Chinese internet brands to match Western tech

Friday January 11 2019



Innocent Swai

Innocent Swai 

It’s not a joke that, China is about to have the world’s only internet brands that will match the Western countries in ambition, innovation and reach.

Chinese brands like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are doing very well compared to many western brands. Do you know that even Africa is doing better than the West when it comes to replacing paper money with smartphone payments like M-Pesa and Tigo Pesa? How can we leapfrog African digital economy the way China has managed to pull it off?

The Chinese government managed to creatively police the internet when the Western countries were hoping that China will be open up to the world and adapt to the Western democracy. It never happened. What the Western nations failed to speculate is that they didn’t see it coming due to their wrong perception about China’s hostile intentions towards emerging technologies.

As it is today, China censored the internet infrastructure, controlled how data was collected, stored and shared accordingly.

It’s not about bringing down the sky; we just need to focus on how to come up with our own homegrown economic models.

How can African brands come with their own creative ways to control their digital space so as to be technologically vibrant? The use of foreign language could be a big issue! The starting point could be either our educational institutions or our research institutions. For a long time, in the developed world, educators and researchers have wondered whether reading fiction, could inspire their students come up with different perspectives and ways of solving their own problems . Recently, they discovered that reading fiction, compared with reading non-fiction had a measurable effect on the ability to think creatively.

Now, why can’t we come up with our own friendly fiction content in African context? On the other hand, cultural empathy, the ability to accept other cultural points of view, incorporate them perfectly in our own culture we can leapfrog Africa.

However, when cultural empathy is considered in a variety of ways, including the ability to read other people’s emotions, to see things from their perspectives, and to guess how others would feel in different scenarios; it was learnt that literature plays a significant role in displaying the world through the eyes of other people.

Moreover, literature provides a door into others’ ways of thinking from first principles.

We need to master the art of cultural empathy; improve it even on a small scale so as to create a clear message in today’s digital world. We have to build our own digital libraries in African context, and then ensure they have a stack of African best novels in our favorite mobile gadgets.

It’s way easier to feed African brands with foreign cultures, concepts and patterns rather than to exercise originality of our own. Most of the time our brands’ efforts are undermined by our thinking patterns.

And the same thing is true at our personal affairs. I have seen several cases whereby, people work as hard as they can to create brands, expectations and opportunities.

However, issues arise when the CEO becomes “smartest guy in the room,” rather than the “stupidest guy.” The latter is in a much better situation if he is the employer as he will end up listening and learning from the team.

What happens if the CEO is the smartest person in the room? Do you know the result? Most of the time, the result is reduction in productivity as everything has to follow one and only one direction which is top-down approach. That must change. PERIOD.

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