Why we need an African Buyers Club – A way for Africa to aid itself
The Internet is an amazing place where Africans can unite on causes they are passionate about in a borderless space.
The world is innovating at a rapid pace. Africa is also innovating but not at the same pace. There is a need for support for products of African innovation in order to hasten the speed and quality of the innovations.
How can Africans support good quality innovations creating an incentive for more innovation? How can we support great African writing,music,inventions and films and ensure that incredible African talent does not go unearthed?
Given the thriving African community on the Internet perhaps the time is right for Africans to overcome the artificial divisions created by colonialists in the form of borders by uniting their combined buying powers on the Internet to drive uniquely African innovations.
Africans with dispensable income could sign up to the African Buyers Club on a website online and pledge to buy products vetted by a committee appointed by the African Buyers Club. Inventors,writers,musicians and film producers could submit their finished products to the committee comprised of experts in various fields from different countries. The committee could evaluate the products to determine if they are a good value to members of the club. Once a year the committee could release the list of products members of the club should buy from on the African Buyers Club website. Only a few high quality products should make the list so as not to overwhelm the buyers. The committee would need to be very transparent with members known for uncompromising integrity.
The New York Times best seller list works in a similar manner for books. It lists the best books so that willing buyers can get good value for their money. American writers work hard to produce books worthy to be on the list therefore the list ensures that there is a continuing incentive for creating better and better writing for buyers who look to the best seller list for guidance on what to buy.Some Africans even buy books on the New York Times best seller list but not many African authors make it on to this list understandably since it was not created for African authors. We need our own similar lists.
The advantages of such a club for Africa could be enormous. There would be a huge incentive for Africans to work hard to produce products that could withstand the rigorous selection criteria of the committee. The quality of products invented in Africa or made in Africa could improve exponentially. Countries could compete to see how many products from their citizens end up on the list. If one country consistently produces good writers then other countries could study what it is about that country's education system that is working well for producing good writing.
Instant African millionaires
If the club has many members then we could see some African inventors, writers,musicians and artists becoming instant millionaires once their product makes this list.What could be the effect of this? If people like Akon are anything to go by, this could be a very good thing. Akon made his millions in the U.S mainly where people have a good buying culture. He turned around and used this money to sow it into the development of areas in some African countries where the governments fell short. Another powerful example is Dr. Mo Ibrahim who made his fortune in Europe and is using it to promote good governance in Africa. Economically empowering deserving Africans could foster faster economic development than simply pouring money into some corrupt governments that have failed to deliver results in many years. Furthermore individuals that have earned a fortune honestly are more likely to want to share the fortune and may want to give back to the communities that helped them attain the fortune. In other countries individuals who made a fortune from inventions have built libraries, parks and even universities to give back. This could be a way for Africa to use the internet ease of connectivity to aid itself.
Buyers drive innovation
If we look to the West we can see clear examples of how buyers are the main drivers of innovation. In the U.S when Apple launches a new product keen buyers are known to queue outside Apple stores several hours or even days before the product goes on sale. Since Apple knows there are people ready and willing to buy their products they are motivated to make new and improved products for their customers.
Africans with dispensable income are keen consumers of brands from outside Africa mainly because these products are top quality. An African Buyers Club could drive up the quality of African products therefore reducing our consumption of products from outside. Currently Africa is a consumer continent with very little innovation in many areas and we need to start thinking of creative ways to change this. Our governments are trying, some are even making huge strides but we can also chip in by harnessing the power of Africa wide crowdsourcing on the internet.
I recently invented a new product and I realized that if there was a committee that could evaluate products and vet them for willing buyers then inventors would have a greater incentive to turn their ideas into products.