For all the highly publicized ills that the African continent seems to be suffering from – corrupt politics and shortcomings in infrastructure to poor socioeconomic systems, African technology seems to be a shining bright spot.
Kay Ugwuede of Tech Cabal writes that African innovation rises to meet the continent’s dire challenges. New startups aim to tackle the infrastructure question, new communities and enabling programmes are born and with the funding that the African tech sector is receiving from global tech every year, it’s clear that a huge bet is being placed on the continent.
“We are at the edge of another kind of technology frontier,” began Omoju Miller, Machine Learning Engineer at GitHub, “…this time around, it is not happening in San Francisco, it is taking place in Africa.” She spoke last year at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference.
In 2019 the African Startup ecosystem, the entire community of tech startups on the continent, has effectively tripped their funding (mostly venture capital) from $185 million in 2015 to $1.3 billion, according to WeeTracker.
These investments have not been let down for the most part as Africa continues to boast many startup successes across many sectors, from Fintech to Healthcare. Startups from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and most recently Egypt having the most publicized success stories.
Many of the continent’s governments are standing up and paying attention at last. Paying attention to how tech development and innovation can greatly contribute to economic growth and sustainability across the impoverished and disenfranchised.
The Knowledge Gap
Ugwuede believes that a large problem that stampers the growth of African tech nowadays is simply that there is a hesitancy to accept new technologies due to a knowledge gap. There is still a lot of work to be done to bridge both this gap and the research gap, two very critical aspects of the advancements of tech.
Peer-to-peer learning programmes such as AISaturdays, where young men and women can learn and grow their skills in the field of AI, as well as AR and VR projects such as Judith Okonkwo’s Imisi 3D Lab, continue to fill the gap with crucial information and training.
However, issues such as lack of funding and experienced personnel and accessibility to more global research opportunities continue to halt the would-be exponential growth of this field.
Innovations and Startups
New solutions are constantly being put forth by African innovators, new ways to use emerging technologies and as well as finding use cases across various sectors, like finance.
Nigerian cryptocurrency platform Buycoins allows for the average Nigerian to trade in Bitcoin and Ethereum using their local currency.
Agritech companies such as Cameroon’s Agrix Tech and Kenya’s Shamba Records have begun using blockchain, AI and machine learning to reduce agriculture losses from pests and increase yields for farmers
The use cases continue to grow as startups continue to innovate around and within the many sectors of tech. However, to truly make the most of African innovation and emerging tech, more resources need to be put into research and education – preparing the innovators of tomorrow, not of the next decade.