Back in 2007, Sub-Saharan African countries spent just 0.3% of their GDP on science and technology. Just over ten years ago, it was estimated that only 2% of the world’s internet subscribers were African. Access to the internet and modern technology certainly wasn’t high up on the priority list for a continent focused on their biggest industries; agriculture, energy and mining.
However, something has happened in the last decade. Something people are calling the African tech revolution. Nowadays, it is far more common to see African towns with high-speed internet access and citizens clutching mobile phones (even if they are expensive). However, why has it taken so long for the African tech revolution to really get going? And what can we expect for the future of African innovation?
Kenya Vision 2030
Back in June 2008, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya launched his plan to turn the country into a “newly industrializing, middle-income country.” Kenya Vision 2030, to be implemented in successive five-year plans, has a focus on development in ten key sectors – two of which centre on technology.
Science, Technology and Innovation, along with ICT (Information Communication & Technology), are two big parts of the Kenya Vision 2030 plan that have already started to see rapid development. Increased investment in the tech industry has seen dozens of tech hubs open up in Kenya alone, with an estimated 314 active technology hubs across Africa as of 2016.
Zuckerberg’s helping hand
Over the last decade, the development and funding within the tech industry has rapidly increased. This has led to an influx of technology coming into the country; from high-speed internet and computers through to mobile phones. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has played a large part in providing internet to the masses in Africa. Back in 2016, he launched his Free Basics initiative in an effort to provide free mobile data to 42 countries – over half of which were in Africa.
This has helped many countries within the continent get connected, and it seems as though they’re keen to repay the favour to Zuckerberg. Around 83% of Ghanaians surveyed said that Facebook was their social network of choice – and that’s just one country! The whole of Africa is seeing a similar trend, as more and more people gain access to mobile internet and social networking.
The African Millennials
As technology is becoming more widely available in Africa, it has spawned a new era of tech entrepreneurs in the continent. The global media have started picking up on some of the success stories to come out of the African tech revolution, as more and more young people turn to coding and innovation. Peter Kariuki, from the small farming village of Engineer in Kenya, is a prime example of one of these innovators. While attending the prestigious Maseno School, Kariuki was given the keys to the computer lab, where he could follow his passion for learning all there was to learn about computers and coding.
In 2010, the young innovator started working in Kigali in Rwanda; a city known for their often reckless motorcycle taxi drivers. Along with his roommate, a Canadian named Barrett Nash, the pair came up with the idea for SafeMotos – a motorcycle taxi service, like Uber, that would be affordable and safe. Fast forward to 2018, with funding and mentorship from an American venture capitalist, SafeMotos is now on the road to success.
However, Peter Kariuki isn’t the only entrepreneur to have used the African tech revolution to his advantage in the last few years. It seems as though nearly every week, there are new stories about African men and women, creating the ‘next big thing.’
So, what’s next for Africa and our tech revolution? It seems as though the only way is up. As more money is invested in science, technology and ICT developments, we are likely to see plenty of innovations coming out of tech hubs across the country. It may have taken us a little while to get the ball rolling, but now that it has started, there will be no stopping the African tech revolutionaries. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts below.