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Yes, Africa too has a lot to teach the world about technology

THE STANDARD
April 26th 2022
People are Africa’s most valuable asset in terms of technology. [iStock]

What can Africa teach the rest of the world that they don’t already know?

That was the last question posed during a panel discussion hosted by the BBC on their show Global Questions, which I had the privilege of participating in recently, alongside African Development Bank (AfDB) Vice President Solomon Quaynor and Kenyan tech entrepreneur Juliana Rotich.

This thought-provoking question got me thinking, and the responses presented to the panel are worth debating.

According to computer scientist and international development researcher Kentaro Toyama, “technology amplifies human intent and capacity but is not a substitute.” And according to Ms Rotich, as Africans, we care about each other and the effects of technology or whatever we do on each other. As a result, our business models are typically inclusive.

For the African Development Centre (ADC), Microsoft’s engineering laboratory that is building capabilities not only for Africa but also for the rest of the world, our experience over the last three years has shown that African tech innovation is bred by African own challenges.

For example, we were able to scale down the algorithms that we use on Teams after some of our engineers realised that the platform’s bandwidth was too high for what the African continent could sustainably afford.

Some of these African innovations are being incorporated into the development of global products. This is expected to continue as the continent becomes more tech-enabled. The continent is on the right track. Technology and Africa can now be paired without much effort, as statistics show.

In 2008, less than 20 per cent of Kenyans had access to the internet; today, that figure has risen to more than 90 per cent. Furthermore, investment in tech start-ups is skyrocketing, with over $2 billion (Sh228 billion) raised by tech start-ups in 2020 alone. Last year, the continent also attracted the highest amount of venture capital.

People are Africa’s most valuable asset in terms of technology.

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