Why Africa is Viewed as the New Frontier of Technology

Africa technology

NG_Hub office based in the Yaba, the center of Nigerian thriving tech space is attracting interest from prominent global players who are interested in making good use of the market of youthful and connected Africans. Both Facebook and Google launched initiatives in May 2018. In the week that ended yesterday (15th July 2018), Yemi Osinbajo, Nigerian Vice President visited California to source for US tech investors. The vice president believed that the investors could help in pushing for the fourth industrial revolution in Nigeria.

It is clear that Nigeria is not the only African country that is sourcing for the tech experts. In June 2018, Google announced that it was on the way of opening Africa’s first artificial intelligence lab in Accra, the capital of Ghana. One of the key factors to this initiative is demographics. Africa has an estimated population of 1.2 billion and 60% of them are youths who are below 24 years. The United Nations (UN) estimated that the population would double up to 2.4 billion by 2050.

According to a technology researcher at New York-based GBH Insights Daniel Ives, startups such as Google and Facebook have an excellent opportunity to make good use of the already available opportunities. Ives said that the growth of the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple comes from international players. Facebook is currently carrying out its operations in NG_Hub. This is because it does not have a permanent office in Nigeria. Ebele Okobi, the head of public policy at Facebook Africa, said that the main aim was to develop the best technology community.

According to her, Facebook has promised to offer training to 50,000 individuals across Nigeria. This will help to equip them with the required digital skills that will help them succeed. This will in return help Facebook that already has 26 million users in the country increase its user base across the country.  Facebook will have a broader market to pilot new strategies and products in the country. Okobi added that the social network has already invested in the tech space. Tech giants have received a warm welcome from a lot of Africans. Osimbajo said that Next Billion Users of Google would get a massive backing from the Nigerian government. This is aimed at ensuring that there is greater access to digital both in Nigeria and across the globe.

A handful of African sectors inspire as much hope the way technology does. Technology is in a position to revolutionize each sector from farming to healthcare. A good example is Nigerian based startup Ubenwa described by many as Shazam for babies. The description came from the app that tells music and films from snippets. The startup uses AI to analyze the cry of a baby allowing it to diagnose asphyxia of birth. Asphyxia is the leading cause of death in Africa. This is especially when babies do not get enough supply of nutrient and oxygen before, during or immediately after birth. Many lives can be saved in case the problem is detected earlier enough.

According to a doctoral student studying language technology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Tewodros Abebe, Africans should strive to come up with various solutions. He added that nobody is in a position to understand the existing challenges in Africa unless that the Africans themselves are involved. Abebe buffed out the claims that what Google and Facebook are doing represents cyber-colonialism. He added that partnership is an excellent way of transferring technology to Africa. In case they are only sourcing for business then that will be colonization.

There is a growth in the African technology sector. Increase in the use of mobile phone and the urge by the government to protect the personal data of its citizens is the backbone to the growth of the sector. According to Osinbajo, Nigeria was ready to create the right atmosphere for the development and regulation. But there is no talk about privacy in many countries in Africa compared to Europe that passed stringent new laws for protecting data. Facebook has been a victim of not being able to protect the user data. The most recent scenario is the claims about manipulation in the Brexit referendum and 2016 US presidential election. An anti-poverty group Global Justice fears that tech firms are getting a free ride to create a state of global surveillance.

‘We could find ourselves sleepwalking towards a world in which a handful of tech companies exercise monopoly control over whole swathes of the world economy, further exacerbating inequality between the global north and the global south,’ this is from its May 2018 report with the title Epocalypse Now. According to Renata Avila of the Geneva-based World Wide Web Foundation that agitates for equality in digital, monopoly control by some tech firms is not yet evident but there are a lot of concerns about the same. She said that Africa requires investment. The continent also needs to develop such industries. But there is no adequate oversight exposing people to too much exploitation.


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Written by Denis Opudo

Am an engineer who's a tech blogger, hit me up on [email protected] and we base our discussion on technology in Africa and the rest of the world.
Denis the Tech guru

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