Yes, Today is Africa Day! How amazing is that! An entire day dedicated to Africa. We are truly blessed! I am super excited about anything AFRICA!
For those who do not know what Africa day is all about, It is an annual commemoration of Africa’s independence, freedom and liberation strife from colonial imperialists. In simple terms, Africa Day celebrates and acknowledges the AU’s successes in the fight against colonialism. It is about the progress Africa is making inspite of the challenges the continent still faces in a global environment.
Speaking of challenges, oh yeah, we do have truckloads of challenges as a continent. From corruption to bad leadership, poor infrastructure, poverty, hunger, lack of access to electricity, lack of access to the internet…African youths dying in containers and the Mediterranean sea in search of greener pastures. oh boy! We have all kinds of adversities. We don’t set an alarm clock while we sleep our problems will wake us up…Think of any problem and you’d most likely find it here in Africa….but that’s not our story! Or to put it into perspective, that’s not our only story.
And so, you may wonder, why do I still have huge faith in Africa? Why am I so excited about this continent when we have so many problems? I’ll tell you why just in a sec. but first let’s look at history…
About 20 years ago, the Economist Magazine ran a front cover referring to Africa as a Hopeless Continent. At the time many people saw Africa as a forsaken place – ravaged by war, famine, poverty and all sorts of diseases but 10 years later, in 2011 to be exact, the same Magazine ran another cover with the slogan “Africa Rising.”
The narrative has changed. Africa is now being seen as a continent of promise, prosperity and growth. Many that used to look to Africa with pity are now looking to Africa for opportunities.
Yes, indeed Africa is rising and we’re just getting started. Africa is rising and there is no shortage of creative minds willing to dig their hands deep into technology to create disruptive solutions for the continent. This is why I believe in Africa!
“The future of the world is being built in Africa.” These were the words of Mark Zuckerberg on his first ever visit to Africa in 2016. They say, necessity is the mother of innovation and Africa has the purest form of innovation. Our problems are unique and so are our solutions. They are creative people doing things to make the continent better. Tech hubs today are efficient vehicles not only to attract capital and expertise but to lead the very debate around technology and progress on the African continent.
One of the striking things about Africa and the Tech Hub landscape is the local talent, the entrepreneurial energy, the passion and the drive to make a difference. Thanks to technology, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution; startups and entrepreneurs are mushrooming all across the continent and creating what is referred to as the African startup revolution…(this alone is a topic on its own, just not for today)
And so, not all African youths are baptized with the mindset of “searching for greener pastures outside the continent.” Many are going against the grain, refusing to run away. They are taking the road less travelled instead of the well-beaten path. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a unique opportunity for Africa as a continent to be part of the conversation and participate in framing the digital future and the Africa we want.
Covid-19 as devastating as it is, is also levelling the playing fields for Africa and giving us the courage to solve our own problems. Africa is now looking within her own borders for creative solutions to fight this pandemic…and so far, we’re doing pretty great. For Example, Senegal’s $1 Covid-19 test kit that gives results in 10 minutes. Ventilators are being built across the continent rather than running to China. I believe these homegrown innovations will continue even after Covid-19 and our dependence on China and the west will be reduced.
New technologies like blockchain, drones, artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IoT), etc offers a new vision for innovation, development and economic growth on the continent. These new technologies can solve a host of business and societal challenges, from providing better healthcare and basic services to creating more efficient governments and helping businesses become intelligent enterprises that can drive growth and prosperity.
However, there are opposing schools of thoughts regarding the adoption of new technologies on the continent. Some say Africa is not ready for Industry 4.0 while others like me think its our biggest opportunity. I believe the positive future requires that Africa becomes part of the revolution and uses technology to benefit the continent rather than allow technology to use the continent. It is either we disrupt or we’ll get disrupted. There’s no neutral ground! And we cannot succeed in a Vacuum. We cannot compete on the global stage with old tools and old ways of thinking. We need new technologies!
In reality, Covid19 has made this claim of Africa not being ready irrelevant. Because at this point in time, there’s no company that hasn’t in some way embraced the idea of remote work. Some of the most traditional organizations here on the continent embraced digitization in a matter of days.
As the saying goes, Necessity is the mother of innovation and as such Africa is an innovation hub. It is quite clear that Africa is ready to start being a key player in the tech revolution. Despite some political muscles still being wasted on power retention rather than on developmental plans in certain parts of the continent, Africa’s newest generation are breaking barriers to write their names on the sands of time, not only in their respective countries but also on the global timeline.”
Here are some examples of African innovators building incredible solutions that are not just innovative for the country where they are, but have global relevance.
- CardioPad: Africa’s first handheld medical computer tablet that can diagnose people with heart disease. It was invented in Cameroon by a 24-year-old engineer, Arthur Zang. It is expected to facilitate the diagnoses and treatment of patients with heart conditions across the African continent.
- Pelebox Smart Locker: A technology to ensure patients can collect their chronic medication in under 2 minutes instead of waiting hours in queues. Invented in South Africa by Neo Hutiri after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and faced difficulties collecting his medication.
- Majik Water: A water harvesting system that captures water from the air and converts it into drinking water using solar technology. Invented in Kenya by Beth Koigi after going for months without any tap water in eastern Kenya.
There are many more fascinating examples of African innovation in my book, Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted.
The innovators in the examples above could’ve waited on the government to solve these problems. There could have waited on the help from Europe or the West, but they didn’t. They could’ve have organized protest, sing on the streets, and destroy public properties but they didn’t. They decided to do something about the problems in their respective communities. Problems in a way are a gift. Problems are opportunities. An easy life does not create champions. Easy jobs don’t create great employees, easy businesses don’t become unicorns, etc.
And so, in conclusion, As a young African, are you solution-oriented? Are you going to be waiting on government or are you going to go out there and be part of the solution? John F Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” I challenged every African wherever you are in the world to contribute in some way to the good of this beautiful continent.
And to leaders across the Africa continent, I suppose its time to answer whether you’d choose between progress, good governance and investing in young creative minds or the old leadership style of protecting bureaucracy and outdated dogma that doesn’t serve the people?
Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted
Available on Amazon