Can Africa Rewrite Her Story Through Emerging Technologies?

Africa’s diverse continent faces numerous economic challenges, including high debt burdens, international sanctions, and infrastructural deficiencies. However, the rise of  emerging technology ,offers Africa new hope, with the potential to truly revolutionise some sectors and make way for economic growth. This article, will look into whether technology can liberate Africa’s economy and stimulate growth, even with limited technological infrastructure, providing a somewhat balanced perspective grounded in recent insights.

With emerging technologies daily transforming societies , Africa finds herself at a crossroad faced with the opportunity to rewrite her story and break free from the shackles that have held her back for so long, or succumb to a fate already deemed doomed by many watching from terraces. The continent, rich in resources and potential, has long been plagued by issues of poverty, corruption, and underdevelopment and I often wonder why?. However, the sun maybe about to rise on the continent ,with the rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and renewable energy, there is hope that Africa can finally unveil her full potential and redesign a new path to  her prosperity.

Nelson Mandela foresightedly said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In recent times, access to quality education has become more critical than ever for Africa to thrive , my  very reason for advocating for women in Africa to be afforded access to edtech. With the help of emerging technologies, we now see how online learning platforms and digital resources have enabled access to millions of people across the continent, providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to drive economic growth and innovation. Africa whilst under resourced, is hungry for this new batch of untapped knowledge.

African leaders and policymakers must embrace the power of technology to drive positive change and transformation in their societies. By intentionally driving investment in the tech sector through innovation hubs, supporting tech startups, and creating viable regulatory environments, Africa can harness the power of emerging technologies to leapfrog traditional development pathways, she has the advantage of a clean canvas from which to onboard from. Echoing the inspirational words of Barack Obama “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Despite the many obstacles and challenges, Africa has already shown signs of progress and resilience in adopting emerging technologies to address pressing issues. For example, countries like Rwanda have successfully implemented drone technology to deliver medical supplies to remote areas, improving access to healthcare for underserved populations which l find fascinating and gives me hope that Africa is trying her best to embrace technology in as pragmatic a manner as possible. As for the fintech industry, it’s literally booming across the continent, with mobile money services like Senditoo and Mukuru in Zimbabwe, MPesa in Kenya shifting the dial on financial inclusion for millions of people in these countries.

It’s worth noting that we ought to acknowledge that the road to technological transformation in Africa is not without its bother as the Scots would say. Infrastructure gaps, digital divide, and cybersecurity threats are a real challenge to the widespread adoption of emerging technologies. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did say, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Africa must challenge stereotypes and myths about her capabilities and potential to lead in the tech revolution, because with her human capital advantage, she can.

A quick glance at some statistics:

– Rwanda’s use of drone technology in healthcare has reduced delivery times for critical medical supplies from hours to minutes, saving lives in remote areas. (Source: Rwanda Biomedical Center)

– MPesa, the mobile money service in Kenya, has transformed financial inclusion in the country, introducing banking to the previously unbanked. With over 21 million active users and transactions amounting to over 7 trillion Kenyan Shillings annually. (Source: Central Bank of Kenya)

-Digital wallets enable inclusive African financial future ,in an article, Boston Consulting group and QED’s  reported and projected Africa to be the world’s fastest growing continent when it comes to fintech with a growth of 32% per year and estimated to reach $65 Billion by 2030 (Source: ITweb 23 Jan 2024)

– Senditoo mobile topups in 150 countries with instant money transfers

Sadly, despite these success  and glossy stats, Africa still faces challenges in fully harnessing the potential of emerging technologies. According to a report by the World Bank, the digital divide remains a significant barrier. As of Dec 2021, only around 4 in 10 of the African population had access to the internet. Cybersecurity threats are on the rise too, with cybercrime costing African economies billions of dollars annually, how quickly can Africa upskill to close the gap?.

To overcome these challenges and unlock the full potential of emerging technologies, African governments must prioritise investments in digital infrastructure, cybersecurity measures, and digital literacy programs. Collaboration between the public and private sectors is crucial to create an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive as many first world countries have been doing successfully. Why not copy and paste if it works?

In the words of Kenyan social entrepreneur and founder of Ushahidi, Juliana Rotich, “Africans are not passive consumers of technology, we are creators of technology.” Africa must seize the opportunity to lead in the development and adoption of technologies that address the continent’s unique challenges and opportunities, only Africans have the real solutions to their daily challenges. From renewable energy solutions to agritech innovations, there is huge potential for African entrepreneurs and innovators to drive sustainable development and economic growth.

Africa stands at a unique moment in time, where the choices made today will shape the continent’s future for generations to come. While the challenges are undeniably daunting, the potential for transformation through emerging technologies l feel is vast. Quoting Nigerian author Chinua Achebe , “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” It is time for Africa to rewrite her story, reclaim her narrative, and break free from her shackles through the power of technology,  and most importantly, change of mindsets.

By embracing the ubuntu spirit of unity, resilience, and creativity that defines her people, Africa can chart a new course towards a brighter and more prosperous future. Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons said, “Africa’s story has been written by others; we need to write our own story now.” The time for Africa to rewrite her story through emerging technologies couldn’t be more perfect, and the possibilities are limitless.

The fate of Africa is not predetermined, and the continent has the power to rewrite her story through the transformative potential of emerging technologies. By tapping into the communal willpower of her people, embracing innovation like her life depended on it, and leveraging her rich  and vibrant cultural heritage, Africa can break free from her shackles and years of limiting beliefs and emerge as a global leader in the digital age. Ghanaian Nana Akufo-Addo stated, “We must move beyond aid to trade. We must move beyond promises to action.” Is it time for Africa to seize the moment and shape her own destiny through the power of technology and maybe one day she too can reread her story and inspire other continents  or is her fate already doomed?

Dr Alison Chiwara FRSA is a Director of Partnerships at the Sixteenth Council. She lives in Edinburgh Scotland UK

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