Youth and Technology, The Future of Africa?

19 Nov

The big question – will investment in African tech enhance the future of development?

As a continent (and its local investors), it makes sense to invest in youth-led tech innovations, especially when you consider that the majority of Africa’s workforce (as much as 80%) is between the ages of just 15 and 24 years?

To many, it makes perfect sense, but to others, there’s the question of whether or not investing in African tech will actually make a difference to the future of development across the continent.

The Tech Scene in Africa | Inspiring Techies in Africa

It is an undeniable fact that socio-economic challenges are what drive innovative tech advancements in Africa at the moment. While the tech development sector is exploding across the continent, one must note that the biggest advancements are being seen in mobile phone tech.

The stories of Africa’s latest top innovators are doing the rounds in both local and international settings. Take Jade Abbot, a product of South Africa, who is said to be at the forefront of AI (artificial intelligence) in Africa. Jade is a budding senior software engineer and machine learning engineer, as well as a data scientist. It’s clear she has a lot on her plate! Jade spends a lot of her time encouraging women to get involved in the sector and as a result of her success in the industry, she has her sights set on opening offices in Mauritius and London in the near future. Currently, she provides employment to over 160 people and has offices in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Stellenbosch.

Another is a story of a small group of people with far fewer opportunities than Jade Abbot and that is the “Kombolcha Trio”. This trio consists of 3 seventeen-year-olds living in Kombolcha, Ethiopia. Their names are Anwar Wudu, Fikir Legesse, and Nur Jemal.  The trio came up with not one, but 30 tech innovations, which they proudly presented to a United Nations Youth Forum held in Ethiopia recently.

What sets the Kombolcha Trio apart from other tech innovators is the fact that they have truly created something from nothing. None of them owned a smartphone or computer or had any money to speak of, yet they were able to create robots, censors, FM transmitters, solar water pumps, mobile apps, and even a helmet with a fan (to name just a few of their inventions).

They spent a lot of time in internet cafes after school and did a lot of research. It’s the type of tech that has been created out of a sheer drive to advance and succeed. It’s tech that’s derived from passion and commitment, and that’s the type of tech that most people want to invest their hard-earned cash in.

Will Investing in Latest African Tech Make a Difference?

It’s no secret that Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of tech accessibility. It’s astounding to think that a continent with so much promise, and entering a 4th industrial revolution, is still lagging behind. And that’s where investment comes in. Investing in African tech will make a difference to the future of development across the continent. At the moment, money is at the heart of the problems faced by the tech industry in all African countries. Investors are needed in both hard and soft infrastructure.

With Africa’s internet penetration at a very low 25% (thanks to lack of services, no access to electricity, and money shortages), it’s no surprise that the country is lagging. After all the rest of the world enjoys 87% internet penetration which is what makes it possible for tech fields and various countries to thrive, prosper, and develop at the rapid pace they do.

Africa needs to look towards the private sector and philanthropists for investment in African tech so that the continent can “get on the map” so to speak. Investment needs to be strategic and that means investing more in tech-hubs focused on creating tech innovations, as well as tech start-ups that are championed by the youth of the continent.

Will investing in African tech make a difference to future development? It most certainly will. The real question is: will you be part of investing in the continent’s latest tech developments?

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