While Africa isn’t the first place most people think of when they look for new ideas, the continent is most definitely a major player in the world’s future. The reason is obvious. Consider what happens when you give developing countries internet access. What happens when you provide them with infrastructure and education? What happens when businesses around the world invest in the African continent? All these questions are answered the same way: African innovations.
We’re about to witness an explosion of discovery and creativity from the over 1.2 billion people who live on the African continent and have until now been cut off from the rest of the world. Here are the top five big changes happening in Africa right now.
The South African Large Telescope (SALT)
African governments are on the verge of making serious contributions to the scientific community. The South African Large Telescope (or SALT) is one of their greatest endeavors, and is one of the largest telescopes in the world. Although South Africa financed a portion of the project itself, the United States, Germany, Poland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom paid for the remainder. A number of other internationally owned telescopes are present near the same site. SALT itself is expected to give scientists access to stars and galaxies never before seen.
Big Data Robotics
We’re not the only ones using an absurd supply of raw data to help direct us to a better future. Most big cities that suffer from traffic congestion add new transit options in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Parts of Africa take a different approach. For the last few years in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, robot overseers have been analyzing traffic patterns in an attempt to alleviate congestion. The clever bots are powered using solar energy. They take on the role of traffic officers, directing the flow of traffic when necessary.
If you thought Amazon’s plan to launch a drone delivery service was the first of its kind, then guess again. Sure, we’ll be the ones to commercialize the concept, but automated delivery drones in Rwanda and Tanzania already far outpace our capabilities. These countries use drones to send medicine and other needed goods to far outlying regions. To be fair, though, Silicon Valley startup Zipline is what will make the grand opening of four new drone distribution centers possible.
It deserves a second mention: we know the potential that lies in countries with fewer regulatory hurdles for business than our own, and so we will continue to invest in the future, even if that future is somewhere else.
Africa’s growing population requires better food production capabilities in order to sustain itself over the long-term. Global climate change is making it more difficult to keep up with demand, and that creates the need for innovative new practices that could come with the help of digital technologies like cloud computing, greater internet connectivity, and open-sourced data from around the world.
Once upon a time, African farmers relied on traditional agricultural cycles–and even religious practices–to help determine when to plant and harvest crops. Now, entrepreneurs are providing investments for these new technologies that could help farmers use drones to provide real time data about upcoming weather and soil viability to optimize resource usage. Even using slightly less water–something so simple to the rest of us–can be critical in determining the success of an African farm during a drought.
When you don’t have access to a computer, a smartphone might be the better way to connect yourself to the rest of the world. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the high price, but smartphones have continually grown cheaper, and Africans are pouncing on the opportunity to own them. Smartphone maker Tecno–owned by the Hong Kong-based Transsion Holdings–has about a 25 percent share of the smartphone market in all of Africa.
China is introducing new tech to a population hungry for modernization, and while that might start with a simple smartphone, it definitely doesn’t stop there. China is building data companies and broadcast centers that give it a firm foothold in influence, a commodity perhaps more important in business than any other. Companies from around the world haven’t been able to keep pace with the Chinese, and it’s not likely they’ll catch up anytime soon.
What does Africa’s future hold? It’s very likely big and bright, but only time will tell for sure.