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Dispatch From Africa: The New Africa, 5Bar, 3G Mobile Phone Service in Tanzania

Riding through the vaulted streets of Manhattan, New York, you are constantly struck by the breathtaking architecture and the nonstop hustle and bustle of commerce, but one thing else stands out -- your mobile cell phone service also constantly drops calls. And this is in one of richest, most powerful and most sophisticated cities in the world.

New York is to the United States what London is to Europe -- a beacon and base of financial leadership for a continent. This said, cell phone service is terrible, and it is hard to do business when you cannot carry on even a conversation. But, it is New York, so we all shrug our shoulders and just deal with it (for now). But Africa, Africa is another matter altogether. It must learn to compete from day one. There is no time for silver rights training wheels. Africa and Africans must learn to ride the bike of global competitiveness in real time, today. And it is...

Recently I was traveling in Tanzania for the World Economic Forum meeting on Africa, and the moment I came off the plane into the airport I knew that Tanzania was playing to win on the world stage of 21st century business and commerce. You see, from the moment I deplaned until the moment I left the great nation of Tanzania, I had 5 Bat, 3G cell phone service. No dropped calls, and more, mobile Internet access, so I was able to report out on the meeting, and my sightings in and of Tanzania on Twitter, Facebook and on my my blog.

This is important, as I predict that traditional landline phones will become a luxury for the well to do in Africa and other parts of the world, whereas the mobile phone will become a lifeline and over time, the center of organizing lives outside of our family. We will see mobile banking and mobile money, and mobile music and mobile gaming, and mobile business management (merchants who use their mobile phone to ring up and charge retail transactions, as an example). Here at Operation HOPE we are talking with Nokia and other leading companies about bundling financial literacy empowerment tools and services with their evolving mobile money platforms. This is the future, particularly in places such as the African continent where a fraction of the population has a hard land line, while the mobile phone market is just exploding. It is a joke in Africa, but I think it is true, that even someone living in a shantytown with no running water or electricity seems to have found a way to acquire a cell phone. It is not only increasingly essential, but it is a status symbol as well, signaling aspiration -- and that your life is one of progress and (hoped for) success.

This week at the FORTUNE/TIME/CNN Global Forum 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa, former President Bill Clinton made the case for "Africa as a wireless continent." I believe he is absolutely right. Haiti too. For without being able to communicate efficiently and effectively and in real time, and without the vast amounts of information and intelligence available over the Internet (increasingly through mobile devises), a country and its people will never get off of the first rung of development.

A vision for a wireless Africa, and thereafter bundling this telecommunications convenience with empowerment tools such as financial literacy empowerment programs and services, and strategies to eBank the unbanked and under-banked, could spell the difference between a country and its people making $1 a day, or $10 a day.

John Hope Bryant reporting from the FORTUNE/CNN/TIME Global Forum 2010 in South Africa, and the World Economic Forum meeting on Africa in Tanzania.

John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, former vice chairman, U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, financial literacy advisor to the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council, a Young Global Leaders for the World Economic Forum, internationally recognized public speaker and author of LOVE LEADERSHIP; A New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), which debuted in August, 2009, as the Amazon.com #1 Hottest New Book (for Leadership), on the CEO Reads Top 10 Business Best Seller List, and was published in November, 2009 in digital audio book format on Audible.com, iTunes and other audio book retailers . Love Leadership was listed amongst the Top 25 Business Books for Inc. Magazine/CEO Read for the first 8 month period after release.

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