Digital platforms, copycat solutions create jobs, money-making opportunities
5 days ago, 11:37
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Euromoney East African Conference held at the Radisson Blu. The theme of the conference was “Fostering a thriving fintech ecosystem”.
I wasn’t among the invited guests but due to exigencies of work, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru, who was scheduled to give a keynote interview, asked me to represent him instead.
As such I came in at the tail end of the conference. The ushers took me straight to the front seat and introduced me to the interviewer, Christopher Garnett, senior external adviser for the Euromoney Conferences.
I had never met Mr Garnett, a robust and extemporaneous British conferences denizen.
We couldn’t talk loudly, since there was a session going on, but through whispers, we exchanged pleasantries.
He was kind enough to share the list of questions he was to ask me.
Come question time, he did not follow the script. For a moment, he threw me off balance by his guerrilla questions but I managed to gather my thoughts to respond to his impromptu questions as I acclimatised to what was turning out to be an adversarial interaction.
Once he was through with his random questions on entrepreneurship, he eyeballed the question paper then posed: How important is digital, information and communication technology innovation?
I responded by explaining how ICTs had brought greater productivity and inclusivity. He was unconvinced, insisting instead that I explain exactly the impact especially on employment.
My attempt to elaborate how platforms like Airbnb and Uber have created jobs didn’t do any good as he quickly dismissed them as exploitative and paying peanuts to locals.
Before I could comprehensively respond, he’d already started to ask his next question. It was obvious to me that he wanted to have the last word on this.
Like many “do-good” economists who have obviously read books such as Lords of Poverty, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Disaster Capitalism, and The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World, he had made wrong assumptions about how global platforms exploit international workers while taking huge profits home.
THE BIG PICTURE
This neoliberal economic thought tends to put more emphasis on individual liberties and sometimes narrowly defines success in a manner that ignores the big picture.
Whilst the Uber taxi drivers may be earning less-than-stellar profits, multiple other benefits accrue to countries, including Uber-like copycat solutions applied to other transport modes like motor bikes or trucks that, though not as big, employ a sizeable number of employees with profits remaining in the country.
In Kenya, for example, the concept behind Uber has been extended to fast-growing Sendy for motorbikes and Lorry for trucks.
Even the “exploited” worker benefits too from the emerging models of lending based on credit scoring. Many of the Chap Chap Uber drivers had never owned a vehicle before and no bank would have considered them for credit.
But these new technology-driven lending models have enabled greater inclusivity and productivity for their customers.
Category: oped opinion news