Necessity is the mother of invention, and in Africa it has been the mother of innovation. While the continent is vastly different, the level of innovation has been interesting to watch, largely fuelled by the equalizing nature of technology and mobile telephony.
Most discussions of the origins of Africa’s tech movement circle back to Kenya in 2007, when Kenyan telecom Safaricom launched the M-PESA mobile money product. M-PESA allows people to store money on mobile accounts and make simple transfers via SMS messaging — you don’t even need a smartphone to use it. MPESA (known popularly as mobile money) is an innovative technology which allows people to send money and conduct other financial transactions using their mobile phones. M-PESA has grown from Kenya and is now being replicated in many countries such as India, Afghanistan,Egypt, Ghana, and even countries in Eastern Europe, among others. Groups that typically have limited access to formal financial services have benefited from the financial products offered through M-Pesa.
Africans are more Mobile, and Mobile is the Future
The proliferation of mobile phone networks has transformed communications in sub-Saharan Africa. It has also allowed Africans to skip the landline stage of development and jump right to the digital age.” Essentially, Africa leaped over the PC era and landed directly in the mobile revolution. Which is why we are better at mobile money that others. The rise of M-PESA is largely due the dominance of mobile on the continent. Because of M-PESA, Kenya is the leading e-commerce capital of the world. This one app moves an entire third of the Kenyan GDP among its 15 million, mostly rural, users.
Africa doesn’t have a robust broadband infrastructure, or continent-wide digital-rights laws and copyright regulations, so new startups like iROKOtv can rapidly become the Netflix of Africa, bringing Nollywood movies and shows to the continent. Recently, Linda Ikeji launched her online TV, LiTV with a vision to become the Netflix of Africa. This means that the conventional Dstv and other cable television will be given a run for their money.
There’s more money flowing into African tech than ever: In Africa, venture capital investments — many of which are coming from traditional Silicon Valley VCs and telecoms — are skyrocketing. he tech hubs, incubators and accelerators of Africa are one of the best places for young Africans to encounter tools, training and the influx of investments.
There is a potential to export our innovations, technological and cultural, all over the world.
A WiFi device called BRCK that was made at an African tech incubator has been used to patch up dead spots in Wisconsin. The Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform (mentioned earlier), was used to track incidences of violence around elections in Nigeria; has also been used in the Washington Post to track snow cleanup, and by the Huffington Post to monitor election polling.
Tech is not all Africa will be exporting. Our culture will also be exported as Africa becomes more connected. Americans are going to be listening to Nigerian music, and African authors are going to be best-sellers in Europe.
In conclusion, the future of Technological growth in Africa lies in our connectivity. Data is still sold at an exorbitant price and the rural areas are still not reached. With the west making major advancement in Artificial intelligence and Big data, Africa is still lagging as we lack the ability to generate and keep data. There is still a lot that needs to be done. The government should become more involved in the tech ecosystem like Kenya did. The Kenyan government’s 2010 completion of The East African Marine System (TEAMS) undersea fibre optic cable project. increased East African broadband and led to the establishment of Kenya’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Authority. This was a major milestone that led to Kenya becoming the leading e-commerce capital of the world.
Finally, a quote from Next Africa says: Technology in Africa is becoming more than just a social venture or narrow business proposition. The continent’s tech movement will infuse every facet of [Sub-Saharan Africa’s] transformation: commerce, health, education, finance, governance and creative culture. … This evolving tech ecosystem will continue to empower Africa’s markets, people, and potential in meaningful ways, playing a pivotal role in taking the continent from the world’s economic margins into the digitized mainstream.