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April 29, 2020

Tapping into tech to unleash Africa’s potential

When it comes to the possibilities that new technology presents, the limit is only our imaginations. While Snapchat filters provide a fun way of playing with such possibilities, the power of technology becomes fully realised when it is turned towards providing solutions to global challenges.

Across the continent there are myriad social and developmental challenges that we can apply the power of technology to. Fortunately, there are also ingenious tech start-ups that are working with the public sector to develop such solutions for our societies. 

Revolutions in Agritech

What would Uber for small scale farmers look like? Essentially, it would be a tractor-hailing project that would allow small farmers to hire and use plant that they otherwise might not be able to afford, while providing data on farming habits to allow such small-scale farmers to secure bank loans in future. 

This exciting initiative is being pioneered by John Deere, the world’s largest tractor company, in partnership with tech start-up, Hello Tractor in countries like Ghana and Kenya.

This clever start-up solution provides much-needed automation to the least mechanised regions in the world, but it also holds the potential to increase small-scale production. This, according to a recent report by McKinsey, could be one of the biggest growth drivers in agricultural output on the continent. 

Bringing health to the people

Another area that lacks critical infrastructure is that of the healthcare sector. But combining existing technology, such as mobile phones and drones, means that essential supplies can reach even the most remote regions on the continent. 

Silicon Valley start-up, Zipline, is doing precisely that, in partnership with the Rwandan government. Now, using drones and the messaging platform WhatsApp, healthcare professionals working in mountainous regions can order medical products and blood, which can be delivered within an hour, as opposed to three hours. 

Locally, Boxfusion’s Mpilo Healthcare app, which was rolled out in late 2019, is bringing healthcare services closer to the Gauteng public. It provides a platform that allows users to find their nearest clinic or hospital, report abuses or corruption and receive news and alerts, with more features to come in the near future.

Initiatives fostering change

The power of such inventiveness lies in providing support for local start-ups, combined with impactful partnerships with the private and public sectors. There are more than enough challenges present on the continent, but if we can leverage technology to overcome these, we can witness Africa becoming a digital-first continent ahead of its time and ahead of the rest of the world.