Unleashing Africa’s economic growth potential requires inclusive technological innovation solutions that empower everyone, regardless of economic status or educational level.
- The current digital revolution is changing economies and spurring innovation in many areas of the economy.
- Communication is crucial to the economic growth process.
- A growing digital ecosystem is particularly important as a multiplier of increased economic growth.
Technological history of Africa
Africa’s history of technology began in 1921 when South Africa received its first tabulating technology from the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, later known as IBM. Thereafter, numerous units were distributed across the country, and by 1959 IBM had set up the country’s first proper data processing system in Johannesburg. A few decades later, in 1980, the Africa Center d’Informatique du Rwanda received Africa’s first computer. This development paved the way for widespread adoption of the Internet.
There is not much in the history books of the internet and digital innovation about Africa’s engagement. 2019, 34.7% of people in sub-Saharan Africa were illiterate, Nevertheless, the region has seen a multitude of innovations due to its cultural diversity. Appreciative inquiry is a powerful tool to create innovative solutions by redirecting human attention to the positive aspects of a problem.
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The wave of the digital revolution
The current digital revolution is changing economies and spurring innovation in many areas of the economy. Africa and its leaders face a dual challenge: meeting the SDG goals while adapting 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, agriculture and telecommunications.
For Africa to reach its full potential, it must empower its population with the necessary digital skills. Africans need access to digital tools and technology while working in a regulatory environment that protects everyone’s safety and interests.
Subscriber statistics for mobile phone services in Africa are now skyrocketing. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have 615 million mobile subscribers by 2025. This subscription represents tremendous potential and demonstrates Africa’s innovative capabilities. Access to technological innovation must be linked to socio-economic well-being. Innovations in healthcare, education and commerce must target the pain points of society’s most vulnerable members.
Raising the level of literacy through language digitization.
Communication is crucial to the economic growth process. About 2000 languages are spoken in Africa. Interactions between and within communities affect the economic, social and cultural well-being of the continent.
Governments need to invest in indigenous languages to increase literacy rates and digital literacy. Fostering the growth of different languages, mainly through digital media, can help different individuals gain critical understanding and improve their communication skills.
Technology should also be used to help people master information. Little or no information on real-time search patterns is available in many African countries. The lack of data in search engines for such information does not mean that it does not exist; rather, the algorithm that extracts this information should include African nations.
Investments in research and development
African countries should prioritize research and development (R&D) funding, emphasizing the development and commercialization of scientific knowledge. At the ninth regular session of the African Union Assembly in 2006, member states pledged to donate 1% of their GDP to research and development. Only four African countries now have this amount in their annual budgets.
Higher education institutions can raise funds using non-traditional methods such as micro-contributions, levies, public-private partnerships and market-based financial transactions to fill the R&D budget gap. Endowments at universities will enable universities to achieve better research results through novel funding arrangements.
Cultivating the culture of technological innovation
A culture of innovation has established itself in Africa. One can see how Africa values and scales innovation from professional farming learning communities (farmer cooperatives) to neighborhood organizations.
However, many of these victories are missing from the African history of innovation. Indigenous knowledge transmits innovation from one generation to the next. For example, several communities continue to adapt to the impacts of climate change by adopting localized, highly effective mitigation methods.
Studies have now shown that around 90% of the R&D initiatives of large corporations and companies fail. This failure is primarily due to a lack of time and manpower. The most valuable export of Africa and its people should be the development of a common culture of creativity. The democratization and spread of a culture of innovation will create a drive to create solutions to community-specific challenges. The changes will also empower people to transform their communities for the better.
Inclusive economic growth
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 face difficulties and take responsibility for future problem-solving.
Africa is more than just a buyer of foreign technology. We have a plethora of homemade options. For these to thrive, we must invest in research and development, strengthen our people, and scale our discoveries and breakthroughs.
The world largely views Africa as the next big growth market, a designation that has stuck for years. There are several reasons to be optimistic: the African continent has some of the youngest populations in the world, promises to be a major consumer market over the next three decades, and is becoming increasingly mobile-enabled. As access to smartphones and other devices improves consumer information, connectivity, job-creating resources, and even financial inclusion, a burgeoning digital ecosystem is especially important as a multiplier for increased economic growth.
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