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Smartphone poised for bigger things in Africa

By Derek Du | June 21st 2017 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

There have been arguments and counter-arguments on how industrial revolution missed Africa and how the continent can create its own industrial revolution. As the pontification goes on, a tech revolution is unfolding before our very eyes equivalent of the industrial revolution of our time, with Africa perched at the top.

Globally and by extension in Africa, technology has seen industrial and ever changing human behavior overwhelmingly transformed with the advent of the closely-connected digitized world. Enter the smartphone, enabled by mobile internet and social networks coupled with behaviors of generational cohorts like the Generation X'ers, Y'ers and Z; never has a geographical region been so profoundly affected by a device than in Africa.


In a short decade, what was once an unnecessary extravagance became a basic essential, rapidly transforming requisite sectors of the economy like financial services, health, education and agriculture while permeating no-go fortes' like politics and governance. So huge is the disruption, that McKinsey Global Institute, a management consultant firm in its 2010 Lions Go Digital report on the internet's transformative potential in Africa, estimated that mobile-led innovations gains in Africa will inject some $300 billion into the economy by 2025.

Retrospectively speaking, the sprout of mobile financial service revolution in Africa has obviously been over told - but the fact that Kenya's leading mobile phone services provider is now used to pay bills and airtime, buy goods and make payments to individuals, diaspora remittances to the tune of Sh.9 billion a day is no mean feat. In Education, mobile technology has enabled reading support, peer-to-peer learning as well as tutorials. South Africa's MixIt, a 50 million subscriber strong mobile platform is good case study in connecting young learners to 'live' mathematics tutorial with maths tutors.

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In African Agriculture, technology has been considered the missing link with most smallholders' farmers' one step away from crossing the Rubicon. Kenyan platforms like M-Farm and iCow have continued to make revolutionary mobile-first strides impacting farmer's fortunes. But the present challenge is in creating the next-wave of smartphone devices for a youthful majority of Africans who comprise majority of the continent's population.

Justly, when it comes to smartphones, voice and app controls aren't enough anymore, generations are becoming smarter and smartphones should become smarter too. Importantly, the next era of smartphones, aptly dubbed 'intelligent smartphones' should intelligently integrate human perceptions and automated technology that meets people's needs.

While still at a nascent stage, smartphone makers are on a race to build the best mobile technologies in their devices and capture the next market. Huawei, the world's third smartphone maker has continued to cement its credentials to be the world's leading intelligent smartphone maker by 2021 by investing heavily on Research and Development (R&D).

In the immediate future, Huawei intelligent phones will deploy device, connection, cloud and chipset capabilities to correspond to human, body, language, wisdom and heart functions enabling transition to new opportunities. On the device side, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Augmented reality, Computer Vision, Mass Sensors and other technologies are already being installed. On the Cloud, Big Data and Machine Deep Learning, Huawei aims to help achieve user-centric decision-making while the differentiated Kirin chip technology helps accelerate deep learning algorithm and technology to support diverse computing while protecting user's data.


The king of the mountain is actually Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning Technologies that is poised to not only take over deep computing but also solve most of the world's biggest problems underpinning global economies – African economies are not exempt.

Huawei has already crossed that Holy Grail. Huawei's Mate 9 is the first smartphone with a pre-installed cloud-based intelligent personal assistant that can help users perform many daily tasks. The latest flagship phone, the Huawei P10 has artificial intelligence applications that can perceive and predict user behavior. The elephant in the room is whether these technologies can be used ethically and how revolutionary intelligent smartphones will contribute to ground-breaking solutions.

In Africa, a country like Kenya, which overflows with tech talent, has the ability to leverage on these mobile technologies to power a positive future and better develop the country from within, in healthcare, education, climate change, e-commerce and so forth. It shouldn't come as a surprise for an intelligent smartphone, or a device that can be attached to an intelligent smartphone device to provide instant solutions to big problems of our time.
It is this type of technology that drive Africa's next phase of revolution. Nimble smartphone makers will be at the heart of this phase.


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