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Africa Is Tech’s Next Great Frontier, Github A.I. Expert Says

The bleeding edge of technology innovation is increasingly shifting from Silicon Valley to places that are also at the frontiers of economic development, including sub-Saharan Africa, says Omoju Miller, who works on machine learning at software development platform Github.

Miller, who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, told the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference that both demographics and geography will drive technology vendors to focus on frontier markets.

Africa will soon host most of the world's fastest-growing economies. Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to more than 90 cities with populations in excess of 1 million people. More than 60 percent of the population in the region is under the age of 25 and the continent is already home to half of the world's users of mobile payment solutions, she said.

Those figures will increasingly drive the world's largest technology firms to invest in Africa. And it will mean that more and more innovations will be born in the region, she said.

"We are the at edge of another kind of technology frontier, and this time around, it is not happening in San Francisco, it is taking place in Africa," she said.

Miller used examples from two recent trips to Africa to illustrate her point. She said that she recently visited Nigeria with Nat Friedman, Github's chief executive officer, because the software repository's data told it the country's coders were adopting open source software at a faster clip than anywhere else.

In another trip to Kenya, Miller detailed how seamlessly she was able to access all the same kinds of mobile apps and services she did when back home in San Francisco, including booking taxi rides on Uber and booking food delivery with Jumia, the company that bills itself as Africa's answer to Amazon, and which was originally incubated by German startup factory Rocket Internet.

Then, when traveling to the Maasai Mara nature reserve, she recalled passing through numerous rural villages. "We are talking about very small villages and yet in these small villages you can still use mobile payments," she said. "This is going to radically change what the technology environment is going to look like."

This story has been updated to correct Miller's title at Github and that she visited Kenya as well as Nigeria.

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