There are several predictions as to tech trends that will take the world by storm this 2018, from Augmented Reality to Blockchain Technology and even 5G Networks just to name a few. However there are a few trends that will be seen to dominate the African continent as we try to ‘catch up’ with the rest of the world.
Digitising Land Registry
Documentation is often lacking in parts of Africa, leading to land disputes because it isn’t clear who owns the land. Even when there are records, sometimes they have been tampered with. A record that cannot be deleted, using something called blockchain, could be used to prevent these disputes. Blockchain is a method of recording data – a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, contracts – anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified. What makes a big difference is that this ledger isn’t stored in one place, it’s distributed across several, hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world. Everyone in the network can have access to an up-to-date version of the ledger. So it can be an open, transparent auditable and verifiable record of any transaction.
Cybersecurity company WISeKey is using blockchain technology for the land registry in Rwanda. Last year, WISeKey announced a partnership with Microsoft to support the Rwandan government in adopting blockchain technology. The first step in adopting blockchain in Rwanda is digitising the Rwanda Land Registry. The company is opening a blockchain Centre of Excellence in Rwanda, which could go as far as developing a Rwandan cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin.
Outsourcing IT work to Africa
The world has a scarcity of software developers. Meanwhile, Africa has a growing young population. Training software developers in Africa who US and European firms can hire taps into that human capital. Andela is a startup company that trains developers in Nigeria and hires them out to global tech companies. Andela’s original idea was to teach people a practical skill and then use the money they make to pay for their education. October last year, Andela raised $40m in funding, and $24m from Mark Zuckerberg in 2016. Andela is rumored to be expanding to other African countries including Egypt in 2018.
Making it easier to pay for things
Many people across Africa don’t have bank accounts. Mobile money – sending money via your phone – has already proved a very successful alternative to cash. Africa has become the global leader in mobile money with more than 100 million people having mobile money accounts in 2016, according to McKinsey research. Mobile financial services now include credit, insurance, and cross-border remittances. The problem is that there are too many different systems which do not always work with each other. This means lots of people in Africa can’t pay for products online.
Flutterwave is one of the new innovations coming through. It makes it easier for banks and businesses to process payments across Africa. It lets customers pay in their local currencies and allows people to send money from the US to a mobile money wallet, charging sellers a small service fee, which it shares with banks. In the first quarter of 2017 Flutterwave processed $444m in transactions across Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, it told BBC. From the start the company has processed more than $1.2bn in payments across 10 million transactions. The company has received $10m of funding from the US this year. The new funding will be used “to hire more talent, build out our global operations and fuel rapid expansion of our organization across Africa,” Flutterwave says. With that, it hopes that more people in Africa can buy things they are not currently able to pay for, like on online retailer Amazon. As the firm’s boss Iyinoluwa Aboyeji puts it: “If we are successful, we might just inspire a new generation of Africans to flip the question from: ‘What more can the world do for Africa?’ to ‘What more can Africa do for the world?'”.
Getting things delivered by drone
There is a global race for commercial drone deliveries of small packages, which have been restricted in the US and Europe because of aviation rules. In comparison, some parts of Africa, such as Rwanda, are welcoming drones. The combination of rural roads and vast amounts of land which is not on a flight path make parts of Africa perfect for developing delivery drones.
The logistics company Zipline runs drones which can deliver small packages like blood, vaccines and anti-venom. The world’s first drone port opened in Rwanda in October 2016 and Zipline announced it was going to expand to Tanzania. Zipline’s Tanzania operation is expected to begin in Dodoma, in early 2018, according to Forbes. It will have four distribution centres across Tanzania, offering a range of medical supplies. Forbes says this will be the largest drone delivery system in the world.
Turning the lights on when you’re off-grid
National grids are struggling to provide for the people who have access to them, let alone extend to the people in hard-to-reach areas. Renewable energy presents an opportunity for people to create energy nearer home. Peg Africa is one of the companies that sells solar panels to people who are not on the national electricity grid. Solar panels are just too expensive for lots of people so they pay it back in installments through small payments on mobile money when they want electricity. In 2017, PEG Africa raised $13.5m according to Techmoran and would be expanding in Ghana and Ivory Coast in 2018.