As Africa embraces digital modes of doing business and providing services, more machine readable data is generated. Unfortunately for the continent, there is little data mining happening to help businesses get an in-depth understanding in their industries. A combination of a lack of well-polished skills from learning institutions and little data education in organisations has compounded the problem.
In developed markets, Data Scientists are the one of the most well-paid workers as industries are looking to make sense of the big data generated as a consequence of business, but not so in Africa. However, one company has its work cut out to alter this narrative.
Nairobi startup looks to highlight value in data
Data-Fintech, a Nairobi based data broker, is changing the landscape by opening up value from big data. According to Dramane Traore, the Co-Founder of the company, Data-Fintech is, “a consumer data broker, enabling companies to transform data into a source of revenue”.
The 10-man company was founded by Traore, an expert in electronic payments with 15 years’ experience, and Donatien Beguy, a Doctor in Statistics with 13 years’ experience. The company launched its operations in Nairobi in 2015.
“We trade information between companies who have valuable data and businesses who want to gain market knowledge to make strategic decisions,” Traore explains.
Traore says the company is filling a crucial market gap where there is lack of accurate, reliable and timely information for companies to make strategic decision, especially in African markets.
The company collaborates to mine data from big online brands including: Checki.co.ke, the biggest motor vehicle classified; Pigiame.co.ke, a general classified company; BrighterMonday.com, East Africa’s biggest job portal; EatOut Kenya, a restaurant listing platform; BuyRentKenya.com, one of Kenya’s leading property listing sites. They are adding more digital platforms onto their portfolio.
So far, the company has made strides is providing valuable data analysis to companies. It also makes public reports free for publishing houses in order to highlight the insights data can give.
“The impact has been fantastic so far,” Traore says. “It has opened the eyes to so many managers. A Telecom company has been able to micro-target clients especially for up-sell or cross sell opportunities. An electronic brand can now assess the effectiveness of a marketing campaign in near real time. An HR manager has implemented a pay policy and practice. A real estate developer is now able to measure the business risk of a new development in a specific location. I can give more examples, but the main idea is professionals using data are smarter and faster than the rest of the ‘peloton’.”
Africa desperately needs more data skills
There are several governments across Africa that have opted to provide open data portals in a bid to make their information public.
Kenya has gone a step further by passing the access to information law that outlines how private and public organisations can put forth their information to anyone who requests it. However the government still needs to put in place a body to oversee the requests and distribution of information
According to Article19, a British human rights organisation championing freedom of expression, only 19 out of 56 African nations have passed access to information laws around information access. This is the direction that more countries should be going in.
Yet while these moves are to be applauded, according to Traore, the continent still needs more analytical professionals in companies to enable a faster shift in the use of data by businesses.
“I would say they [companies] have not yet figured out how they can gain value from their data, and this is where Data-Fintech is assisting them. It’s vital for companies and government bodies to implement big data projects, if they want to capture the full potential of the digital economy, and create wealth and jobs,” he says.
The lack of skills in Africa also adds to the slow progress in data analysis. Data-Fintech will soon be in the market to recruit more data specialists but finding them might pose a challenge.
“Data Scientist and Data Analysts are brand new jobs. I would like to encourage youths and education systems across Africa to move with speed and tap this opportunity,” says Traore. “We have to create the conditions to value data at a very large scale, and an educated workforce will be an essential element [of this].”
However, the future for this sector is promising. According to Traore, data is a crucial component for businesses across the continent that they will have to embrace it.
“With more companies and government bodies connected, we have a unique occasion to accelerate development, improve productivity and efficiency. Government bodies can deliver a better service without increasing taxpayer burden. On the other hand, businesses can be more competitive to gain market share in the global competition,” he says.
“Data is the commodity that is essential in this digital economy. The production of data is increasing every day, it comes from human being and machines as well. With more and more data to refine, the future looks extremely rosy for companies like Data-Fintech,” he concludes.