Whilst the West continues to conduct itself as a technology demigod, Africa has been sitting quietly in the side-lines, preparing for its chance to shine – that time has now come.
Africa, a continent that has long accepted technology provided by the West is now beginning to overtake. It lacks the burden of ageing technology and hosts a vast unpopulated wilderness that – in the eyes of tech innovators – represents a big playground for experimentation.
Investment in the African tech sector has skyrocketed, mobile technology is growing faster than ever (as is the continent’s wealth) and technology’s potential in Africa is far more profound than in any other part of the world – having far reaching impacts that could help resolve even the continent’s most challenging obstacles.
Are we witnessing the early stages of a rising technology superpower?
Africa’s wealth is growing, and fast
Africa is the second fastest growing continent in the world, only behind China and emerging Asia. Between 2000 and 2010, GDP has risen by 8.7%. In the same time frame, the number of people in Africa’s middle class rose by 130 million.
It’s undeniable that there still exists economic disparity, power scarcity, political instability and a lack of transport infrastructure. But with investment into technology, particularly mobile technology, there will come a more connected society – and with a more connected society comes relief in many of these afflictions.
For example, with apps that allow for remote teaching on a vast range of subjects, new technologies could allow for better education in Africa. This in turn enhances the African workforce and the amount of resources being channeled into alleviating the aforementioned problems.
Africans are more mobile
There has never been a greater invest into mobile technology in Africa than there is currently. Two-thirds of all homes in sub-Saharan Africa own at least one mobile phone, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Due to Africa’s lack of development, landline infrastructure was never really implemented on as wide a scale as it has been in the West. As a result, Africans have been able to skip this stage of development and jump right into the digital age, essentially giving them a huge head start whilst the West struggle against the stubbornness of out-dated technology providers.
Africans now even make payments directly from their mobile phones, storing money on mobile accounts that remove the reliance on banks. This is quickly resolving the previous dangers Africans faced when transporting large amounts of cash around.
They are not burdened by ageing technology
The West is burdened by relics of past technology. As innovation rapidly rises, old infrastructure that has been implemented on a large scale becomes redundant. But those who provided it won’t back down without a fight.
Media titans such as Disney and Paramount fight the wave of new, more streamlined online services like Netflix and Amazon. 20th century inventions like network TV refuse to back down as they become overshadowed by the more efficient creations of the 21st century.
Africa doesn’t have this problem. There is nothing holding the technology sector back from expanding beyond recognition. Services like iROKtv, the “Netflix of Africa”, has been allowed to thrive under this lack of restrain. There are countless other examples.
Not only is Africa not limited by past infrastructure – its political instability – although detrimental in many ways – is great for innovation.
There is a greater scope for experimentation due to the lack of bureaucracy and strict levels of Governance that exist in the West. The lack of infrastructure also means that new technology providers face few established competitors, which will encourage more investment.
For example, the engineers of cargo drones, the latest invention due in 2020 that will allow the transportation of goods to remote area, have been afforded far more freedom with this project than they would be in the West due to an less congested airspace and a huge demand created by the lack of safe roads.
What happens next?
With all this in mind, it’s easy to imagine that Africa could easily rival the West in technology innovation, if not overtake it.
Kenya has become the epicentre of this boom. A serendipitous combination of circumstance, coincidence and visionary minds inspired by political events recently laid down the foundations for Kenya’s new moniker: Silicon Savannah.
It is in Kenya that Africa’s technology advancements appear most concentrated, triggered by inventions such as the mobile money service M-PESA and Ushahidi, an app that was created to digitally track outbreaks of violence during Kenya’s election.
It seems there are exciting things to come in the future of Africa’s technology, and as a result the future of African society as a whole. Watch this space.