Technology and The Sharing Economy
On January 9, 2015, I was honored to speak in the changemakers session at TEDx Kampala, under a theme titled “Owning Our Destiny”. As broad and cheesy a theme as they come, but it had me pondering the question of what I could possibly talk about as a technologist and change enthusiast. Something to elicit interest, fill with curiosity, suggest opportunity, and possibly trigger action long after the talk was done. Ultimately, it came down to social networks, technology, and new-age economics. All the things a twee almost-millennial could care about. And thus the title, “Technology and the sharing economy”.
I do not have all the information regarding how the sharing economy started but I believe that it had something to do with the global financial crisis, the rise of the millennials as a consumer demographic and an altruistic albeit late shift from the “this is mine” to “what is mine is yours, for a fee” economy. During the economic downturn, there was a need to minimize expenditure, optimize personal costs and create new income. The ubiquity of social networks allowed for people to trust strangers if only due to the shared hardship. Tools such as Craigslist and E-Bay were a boon to peer-to-peer transactions. Why buy a saxophone, or a tuxedo when you can rent one from a stranger online? Fantastic, right?
These experiences, however, are largely western. That does not mean that the sharing economy is lost on us here in Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa. Our history suggests that we have always had a sharing culture. It is happening on a small scale each day and with the right technology in place, the volume can grow. Case in point is a shared experience I had with my colleague, Moses Mugisha, CTO at our company Sparkplug, while on a road trip in Bushenyi District, Western Uganda. The farmers in this area do not have enough income to buy a tractor each to till their pieces of farmland. When we asked how they got about it, they intimated that it all came down to community. They formed a trust in which all the farmers contributed to a fund. Once they had accumulated enough, they time-shared a rented tractor over the course of a week for a not-so-great sum.
You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes only if you generously consent to share them- Albert Camus
It was this experience that gave us the idea for our latest product, Akabbo. Launched in November 2014, Akabbo, which derives it’s name from the Luganda word for a collection basket, is a localized crowdfunding platform that allows users to create campaigns and pool funds effortlessly using the far-reaching mobile money wallets. We created Akabbo to provide a venue for individuals and organizations to actualize their dreams and ideas through a shared fundraising model on a national scale. We are currently working to add international online payments processing for wider reach. You can explore the different campaigns on Akabbo here.
I digress but I will leave you with this: The economy of the future is people-powered and will be driven by peer-to-peer transactions. If opportunity knocks, open the door. If it does not knock, build a door.