The next revolution is coming to Africa. Cellphones are bringing it.(Read article summary)
There are now more Africans with access to a cellphone than to a clean toilet. Africa's globally plugged-in generation expects more of its leadership, and has access to instant information. Older African leaders ignore this political dynamic at their own risk.
Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Revolutions typically happen dramatically. One day, the shah of Iran is sitting pretty on his peacock throne, and the next, he is gone.
Revolutions have been happening all over the African continent and at fairly regular intervals. The stories are numerous of coups and countercoups, and it's not for no good reason that Africa has typically sat at the bottom of the political stability indices. Even here, though, there comes a point at which you cannot go any lower. It's called "oversold." The political stability index for Africa has bottomed out, in fact.
During the tumult, vast African populations were just bystanders. The State and its paraphernalia – or rebel militias – might descend on your district every few years but, otherwise, things went on as they had. There was a single TV station to tell you what happened, and the world went by.
It was a little biblical, with nature prone to ravage the land and famine just one failed harvest away.
But that's changing, and mobile phones are the engine of that change.
This year, in most parts of Africa, statistically, there will be one mobile phone per adult. In Kenya, that equates to 20 million mobile phones where just ten years ago there were 15,000. It is an extraordinary curve when you plot it. More Africans have a mobile phone than access to a clean toilet.
The mobile phone has connected all these bystanders, to one another and now to the world.
The mobile phone was a Silver Bullet for Africa. It was the entry ticket for Africans to join the 21st century.