In This Review

Digital Entrepreneurship in Africa: How a Continent Is Escaping Silicon Valley’s Long Shadow
Digital Entrepreneurship in Africa: How a Continent Is Escaping Silicon Valley’s Long Shadow
By Nicolas Friederici, Michel Wahome, and Mark Graham
MIT Press, 2020, 336 pp
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This comprehensive and carefully argued review of digital entrepreneurship in Africa provides an eye-opening assessment of the possibilities for and limits of this sector’s future in the region. Based on interviews with some 143 Internet entrepreneurs and careful case-study work in 11 African cities in as many countries, the book suggests that African countries are a long way away from playing a major role in digital technology. As the authors point out, Africa’s share of the world’s population is about 13 percent, and the continent has about eight percent of the world’s Internet users, but it still accounts for only 0.7 percent of domain registrations and is actually further behind in digital production than in more traditional forms of knowledge production. Moreover, just three countries (Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa) provide most of the continent’s digital entrepreneurship. The book underscores the fact that although the digital revolution has benefited some African firms, investment and market opportunities remain limited by longstanding constraints and economic realities, such as tiny and poor local markets. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the firms they examine have succeeded not by attempting to compete in the global digital marketplace but by adapting international technologies to local realities.