It took the chance encounter of being held hostage in the Congo in the 1990s to awake in James Beeland Rogers Jr. (the Singapore-based veteran investor, businessman, adventurer, and author), a realization of the great future that awaits Africa.
“When you are that close to the ground, you can see what is false, what is real and what has true potential,” says Rogers, who has been an active investor across the African continent since escaping from that harrowing – yet life-affirming – experience. This potential was once again confirmed while driving across the continent at the dawn of the millennium on another of his world trips, a journey which was described in his bestseller ‘Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip’.
Though currently bullish on capital markets in China and Russia, Rogers believes Africa could be the ultimate adventure, and he highlights how the continent (unencumbered by legacy infrastructure and technologies) has followed in China’s footsteps by leapfrogging straight to mobile (M-Tech). Africa is expected to unlock its real potential through the aggressive adoption of a fully inclusive mobile economy – buying and selling everything, sending and receiving information, making appointments, transferring funds and much more, all in an instant.
“My daughters are 10- and 15-years old and they will probably never go to a bank or a post office or a doctor. We won’t be able to send letters or cash a cheque, as these institutions will simply cease to exist. We will operate in a totally cashless society,” adds Rogers, who believes that Blockchain could be one of the great catalysts for the explosion of economic opportunities across Africa.
The benefits that Blockchain transactions will bring to cross-border payments, commodities, fuel, and airtime as settlement methods, suggests that the transition to a cashless society is imminent.
“Blockchain is changing everything we know and, because Africa is coming straight to it, it will instantly change everything we do. It’s a reality, already,” states Rogers, who also expects to see a raft of new policies and legislation being tabled to further enable the mobile economy.
Savvy investors such as Rogers and billionaire businessman Richard Branson, have been active on the African continent for decades, but the emergence of a new vision for Africa has awoken throughout mainstream consciousness following 2018’s blockbuster Black Panther movie. The spell-binding vision of the visually enticing, high-tech world of the Kingdom of Wakanda, that deliciously blends future tech with the richness of age-old African architecture and cultural styling, is emblematic of Africa’s ability to fast-track into the future of technology. This technological growth spurt offers an unprecedented opportunity for the people of the continent, to take ownership of new economic opportunities as they arise on the global market.
Rogers has always had his finger on the pulse of new markets or to point a finger where he sees trouble brewing, and his views on financial markets are often controversial. He remained pessimistic about Russia for 48 years, since he first visited the Soviet Union in 1966, but now holds less faith in the more traditional markets such as the US and Europe. He currently sees greater potential building in the superpowers of the developing world – Russia, China and South Africa.
Positioned as the great connector between Africa and the rest of the world, Rogers highlights South Africa as highly bankable for Africans and for international investors alike: he believes the continent is in the right place at the right time. The BRICS countries also represent over 40% of the world’s population, which is a significant statistic because, in a world where leapfrogging technology is making it possible for developing nations to skip steps in their economic evolution, these countries hold incredible economic potential and market force. South Africa’s recent ascendency to the chairmanship of BRICS and South African businessman, Dr Iqbal Survé’s presidency of the BRICS Business Council, also puts the country in the highly enviable position as a leader of the developing world.
“I’m not an expert at actually creating technology, but I know it has the power to re-shape Africa, providing countless opportunities for new businesses and profits. Through what Amazon and Google have done in other countries around the world, they have pretty much laid the blueprint for Africa. Companies with a footprint like Sagarmatha Technologies, with their expertise and leadership, are now perfectly positioned to apply these learnings to what is essentially virgin territory. There’s a market of at least one billion people across the continent, all hungry for information, the ability to transact and they are primed to be unlocked.”
Far from detracting from the potential for Africans to be doing it for Africans, Rogers believes that the rapid spread of technology will enhance this burgeoning promise.
“Africa as a continent is under-developed, but it has a gigantic, innovative and extremely hardworking population who are hungry for advancement and who are prepared to grab it with both hands. They are primed and ready to push the right buttons. If you can find competent management in African-based companies, jump in with both feet. The sky will be the limit,” says Rogers.