Africa 2030: How to leverage emerging technologies for impact

New Intellecap Research looks at emerging technologies as the catalyst for exponential change in Africa

Globally, emerging technologies are disrupting industries and the way we think about problem solving. Technologies like internet of things (IoT), robotics, sensor technology, 3D printing, block chain and artificial technologies have the potential to act as impact amplifiers and challenging traditional approaches of going about ‘age old problems’ in sectors such as agriculture, financial services, healthcare, education, water, and energy. The success of Mpesa and other innovations the mobile-enabled payment platform has triggered has demonstrated how the continent can leapfrog development and embark on a journey towards a new kind of economic transformation powered by entrepreneurship and innovation.

Intellecap’s latest research Imagine Africa 2030: Technologies that will shape Africa’s Tomorrow explores how emerging technologies can act as impact amplifiers and help to address Africa’s mega challenges over the next decade. We share vision of how these technologies can trigger a set of big shifts to help the continent leapfrog once again. We identify key innovation white spaces and a set of opportunities for key stakeholders to help nurture a vibrant and high impact technology innovation ecosystem. Our micro-site provides a range of related material on the potential of emerging technologies and will serve as a knowledge hub on emerging technologies for impact as well as a depository of use cases.

Below is a sneak peek into highlights of our research and our vision

Africa has registered impressive economic growth over the past decade and a half, displaying remarkable resilience in the midst of global volatility and turmoil. Time is now ripe for the continent to turn the chapter and embark on a journey towards a major economic transformation. For this, Africa needs a new economic growth model powered by the strength of the real economy, entrepreneurship and innovation. Emerging technologies can play a critical role in helping Africa address its age-old development challenges and achieve exponential growth over the next decade. How? By amplifying impact creation and triggering a set of big shifts to help Africa leapfrog. However, though early evidence of these shifts is already visible, significant whitespaces currently exist and they present certain opportunities for key stakeholders to help nurture an enabling technology innovation ecosystem.

Africa contends with age-old development challenges which need a fresh look

While achieving food and nutrition security is widely recognized as arguably the greatest development challenge for Africa, securing water security and low carbon energy security are other mega challenges that are intertwined with the food security crisis. In addition, Africa needs to build holistic healthcare ecosystems, create a future ready workforce and financially include majority of its population.

Promising technologies that can help Africa address its challenges and create exponential change

We have identified a set of emerging technologies which harbor the potential to create exponential impact in the African context. These are Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Robotics and 3D Printing. These technologies are already seeing initial applications in Africa and our analysis shows that together, they can enable a shift from centralized systems to decentralized solutions that enable a peer-to-peer collaborative environment and enhance system efficiencies.

Emerging technologies amplify impact creation through five major levers

We have developed and applied a framework for analyzing the potential of emerging technologies to amplify impact creation in the African context. Emerging technologies can amplify impact through five major levers viz., speed, deep insights, customization, democratization and system change. Their high impact potential is characterized by their abilities to deliver real time data at speed and provide deep insights for decision making. This allows for customization of solutions. The growing importance of the individual spurs innovations for democratizing access to products and services. Through a combination of forces, emerging technologies can disrupt whole industries and solution systems. Each lever, valuable in its own right, sets the stage for the next level.

We feature a set of emerging technology innovations that can find application and be scaled in Africa over the next decade

Many of the existing as well as potential emerging technology use cases that are unfolding indifferent parts of the world can be applied in Africa to help the continent leapfrog. In our research we highlight 30 such example use cases across the five levels of impact amplification which can prove highly relevant in the African context. These use cases give us preview of what is possible today – and what will shape our problem solving towards an Africa in 2030.

While some innovations are ‘low hanging fruits’, others call for a long-term perspective

Mapping these innovations against a set of deployment dependencies including policy and regulatory environment, need for infrastructure, required financial and human capital, degree of required behavioral change helped us construct an indicative timeline for their arrival. The timeline shows that while some of these innovations are ‘low hanging fruits, others will require a long-term perspective for successful deployment and scale-up in Africa.

Emerging technologies can trigger a set of big shifts to help Africa leapfrog

Africa’s developmental challenges are intimidating but emerging technologies can trigger big shifts to help the continent leapfrog and combat those challenges. Our analysis of emerging technology-led innovations helped us discern trends that point towards what these big shifts might look like for Africa.  The research explains the following five big shifts:

  • From digital divide to digital bridge
  • From a wasteful to a circular economy
  • Beyond collaboration – rise of the P2P economy
  • Power to the individual: the data revolution and personalization of everything
  • Disrupting citizen relationship with the government

We are encouraged to find that the seeds for these shifts have already been sown. Change has already begun and Africa needs to gear up and make the most of it.

Africa’s innovation journey has begun but significant whitespaces and opportunities remain

Through a mapping of 100 technology use cases in Africa against the development challenges and the impact amplification framework, our research identifies certain key innovation whitespaces and a set of opportunities for key stakeholders to help create and nurture a high impact technology innovation ecosystem and in the process, become a part of Africa’s journey towards economic transformation.

You can read the report at http://www.intellecap.com/imagine-the-future/africa and dowload the executive summary here : http://www.intellecap.com/imagine-the-future/africa/pdfs/Visual_Executive_Summary.pdf 

Hope you enjoy reading the report. Do let us know your feedback, queries and suggestions by emailing us at africa2030@intellecap.net

The report has been developed with financial support from Argidius Foundation, Shell Foundation and the USAID PACE Program.

Article was written by Stefanie Bauer and Somatish Banerji

Stefanie Bauer
Stefanie Bauer
Africa Lead at Intellecap, previously GIZ Sustainable Economic Development & SME Development in India. Interested in social entrepreneurship and social innovation. Passionate about organizational development, human centric design &...

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