Africa's new relationship to innovation

I enjoyed this recent piece in the Economist that looks at technology in Africa.

Technology deployment and innovation in Africa was for a long time based on "hand me downs" from the Western developed world, but the paradigm for innovation across the continent is evolving. Today a host of technologies are being deployed, tested, and developed in Africa -- even before they are implemented elsewhere.

Examples of this include mobile payments, solutions for broader and more efficient wifi, and drone-based air cargo services. These initiatives are based on serving African requirements -- such as supplying food or medicine to remote communities or refugee populations -- but they have broader potential.

What is responsible for this changing relationship to innovation and technology? The authors point to a "peculiar confluence of economic and political circumstances." Lighter regulation and weak governance means that engineers can try things on the continent that are either prohibited or prohibitively bureaucratic elsewhere. The shortfall of traditional infrastructure such as roads or landlines means that new technologies or business models have a more open playing field.

Business investment is also growing, and the article ends with the hopeful prospect that Africa will become the source of new solutions for the challenges it's facing.

Image source: The Economist

-- Clara Shen


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