Meet Niti Bhan. International consultant. Marketing strategist. Research manager. And Founder and Chief Curator of “The Prepaid Economy: African Edition.”
In recent years there has been a noticeable emergence of blogs and websites that share the common mission of shining more light on a neglected and misconstrued Africa. Entertainment, sports, politics, and social justices issues are just a few areas that have been highlighted on various multimedia platforms, sharing information and voicing the opinions of Africans and non-Africans alike regarding matters relevant to the continent.
Niti’s contribution, The Prepaid Economy: African Edition, is dedicated to highlighting the advancement of African nations in the field of business, technology, and their economics, with a particular focus on the “prepaid” or rather, the informal economy and its aspirations towards joining the emerging global middle class.
With a growing readership, it’s only appropriate to give her a proper introduction and shed light on the mystery person behind prepaidafrica.tumblr.com. Below is a quick snippet of a question and answer session that will be conducted on Thursday 10:00 am ET/ 10:00 pm GMT+8
Question: What is was your motivation behind starting the tumblr blog
Answer: ”In the fall of 2010, a research project on ‘Innovation under conditions of scarcity’ took me to East Africa for the first time, to Kenya specifically where we were going to do exploratory user research on the ‘jua kali’ or informal fabrication and manufacturing industry. That experience opened my eyes to what was happening in parts of Sub Sahara - I remember feeling a strong sense of imminence, like just before a big storm where you have a sense that something big is around the corner but you can’t see it yet. Africa was on its way, even then it was already in the air in Nairobi.
I began having long talks on skype and twitter and email with my Kenyan friends about this emerging future that I could sense in East Africa yet the mainstream global media narrative was still that of the teeming, poverty stricken, war ridden, hungry eyed black babies that mainstream media splashed as “Africa”.
“How can we change this? We are not global media” was the general feeling at that time yet we were all on social media - blogging and writing and tweeting and talking. I remember telling a particular friend of mine - a very strong and accomplished woman who was CEO of a fast growing software house in Nairobi - that we couldn’t sit around and wait for “someone” to come along and change the narrative for us but we had to change it ourselves in order to see it differently. Until we ourselves saw Africa and Africans and their future and potential differently, nobody else would. Even a lone voice could be found online, I said, and here’s what I’m going to do as my 2 shilling worth.
In January 2011, a friend in Boston offered to publish a series of articles on the Emerging Africa story, if I would write down what I was sensing and seeing. Involution Studios hosted these articles and they very generously followed up with a podcast. It was during the background research for this article series that the this tumblr you’re reading, better known as prepaidafrica, was born.
Today, just over 2 years later, there are over 30,000 of you following this tumblog, we’re listed in the front page of the Business section of Tumblr’s Spotlight directory and we’ve taken on our very first employee - Beulah Osueke, as community engagement manager. You’ll be hearing her story next week.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Niti Bhan, there will be a question and answer session this Thursday 10:00 am ET/ 10:00 pm GMT+8. Feel free to ask questions about her professional career, seek career advice, or inquire about business, entrepreneurship, technology, and/or trade in Africa.