Africa to start creating sustainable tech solutions that will create new markets and define the future of Africa’s tech innovations.
The world has systematically moved from the computer and physical stage to a more sophisticated stage, known as the “cyber-physical system”. The biggest impact of this stage is that it has improved the quality of life and given people the ability to develop technological inventions, innovations and solutions, thus, opening up an avenue for greater impact and increased revenue.
Over the years, Africa has been the dumping ground for technological junks and, sometimes, outdated technology in the form of flashy inventions. Some of these so-called inventions are popularly known as “Chinko” products in Nigeria. These products are cheap and will last only for some months, and the funniest thing is that people that created those products and those who buy them know that they don’t last for a long time.
These guys know that these ‘weak’ products are dangerous but they still create and sell them to willing buyers looking for cheap alternatives to the original products that come with guarantees. They export them to Africa and some of us end up buying these substandard products at exorbitant prices, risking lives and property unknowingly.
These substandard products include gadgets, building materials and hardware accessories. I am really bothered by this, but what bothers me more is the fact that we are so relaxed in using technologies that are out of date, instead of fixing some of our existing problems. The world is now focused on quantum computers, growth of Artificial intelligence, sustainable power, big data, virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, industrial robots, 5G technology, remote surgery, etc. The fact is that the world is still going to witness a new phase of technological inventions in some years to come and it will either come out as a branch from one of these existing ones or it will stand on its own. Through critical research, it will slowly grow and become sustainable.
It is worthy to note that there are some tech innovations by what I term the “golden” innovations that are created to solve some of the present problems besetting the African continent. But on the flip side, it would not be sustainable, looking into the future. Some of them will fade away within or after some years, as their solutions are redundant and outdated.
A few months ago, I came across a solution being used in an African country, where you will have to use a card, (just like the ATM card), to buy water. I did some research on this solution and asked myself: how long and how far will this solution last before it gets outdated and is seen as a problem? I do not really understand the idea behind its creation, but I am somehow baffled, as to why I have to use a card to fetch water in a public place. Water should, ideally, be running in my house!
Being aware of occasional glitches experienced while recharging our electric meter card in Nigeria, why should I pass through the same problem with recharging my water card, when I know that I can be in dire need of water and unable to recharge my card? Please, do not get me wrong. This technology might be a solution and something that is very much needed now in that African country but I am still struggling to see how sustainable it will be in the future.
We really need to outgrow these types of technology and start thinking of Africa-fit innovative solutions that are better suited for Africa. The tech innovations that will create sustainable energy and increase power output in Africa will be an ideal one to pursue. Why should we import solutions, when we have smart minds here who can find lasting solutions to transportation issues, the building of smart cities, harness Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things while cutting down on corrupt practices, which I think is Africa’s biggest problem?
With the right support and investments, everything mentioned above can be achieved. The foundation for all these is already in place, but we only need to build on them, through critical research and funding. We should outgrow some of these present “golden” innovations and start creating sustainable tech solutions that will create new markets and define the future of Africa’s tech innovations.
I am impressed with some of the present tech solutions and the massive investments being funnelled into the African tech ecosystem. A smart investor will know that Africa is the new frontier that will produce high returns on investment due to the fact that the continent has a young population that is quickly adopting technology and now seeing rising income.
Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, etc., ranked as some of the countries that have enjoyed high investments totalling $1.34bn in 2019. Nigeria enjoyed a large chunk of these investment funds, of about $663.24m, representing about 50 per cent of the total fund raised by start-ups on the African continent in 2019.
Yes, some of the hottest start-ups today are majorly fintechs, but due to the COVID-19, there has been an upsurge in investment funnelled into the education and health tech sectors. I am not particularly interested in the type of solutions that are being created, but my concern is: what will be the impact of the solution and how far will it go in defining the future of technological growth in Africa?
What I think Africa needs to focus on is building appropriate and sustainable technologies and solutions that are Africa-fit and, hopefully, go a long way in defining the continent’s future, particularly in agritech, edtech, fintech and health-tech. We need to start laying the fundamental blocks now, and even if we cannot complete it, the next generation will have templates to build on and this might go on until we arrive at something that we can proudly call our own. All I would say at this point is: don’t stop building!
The article is originally published at PUNCH.