Africa is heading into an age in which it could potentially “leapfrog into the digital revolution” setting up the continent for major future success and prosperity. The fact that the continent now has access to new and exciting technologies could enable young visionaries to spring into a time of digital manufacturing bypassing “traditional mass production”.
Innovation in Africa is the hot topic of the moment and a key aspect of future success on the continent especially as we see the African Union focus on Agenda 2063: The Future We Want for Africa, where innovation is one of the crucial factors in its achievement. In order for this to happen serious efforts need to be made to continue to find new and inventive ways to make life easier by improving living standards on the continent.
Several projects underway are examples of home-grown ideas empowering communities through new technologies.
In December six Tanzanian university students revealed plans that would help revolutionize the way in which farmers in the country monitor and protect their crops – drones. “Imagine having a 10-acre farm and doing surveillance on an old school way… There’s a better way to do it” said Maisam Pyarali, one of the students working on the project. The group discussed that whilst drones are currently being used throughout the agricultural sector around the world many farmers in Tanzania are unable to afford the technology.
“It costs almost $3,000 for a good drone,” Pyarali told The Citizen in an interview. “When we came to the drawing board… we reverse engineered the whole thing, minimizing as much of the cost as we could.”
They also considered maintenance of the drones, stating that in order to keep costs low for farmer’s drone experts need to be based in the country.
“The experts on this drone are us, we are here in Tanzania. It is cheap and it can save time. If maintenance needs to be done, we can do it”, said Goodluck Shirima, who is working on the mechanical aspects of the project.
Not only are Africans who live on the continent coming up with inventive ways to fuel innovation, those living abroad are too.
Many of the African diaspora are returning to their home countries bringing with them knowledge of new technologies and understanding of how to implement them into everyday life. Mobile phones are one particular technology which have come in handy. The Standard, Zimbabwe, put the massive increase in use of mobile phones on the continent, in part, down to the need to keep in contact with loved ones by those who are living away far from home.
For a long time now Africa has been known as the fastest growing market for mobile phones in the world. Now smartphones are booming too. By providing easy access to the Internet these mobile devices have opened up the market for online content providers. According to McKinesy Consultants, by 2025 the continent is predicted to have 360 million smartphones whilst also hitting 50 percent internet penetration in the region. Smartphones are seen as the new way forward.
A talk show host on City 105.1FM radio in Lagos, Nigeria, Vien Bamidele Osagie, in an interview with the Financial Times said, “The smartphone in an average Nigerian’s life is your office, your workspace, your first-hand entertainment right there at your fingertips.”
Companies are adapting as Africans gain greater access to smartphones, targeting users through mobile strategies.
IROKO is a key example of a company founded on the principle of creating access to online products. The creator, Jaspn Njoku started the company in order to enable Africans all around the world to view Nollywood films online. IROKO was created in the same vein as Netflix or Hulu who provide online video entertainment, but for Africans. Until recently Netflix did not reach African viewers. IROKO found a unique opportunity to provide African content to an African audience. Now with mobile technology booming on the continent and becoming increasingly affordable it is easier to access such services.
Innovative ideas such as these are enabling the African continent to jump from current models of development to new and better designs. This is set to continue especially if foreign and local investment continues to grow, supporting local entrepreneurs.
One way to continue moving forward is by giving support to the younger generations in Africa which in emphasized in Agenda 2063. “Young African men and women will be the path breakers of the African knowledge society and will contribute significantly to innovation and entrepreneurship. The creativity, energy and innovation of African youth shall be the driving force behind the continent’s political, social, cultural and economic transformation.”
With two thirds of the continent’s population currently under the age of 25, according to Agenda 2063 focusing on youth innovation is a major factor in future success and achieving these goals. This in turn will help create more innovative projects empowering the continent to achieve “The Future We Want for Africa”.