Africa, The New Frontier: Technological marvels to watch and sectors to invest in
Africa’s population stands at 1.2 billion people. It is projected to double by 2050 to 2.5 billion, representing 25% of world population. It is the continent with the youngest population on earth, with a median age of 20. 75% of the population is under 35 years. Therefore, it has an abundant labor force. It also requires huge investment to unleash its labor potential.
There are 54 independent states. They are under the African Union (AU), a Pan African social, cultural, economic and political bloc targeting Africa’s growth. In the AU’s African Agenda 2063, it states its Pan African vision as ‘An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.’
It has five regional economic and political blocks. These are South African Development Community (SADeC), East African Community (EAC), Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), CFI and Maghreb Union.
1. Future Technopoles and smart cities
Cities and urban areas are the way of the future in Africa. Africa has the highest rate of urbanization in the world. It’s population is projected to hit 2.5 billion people by 2050. 60% of these people will live in cities. Currently, Africa has the youngest population in the world, with an average age of 19.
Currently, we see the bulk of urban population living in unplanned settlements. Major services and utilities like health, water, sewerage, electricity, environmental pollution and waste management are not growing in tandem. African governments seem to have learnt that lesson. Without proper planning, future cities will become giant slums. On top of these services, they are now planning to leverage on technology as a way of the future. Africa is planning for efficient cities of the future.
Smart cities is a phrase that has been proposed as a solution to many modern urban problems. They are also referred to as tech hubs. The idea behind these cities is an interconnected ecosystem when people can live and work in a sustainable manner. Current cities are tearing up at the seams due to antiquated and archaic systems. Smart cities offer space for manufacturers and innovators to invest and create jobs and investment opportunities. These cities are projected to spur homegrown innovations. The key is a digital environment which allows for everything to function efficiently. Using data, smart cities are expected to run efficiently and smoothly.
Konza Technopolis in Kenya is projected to be ready by 2030. It sits just 40 km south east of the capital Nairobi. It is projected as an environmentally safe city with interconnected energy efficient buildings, efficient infrastructure with futuristic transport system. Konza is projected to be a mega technology park and innovation hub. As it takes shape, Nairobi has been hosting iHub, one of the local initiatives that has been instrumental in growing the Africa Tech movement.
These are cities have been proven to grow national economies. For example, Egypt’s Smart village technopole, Tunisia’s El Ghazala’s Technopark, E-madina in Casablanca, Rwanda’s Vision City, Ghana’s Hope City and Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire. In addition to these cities, there are other 117 technology hubs envisaged across Africa.
2. Futuristic technologies
The next revolution is already here. Twenty years ago, touch screen technology was still futuristic. Predicted less than 50 years ago, it has been fully embraced in a wide variety of gadgets, it is assured that futuristic technologies will come. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, and smart equipment are now readily available in our homes. These seem farfetched, belonging to sci-fi movies.
Our devices are interconnected, communicating with one another and generating data which they use to make decisions. For example, your smart phone connects to your car stereo via Bluetooth. Your refrigerator and clothes washer are connected online and learn preferences of the user. IN other words, the future is now.
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning have grown with the expansion of the internet. They refer to machines capacity to learn human and mimic human behavior. This has the possibility to change the way we interact. Even with debates surrounding these smart technologies, Africa is projected to become embrace and develop these technologies.
3. Africa Tech movement and the Silicon Savannah
Africa’s technological growth has been widely noted and appreciated. Telecommunication, mobile telephony and associated industries have played a major role in Africa’s technological leap. For example, MPESA, Kenya’s world renown mobile money transfer platform has revolutionized business in the country. Its success has seen global money transfer companies like PayPal, Payoneer,World Remit among others partner with Safaricom’s MPESA. World remittances to Sub Sahara Africa have grown 4% in 2020 to stand at $38 billion.
According to techcrunch.com, African governments prioritized four areas to spur technological growth. These are, mobile money, a global crowdsourcing app, a tech incubator model and a genuine government commitment to ICT policy. This is the tech movement that was predicted.
In every prosperous society, quality, effective and appropriate education remains the foundation. Education ought to impart skills that meet the needs of the society. These needs include, agriculture, science, technology, manufacturing, innovation and humanities. At the same time, individuals in the society should benefit from it.
Africa’s population is young. Africa requires heavy investment in education for her population. The African Union has formulated policies to meet the needs of the continent. There is a shortage of education facilities and teachers. There needs public and private school cooperation to address these gaps. Local communities also need to be involved in meeting education needs.
Africa has also awoken to the realization that technology is indispensable to education. The recent disruptions in education by the Covid 19 pandemic has brought this point home. Education calendars all over the world were disrupted by lockdowns to slow the spread of the disease. Both public and private schools had to scramble and begin online learning.
Africa’s population needs to be healthy. Currently, poverty and disease pose great risks to the continent. Tropical diseases like Malaria and new pandemics like HIV/AIDS have strained the ability of African governments to keep its population healthy. Geographically, Africa lies in the tropical zone. This has an almost year-round warm climate. It is also favorable breeding ground for diseases. Africa needs to invest in health facilities, training medical workers, medical innovations and intellectual properties.
The average life expectancy in Africa in 2020 is 62 years for males and 65 years for females. This is against a world average of 70 years for males and 75 years for females. However, Due to various factors such as corruption, political instability and civil strife, governments are unable to invest consistently into the health needs of the continent. The continent is aware of the risks of ignoring investment in the health of its people. The Abuja Commitment on public health expenditure was formulated to keep the continent meeting its goals.
Investment in health can also leverage on new technology to be effective.
Africa is an entrepreneurs paradise. With a growing integration of its 54 countries, the continental landscape is growing exponentially. With a growing young population, technology hubs and smart cities, the future is proving to be very exciting. Even with unknown issues surrounding new and emerging technologies, Africa seems ready to adopt these in order to mitigate the social problems it goes through.