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  • Let me start by asking you a question, just with a show of hands:

  • Who has an iPhone?

  • Who has an Android phone?

  • Who has a Blackberry?

  • Who will admit in public to having a Blackberry?

  • (Laughter)

  • And let me guess, how many of you,

  • when you arrived here, like me, went and bought

  • a pay-as-you-go SIM card? Yeah?

  • I'll bet you didn't even know

  • you're using African technology.

  • Pay-as-you-go was a technology, or an idea,

  • pioneered in Africa by a company called Vodacom

  • a good 15 years ago,

  • and now, like franchising,

  • pay-as-you-go is one of the most dominant forces

  • of economic activity in the world.

  • So I'm going to talk about innovation in Africa,

  • which I think is the purest form,

  • innovation out of necessity.

  • But first, I'm going to ask you some other questions.

  • You don't have to put your hands up.

  • These are rhetorical.

  • Why did Nikola Tesla have to invent

  • the alternating current that powers the lights

  • in this building or the city that we're in?

  • Why did Henry Ford have to invent the production line

  • to produce these Fords that came in anything

  • as long as they were black?

  • And why did Eric Merrifield have to invent the dolos?

  • Blank stares. That is what a dolos looks like,

  • and in the background, you can see Robben Island.

  • This is a small dolos, and Eric Merrifield

  • is the most famous inventor you've never heard of.

  • In 1963, a storm ripped up the harbor

  • in a small South African town called East London,

  • and while he was watching his kids playing

  • with toys made from oxen bones called dolosse,

  • he had the idea for this.

  • It's a bit like a huge jumping jack,

  • and they have used this in every harbor in the world

  • as a breakwater.

  • The global shipping economy would not be possible

  • without African technology like this.

  • So whenever you talk about Africa,

  • you have to put up this picture of the world from space,

  • and people go, "Look, it's the Dark Continent."

  • Actually, it isn't.

  • What it is is a map of innovation.

  • And it's really easy to see where innovation's going on.

  • All the places with lots of electricity, it isn't.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • And the reason it isn't is because everybody's

  • watching television or playing Angry Birds.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • So where it's happening is in Africa.

  • Now, this is real innovation,

  • not the way people have expropriated the word

  • to talk about launching new products.

  • This is real innovation, and I define it as problem-solving.

  • People are solving real problems in Africa.

  • Why? Because we have to.

  • Because we have real problems.

  • And when we solve real problems for people,

  • we solve them for the rest of the world

  • at the same time.

  • So in California, everybody's really excited

  • about a little square of plastic that you plug into a phone

  • and you can swipe your credit card,

  • and people say, "We've liberated the credit card

  • from the point of sale terminal."

  • Fantastic. Why do you even need a credit card?

  • In Africa, we've been doing that for years,

  • and we've been doing it on phones like this.

  • This is a picture I took at a place called Kitengela,

  • about an hour south of Nairobi,

  • and the thing that's so remarkable about the payment system

  • that's been pioneered in Africa called M-Pesa

  • is that it works on phones like this.

  • It works on every single phone possible,

  • because it uses SMS.

  • You can pay bills with it, you can buy your groceries,

  • you can pay your kids' school fees,

  • and I'm told you can even bribe customs officials.

  • (Laughter)

  • Something like 25 million dollars a day

  • is transacted through M-Pesa.

  • Forty percent of Kenya's GDP

  • moves through M-Pesa using phones like this.

  • And you think this is just a feature phone.

  • Actually it's the smartphone of Africa.

  • It's also a radio, and it's also a torch,

  • and more than anything else,

  • it has really superb battery life.

  • Why? Because that's what we need.

  • We have really severe energy problems in Africa.

  • By the way, you can update Facebook

  • and send Gmail from a phone like this.

  • So we have found a way to use

  • the available technology to send money via M-Pesa,

  • which is a bit like a check system

  • for the mobile age.

  • I come from Johannesburg, which is a mining town.

  • It's built on gold.

  • This is a picture I Instagrammed earlier.

  • And the difference today is that the gold of today is mobile.

  • If you think about the railroad system in North America and how that worked,

  • first came the infrastructure,

  • then came the industry around it, the brothels --

  • it's a bit like the Internet today, right? —

  • and everything else that worked with it:

  • bars, saloons, etc.

  • The gold of today is mobile,

  • and mobile is the enabler that makes all of this possible.

  • So what are some of the things that you can do with it?

  • Well, this is by a guy called Bright Simons from Ghana,

  • and what you do is you take medication,

  • something that some people might spend their entire month's salary on,

  • and you scratch off the code,

  • and you send that to an SMS number,

  • and it tells you if that is legitimate

  • or if it's expired.

  • Really simple, really effective, really life-saving.

  • In Kenya, there's a service called iCow,

  • which just sends you really important information

  • about how to look after your dairy.

  • The dairy business in Kenya

  • is a $463 million business,

  • and the difference between a subsistence farmer

  • and an abundance farmer

  • is only a couple of liters of milk a day.

  • And if you can do that, you can rise out of poverty.

  • Really simple, using a basic phone.

  • If you don't have electricity, no problem!

  • We'll just make it out of old bicycle parts

  • using a windmill, as William Kamkwamba did.

  • There's another great African that you've heard

  • that's busy disrupting the automobile industry in the world.

  • He's also finding a way to reinvent solar power

  • and the electricity industry in North America,

  • and if he's lucky, he'll get us to Mars,

  • hopefully in my lifetime.

  • He comes from Pretoria, the capital of [South Africa],

  • about 50 kilometers from where I live.

  • So back to Joburg, which is sometimes called Egoli,

  • which means City of Gold.

  • And not only is mobile the gold of today,

  • I don't believe that the gold is under the ground.

  • I believe we are the gold.

  • Like you've heard the other economists say,

  • we are at the point where China was

  • when its boom years began,

  • and that's where we're going.

  • So, you hear the West talk about innovation at the edge.

  • Well, of course it's happening at the edge,

  • because in the middle, everybody's updating Facebook,

  • or worse still, they're trying to understand

  • Facebook's privacy settings.

  • (Laughter)

  • This is not that catchy catchphrase.

  • This is innovation over the edge.

  • So, people like to call Africa a mobile-first continent,

  • but actually it's mobile-only,

  • so while everybody else is doing all of those things,

  • we're solving the world's problems.

  • So there's only one thing left to say.

  • ["You're welcome"] (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

Let me start by asking you a question, just with a show of hands:

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B1 TED africa innovation gold laughter african

【TED】Toby Shapshak: You don't need an app for that (Toby Shapshak: You don't need an app for that)

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