The race to innovate

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By Tunde Adeniran

This is the digital age!! Anyone living under a rock in the past two decades will not doubt this. I dare say that individuals are happy with how technology and this digital age is transforming their lives (this is debatable). For businesses, the digital age is disrupting business models across markets. Businesses are in a crazy race for survival.  You either run the race fast to innovate or die a death so instant that it won’t even get noticed.

Many have received this new reality in different forms – some as a threat and others as an opportunity. Those who see it as an opportunity have keyed into the essence of digital and tied it into their short to long-term strategies for value creation and sustainability. 

Then comes the word ‘Innovation.’ Innovation is a term that is thrown around these days, oftentimes overused and abused. Let’s go back to our good ol’ dictionary and check its true meaning. According to WordWeb Innovation (noun) is defined as “The act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new.” And then it hit me. Maybe I hadn’t thought about it well enough. The reality is that Africa is in desperate need of “home-grown” innovation. To surmount our many troubles we have to innovate quickly.

High rates on poverty, financial exclusion, illiteracy, and high mortality rate, plus low access to clean water, unstable power supply and so on. The present-day reality for Africa is filled with problems. There is really nothing new or ‘first-time’ like about these problems. They are almost easily solvable but why do they still exist? Are we so busy seeing the problems that we do not see the many opportunities? And then my next thought – “Where does innovation come from?” I’m not quite sure what the answer to that is. Sometimes to innovate we go out in search of problems that exist and then offer “painkillers” to these problems. Other times this brilliant product idea comes to mind as a “vitamin” with benefits but that does not necessarily solve a key problem, and we hope it is good enough to stick in the minds of the target consumer. I then sat back and thought of the game-changers for me within the past few years. This led me to a conclusion – People don’t buy a product, they pay for a solution that solves a problem.”.

I’ve witnessed and been a proud part of the innovation tunnel here, working with various teams made up of smart individuals, to create value and deliver sustainable products for businesses all over Africa. One of our most recent ‘babies’ –  tmoni  – is a mobile operator billing solution that enables content developers and aggregators effectively monetize digital content, goods and services from over 80M mobile internet users in Nigeria. Since it was announced, the solution has continued to receive mass reviews and helps solve a problem that has been experiencing over the years. This is just the beginning and there’s so much more to come.

Now the ball is in your court. Do you embrace digital fully to solve the problems or do you stay traditional and threatened forever?

Tunde Adeniran is a Product Manager at Terragon Group.

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