The singularity is defined by futurist Ray Kurzweil as being the point at which technological advancement exceeds human capacity to control and fully understand it. It’s the point where artificial intelligence and replication converge and machines can strategically produce other machines without human direction. Movies like TERMINATOR and THE MATRIX are all about the horrible ways such a scenario might play out.
This post is about a different singularity. A point at which technology, progress, wealth and modern advancement converge without the inclusion of an entire continent of nearly 1 billion people, with no discernible disadvantages. This scenario is also difficult to understand and hard to control.
In this scenario, companies also often fail to represent people from the continent in their staff. Boardrooms across the world forget to mention market strategies aimed at engaging the continent’s consumers. I could tell you we hit this singularity over two decades ago but instead let’s look at the websites of a handful of leading technology companies, the corporations who are literally shaping our collective futures…
Yahoo! is among the most popular destinations to visit on the African continent. The image below is from their international page, where they showcase how they target viewers by region. Hrmm…looks like they covered all their bases…
Google has country offices all over the world. I know for a fact they operate staffed offices in Kenya and South Africa. And to be fair they’ve got an intensely involved philanthropic arm here. But on their corporate website? Hrmm…odd.
It’s hard to believe a company that lives on numbers would make such an obvious mistake, so we’ll have to assume they have their reasons. Nonetheless, since they actually do have African offices I’m not sure what message this sends the Google Kenya or Uganda teams. At least they didn’t forget…
Hrmm… which flag to I click for Kenya? Nigeria? Cairo? or South Africa?
Facebook is both the fastest growing internet destination and social network across Africa. They’re in the midst of a global expansion, specifically targeting BOP markets with apps like Facebook Zero. They have several positions open: India, Singapore, Dublin, Brazil, London and Austin, TX. There’s actually a couple missing pieces here: the Middle East, Australia and of course…
We can chalk this one up to Facebook’s being a young company. Although they claim half the users of the entire internet (500 million), this absolutely tells you where they see potential growth and markets worth chasing. A longer list of job opportunities with Facebook’s internationalization team.
Salesforce is a cloud enterprise platform that makes doing business easier. They pride themselves on their international sites. In fact, they’ve got an international site for every continent in the world accept Antarctica and…
Sony and Oracle
Two more power houses. One basically tells you to learn Arabic if you live in Africa, the other has something called “Africa Operations”. Sounds very Jack Bauer, Oracle. An indicator for a systematic, innovative approach, perhaps? Unfortunately not, clicking on that link takes you a site that has information that’s in no way different from their other sites.
Hey Africans, Oracle has an important message for you:
In my opinion, the reasons behind these oversights don’t matter at all. The reality is these choices aren’t aren’t actually putting any of these companies at a disadvantage. What matters to me is the greater implication of the scenario that’s playing out. The fact that these companies can rest comfortably as some of the biggest companies that history has ever known with little input from Africa paints a bleak future. The fact of the matter is, if one sixth the planet is being shut out of controlling or, in any meaningful way, contributing to the technologies and tools that are re-defining the future of the human race. Then they are in-turn being shut out of the future. It’s not systematic, it’s not organized; it’s happening without anyone even noticing. It’s indeed the road to technology perdition.
This is something that should scare the shit out of Africa. It should either motivate you to a point of unrelenting excellence and tenacity, or it should make you a ludite who deliberately refuses to embrace a changing world. It’s a choice. However, the business world (and in this case tech companies) need to be constantly reminded that they need you with cold hard facts. There are no other arguments. Show them the numbers, the patents, the inventions, the talent, the enthusiasm, the courage…the success stories. Don’t open your mouth tell anyone anything or ask them for anything ever again…show them.
The only way to overcome irrelevance is to do things that unequivocally matter. Things that people couldn’t ignore even if they wanted to. Things like building a windmill without an education or so much as even a toy replica; with only passion and imagination. Things like subverting an oppressive government and violent political parties. Doing things, versus reminding everyone around you how unfair it is for you in comparison to everyone else.
Stop waiting for someone to tell you you’re the Next Einstein and go out there and prove it. You have two choices, do something or do nothing. There is no in between. Decisions are binary.
Photo by: Nobodysukey