Unleashing Africa’s economic growth potential requires inclusive technology and innovation solutions that empower everyone, regardless of economic status or literacy level.
- The current digital revolution is transforming economies and spurring innovation in many areas of the economy.
- Communication is crucial to the economic growth process.
- As a multiplier of heightened economic growth, a rising digital ecosystem is especially important.
The history of technology and innovation in Africa
Africa’s technology story started in 1921 when South Africa received its first tabulating technology from the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, later known as IBM. Following that, numerous units were distributed around the nation, and by 1959, IBM had established the country’s first proper data processing system in Johannesburg. A couple of decades later, in 1980, the Africa Centre d’Informatique du Rwanda received Africa’s first computer. This development cleared the path for widespread internet adoption.
There is not much regarding Africa’s involvement in the internet and digital innovation’s history books. In 2019, 34.7% of individuals in sub-Saharan Africa were illiterate, yet the region has seen a variety of innovations owing to its cultural diversity. Appreciative inquiry is a powerful tool for creating innovative solutions by refocusing human attention on the positive aspects of a problem.
The wave of the digital revolution
The current digital revolution is transforming economies and spurring innovation in many areas of the economy. Africa and its leaders confront a dual challenge: meeting SDG objectives while adjusting to climate change. Innovative approaches and inclusive financing methods will be required to digitally transform all aspects of the continent’s economy, from education to healthcare and agriculture to telecommunications.
For Africa to reach its full potential, it must equip its people with the required digital skills. Africans need access to digital tools and technology while functioning within a regulatory environment that safeguards everyone’s safety and interests.
Africa’s mobile service subscriber statistics are now soaring. Sub-Saharan Africa is anticipated to have 615 million mobile service subscribers by 2025. This subscription represents tremendous potential and demonstrates Africa’s innovative capabilities. Technology and innovation access must link to socioeconomic well-being. Healthcare, education, and commerce innovations must target the pain points of society’s most vulnerable members.
Raising literacy levels through language digitisation.
Communication is crucial to the economic growth process. In Africa, around 2000 languages are spoken. Interactions between and within communities influence the continent’s economic, social, and cultural well-being.
Governments must invest in indigenous languages to increase literacy rates and digital literacy. Promoting the growth of various languages, primarily via digital media, may help different individuals gain critical comprehension and enhance their communication talents.
Technology should also be used to help people master information. In many African nations, there is little to no information accessible on real-time search patterns. The lack of data on search engines for such information does not imply that it does not exist; rather, the algorithm that extracts this information should include African nations.
Research and development investments
African countries should prioritise research and development (R&D) funding, emphasising developing and commercialising scientific knowledge. At the ninth regular session of the African Union Assembly in 2006, member nations promised to donate 1% of their GDP to R&D. Only four African countries now have this sum in their yearly budgets.
Higher education institutions may fundraise using non-traditional methods such as micro-contributions, levies, public-private partnerships, and market-based financial transactions to bridge the R&D budget gap. Endowments at universities will enable higher education institutions to achieve better research results via novel finance arrangements.
Cultivating the culture of technology and innovation
In Africa, the culture of innovation has become ingrained. One can see how Africa values and scales innovation from professional learning communities in agriculture (farming cooperatives) to neighbourhood organisations.
However, the African innovation history fails to record many of these triumphs. Indigenous knowledge transmits innovations from one generation to the next. Several communities, for example, are continuing to adapt to the consequences of climate change using localised, extremely effective mitigation methods.
Meanwhile, research has revealed that about 90% of R&D initiatives at major corporations and enterprises fail. This failure is primarily due to a lack of time and human resources. The most valuable export in Africa and among its people should be the development of a common culture of creativity. Democratising and propagating an innovation culture will generate a drive to create solutions to community-specific challenges. The changes will also empower people to change their communities for the better.
Inclusive economic growth through technology and innovation
Unleashing Africa’s economic growth potential requires inclusive solutions that empower everyone, regardless of economic status or literacy level. Africans must rely on their creative abilities to tackle difficulties and assume responsibility for future problem resolution.
Africa is more than merely a recipient of foreign technologies. We have a plethora of homegrown options. To see these thrive, we must invest in research and development, empower our employees, and scale our discoveries and breakthroughs.
The world largely considers Africa as the next great growth market, a designation that has persisted for years. There are several reasons to be optimistic: the African continent has some of the world’s youngest populations, promises to be a key consuming market over the next three decades, and is becoming more mobile phone-enabled. Because access to smartphones and other devices improves consumer information, networking, job-creating resources, and even financial inclusion, a rising digital ecosystem is especially important as a multiplier of heightened economic growth.