1. Start-ups leap into Africa’s informal economy

The African Development Bank estimates that 55% of sub-Saharan Africa’s economic activity is informal. That’s a massive commercial space without such services as business enterprise software, small business banking, affordable third-party logistics or internet access. Expect VC-backed start-ups to attempt scalable applications for nearly every corner of Africa’s informal economy.

Much of this is already occurring in Nigeria. First-time dotcoms are sprouting up for everything from e-commerce logistics, online auto sales and real-estate listings, to airline bookings, employment sites and credit rating services. The opportunities are infinite, especially as Africa’s broadband and smartphone penetration rates continue to improve.

2. State-to-state ICT competition

Following the lead of countries such as South Africa, Botswana and Kenya, there are growing expectations on African governments to flesh out ICT plans and infrastructure. Countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana are already feeling the pressure, conscious of the success of Silicon Savannah and recent gains by the government of Rwanda.

3. Tech disrupting development

IT will continue to be employed to solve long-standing African socio-economic issues. Aid-agency grants previously going to NGOs are already being diverted to social-venture focused African tech organizations. IBM’s Lucy Project is directed at solving “Africa’s grand challenges” – many of which have been relegated to the development sector. Cracking the continent’s long-standing problems will increasingly become a commercial tech opportunity.

4. African tech solutions with global application

M-Pesa has become a case study for global digital payments. Ushahidi was used in the 2012 US presidential election. Africa’s solar powered BRCK wifi device is bringing connectivity to internet deadspots in Wisconsin. Uber is experimenting with new service models in Africa that company executives tell me could later apply to operations globally. Commercial drone delivery is likely to take off first in Africa. Most of SSA’s tech applications are developing as solutions to local challenges, but this is creating unforeseen opportunities for other markets.

5. IT impacting Africa’s politics

Ushahidi played a role in Kenya’s last two elections. Digital media investigative site Sahara Reporters’ corruption reporting has led to the dismissal of senior Nigerian government officials. Social media applications Twitter and Facebook were heavily utilized by civil society organizations, opposition groups and political parties in Nigeria’s last presidential election. And African technology actors are closer to creating industry lobbying groups. As Sub-Saharan Africa and its citizens become even more connected to the digital grid, expect IT to influence how politics and elections are done.

6. Failure

I throw this in for balance. Among sub-Saharan Africa’s start-ups in particular, there will be many failures. Most of these ventures are operating in ICT environments lacking much of the baseline infrastructure for tech – namely affordable broadband and regular electricity. But as I’ve often pointed out to sceptics of African IT, failure is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows investors and entrepreneurs are committed and trying. Some 90% of US start-ups fail. But that means 10% succeed. A similar principle will apply in Africa. The momentum leading many African start-ups to fail will inevitably lead to the handful of monumental technological successes.

7. Sub-Sahara Africa’s first start-up unicorns and IPOs

Following trend 6, it’s only a matter of time before some of the region’s commercially oriented start-ups create Africa’s first big headlines, i.e. IPOs, acquisitions and unicorns. We already had a preview of this with Africa Internet Group’s recent Goldman Sachs-backed billion dollar valuation, followed by reports that fintech company Interswitch may soon go public on a major exchange – likely the London Stock Exchange.