High-tech advancements have been on the fast track in Africa during recent years. With the continent’s increased access to mobile technology, the stage has been set for Africa’s explosion onto the cyber-scene, with new and exciting innovations and continued projected growth on the radar.
Many of the startups currently producing these new technologies center around the mobile device, which has been enthusiastically adopted in the continent in the last decade. In fact, Africa proudly declares itself the “mobile continent,” and internet use via mobile phone is expected to increase 20 times over in the next few years, which is double what is expected of the rest of the earth.
Some of the top recent innovations to come out of Africa have the potential to positively impact the entire world.
For example, Africa faces some serious agricultural problems, like pests, drought and crop disease. Agricultural biotechnology scientists look to change that, not only using existing technology to help improve crop production, but developing new technology to improve on the strains of staple crops grown there. Positive results will impact the whole planet, with crops developed to be heartier and more nutritional at the same time. The experiences gained in the biotechnology sector can also be rolled over into other areas such as environmental management and health; meaning, big – and positive – changes are on the horizon.
Mobile education is another of the greatest innovations to come of the recent mobile boom, mobile education platforms have revolutionized the way Africa is learning. Those in remote villages who cannot get to school – or who may not have access to a computer – can now participate in online learning thanks to applications such as Mxit, Africa’s popular social network. It has developed a way for students from all over Africa to be connected with tutors who can help them with studies and homework. Other companies like Enezaprovide learning services like tutors, quizzes and live teacher help, all via mobile phone. This technology is revolutionizing learning possibilities, and can eventually be adapted for other remote areas where traditional schooling may not be an option.
Of course, mobile banking has made it possible to pay tuition, among other bills, easily, quickly and safely in Africa. In fact, the prevalence of the mobile phone in Africa has brought about a banking revolution on the continent. Where once people had to send cash to relatives via unreliable means, or trek many miles to make payments at a banking center, services like M-Pesa have become the go-to form of money transferring and payments. The technology allows for an easy and secure way to handle bills, and has put banking at the fingertip of millions across Africa.
Also thanks to the popularity of mobile devices in Africa, new e-commerce options are becoming more common. These companies are taking business models like Groupon and Amazon and running with them, creating exciting new websites that allow Africans the chance to shop online and have items delivered right to their homes or businesses. Dealdey, a Groupon-like daily deals site, was developed in conjunction with one of the first small business directories in Nigeria. Growing these types of tech businesses alongside one another is a great example of the out-of-the-box thinking that’s helping African entrepreneurs set the standard for innovation.
As Africa continues to make leaps in the adaptation of new technologies, one sector that is still lagging a little behind is infrastructure on the continent. The hardware, software and systems needed to create online services, like shopping, can be initially expensive, and cost a good deal to properly maintain, as well. Nevertheless, startups like Angani buy infrastructure in bulk and lease it to smaller companies, thus alleviating initial costs as well as day-to-day maintenance for them, and allowing them to build an online presence.
These examples illustrate how Africa’s innovators are using technology in new and unique ways, and how they are helping to connect the continent not only within itself, but with the world. As technology continues to grow and advance in Africa, the world as a whole will benefit from the ideas and products that are being developed there.