Can Africa’s Inye Thrive a West-Dominant Tech Industry?
We know that the iPad has revolutionized the way that people interact with their world, much like the iPhone did. Inspired by that revolution, Saheed Adepoju, a young Nigerian man, is trying to do the same thing in Africa. Adepoju developed the Inye which is an 8 inch tablet that runs on the Google Android platform that comes in at an affordable $350 when compared to the iPad at $700.
Adepoju wants to bundle the tablets with apps that, for instance, bring awareness to users about HIV, water, and sanitation. How sexy is that and does it matter? Is the African market decidedly different to be drawn by the Inye?
For the middle and upper class, in most African countries, the appeal of products like this is to demonstrate their wealth, i.e. conspicuous spending, but will they be put off by the practicality, will they even want the ‘affordable’ product? For those who are decidedly less well off, is the practicality enough for the $300+ investment in a tiny computer?
Personally, I think it’s wonderful we have such a perfectly timed development by a person from the continent, but I wonder just how far government connections and family money will get his dream. The reason western developed electronics thrive not only domestically but internationally in addition to quality, is that product branding makes us believe we need this new shiny toy in our lives. The sheer reach of advertising dollars behind new products is staggering. So how can Adepoju make the impact he wants? At the end of the day, he would have to find a way to paint this as a product for the African market beyond water, sanitation, and disease control. While these are significant part of the average African’s life, products like tablets not only allow us to connect but they also allow us to escape. Adepoju will have to create the kind of world members of the continent will want to escape to; one that resonates with a majority of the continent. That, I feel will be his challenge.