When I walked into my first African slum this August, it wasn't the tin shanties or the children playing around smoldering piles of waste that surprised me. It was the towering Masaai warrior texting on his cell phone -- punching away at those tiny buttons with precision that would put American teenagers to shame.
Mobile technology has sprouted in nearly every corner of Africa. Cell phones are like digital cockroaches -- in even the harshest conditions, such as impoverished Chad or war-torn Somalia, mobile markets are growing. Between 2003 and 2008, Africa experienced the world's fastest growth in mobile subscribers.
Yet, Africa is struggling. Since the 1970s, Western aid has increasingly turned its focus toward social welfare services, alleviating short-term problems but not supplying Africans with the resources they need to function independently.
Africa doesn't just need another meal; it needs the tools to grow from within. How does the old saying go? If you teach a man to fish ...
Mobile-based technology could be the answer.
I believe we have to "teach a man to fish". That's sustainable.