation has brought with it a variety of opportunities and challenges.
Amanze and Oluwaseun believe the positive influence of technological innovations is being seen in facilitating cultivation in farming, mobile payment services, aggregation of patient data to improve health services and delivery, fully remote postgraduate studies, and apps used to buy shares in public companies.
“The major challenge faced by most technology companies in Nigeria is basically tied to regulation, as we don’t have regulations covering all innovations beforehand,” Oluwaseun explained. “Our regulators are more reactionary than proactive – they tend to sit back and wait for the technology and then they start thinking of what to do about it. Businesses do not know how to go about compliance because they don’t know how regulators will react to their technology.”
Amanze says other challenges facing startups and digital businesses in Nigeria include infrastructure. “Technology relies on power, for example, to be able to function efficiently and effectively.” Capital raising and people’s fears of tech replacing human efforts are two more challenges to be overcome. “However, you'll find that it is actually human intelligence that drives the advent and advancement of technology,” he said.
These challenges are counterbalanced by the very large, young populations in Africa that were raised on the Internet, are technologically adept, and are keen to use innovative services.
Over time, DOA itself has “metamorphosed” from a specialist technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) law firm to a broader legal and strategic advisory practice addressing the wide range of issues facing digital businesses and other clients in a fast-moving marketplace.
“We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of innovation. As a firm, we do not just preach tech, we practise tech” Amanze said, highlighting DOA’s work with start-ups and tech firms to develop legal technology.
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