#AfricaDaySpecial Africa Slowly Catching Up In Innovation And Technology

As the African continent celebrates Africa Day,the African technological landscape  has gained  global recognition though the support it has been rendered is truly underwhelming.

The continent is brimming with a rising new innovative generation of intelligent , creative-thinkers and  entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to  invent and develop new technologies that will simplify our daily lives and transform societies, technologies that are pregnant with global appeal and commercial viability.

These men and women  deserve to be saluted for a sterling job especially in this era of technological advancement. From fintech,agriculture,education ,health to the environment, clever inventions are improving the lives of millions of people.

As more businesses are integrated into the digital space it has ushered in a new and efficient way of doing business.There are great innovations that deserve special mention and they shall be mentioned below.

M-Pesa is a mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinancing service which was created for mobile operators Safaricom and Vodacom, in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively. The service was developed following a student software development project from Kenya in 2007.As the use of mobile transacting gains momentum,the use of mobile services for banking,payment of goods,bills and services has taken that root.The innovation behind M-Pesa has transformed many lives in many rural and urban communities across the continent.

In Zimbabwe,the service is behind the launch of EcoCash,TeleCash and OneMoney services which have made transacting more easier.

M-Pesa is the mobile money app that impressed Bill Gates who wrote on microblogging  site Twitter that .

“Kenya’s M-Pesa proves that when people are empowered, they will use digital tech to innovate on their own behalf”.

By its 10th anniversary M-Pesa processed 6 billion transactions for 30 million users worldwide.

Everyday users of mobile phone technology are sometimes blissfully unaware that the Please Call Me service was invented in Africa. The service allows users who have no airtime to send a Please Call Me text message to any number to alert the receiver that they wish to be called back.Although the issue of the inventor is shrouded in obscurity,we must take pride in the fact that it was developed in South Africa.

Another mention is the  iCow which has introduced a  new ways of doing old things.As  Africa experiences rapid population growth annually, the issue of food security continues to be imperative. Kenyan start-up iCow, launched in 2011, is one of the simplest but cleverest tools being used to optimize every aspect of farming. Registered farmers are sent useful data and advice on best practice, and can see measurable improvements to yields within a short period of time.

Due to low smartphone uptake, iCow is designed to communicate via SMS messages making it more efficient to anyone who has a cellphone. iCow is having a demonstrable impact on farming in East Africa, with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 users, 70 to 80% of them in Kenya, with the remainder in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

The need to make sure that the techonology advancement bandwagon is inclusive, Khaled Shady, a 22 year-old Egyptian student and a group of computer engineering students at Menoufia University, Egypt developed Mubser a breakthrough navigational aid tool designed for visually-impaired people . It is a wearable belt with a Bluetooth-connected headset that guides blind people to move and navigate around common obstacles such as walls, chairs and staircases in a safe and easy way. Mubser recognizes these obstacles by leveraging on RGB imaging and infrared depth data captured by a 3D depth camera and quickly notifies the user through an inbuilt audio device and vibration motor.

On the transportation scene, South African serial entrepreneur Neil du Preez developed Mellowcabs which are high-tech electric pedicabs manufactured from recycled materials. These vehicles primarily provide first and last mile public transport in urban areas, thereby filling the gap for commuters who need micro transport within a 3 km radius.  Mellowcabs have the ability to provide more than 100km of transport per day and feature cutting edge technologies like regenerative braking.

Healthcare has improved drastically with the emergence of new cutting edge technology that has transformed the sector and saved lives in the process.Arthur Zang, a 26 year-old Cameroonian invented the Cardiopad.It  is a touch screen medical tablet that enables heart examinations such as the electrocardiogram (ECG) to be performed at remote, rural locations while the results of the test are transferred wirelessly to specialists who can interpret them. The device is designed to serve mostly  African patients living in remote areas who have the  trouble of travelling long distances  to urban centers to seek medical examinations.  

Another innovation is the Malaria pf/PAN (pLDH) Test Kit developed in South Africa.It is a rapid medical diagnostic test kit that detects all strains of malaria indicates within 30 minutes whether the Malaria treatment provided is effective. The test kit is one of only nine developed globally and is the only test of its kind fully-owned by an African company.

The CAT Scan is widely used in the medical field across the world,very  few patients know that when they lie down for a computed axial tomography scan, or CAT scan, the technology was actually invented by a South African. While it was developed at Tufts University in the UK, the person responsible for the imaging equipment was South African physicist Allan Cormack and Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories. Recognizing their major efforts in the medical field, the pair was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. According to online sources, “Cormack’s interest in the problem of X-ray imaging of soft tissues was first aroused when he took up the part-time position of physicist for a hospital radiology department. In the 1960s, he provided the mathematical technique for the CAT scan, in which an X-ray source and electronic detectors are rotated around the body, producing a sharp map of the tissues within a cross-section of the body.”

Togolese Lalle Nadjagou from Dapaong in northern Togo, the mastermind behind Woelab’s 3D printing. They started making their own 3D printers using e-waste and have begun putting a machine in each school within 1km of the workshop. This could really revolutionize how our continent not only deals with e-waste and recycling but also new design technology help in attaining desirable sustainable development goals.

Ugandan university graduate and inventor Brian Turyabagye has created a biomedical smart jacket that can diagnose pneumonia faster than a doctor.  He named the jacket “Mamaope“, or “Mother’s Hope” referencing the 27 000 children who die of pneumonia in Uganda every year. The jacket has a mobile phone application with Bluetooth that does the diagnosis four times more accurately than a doctor. It analyses the chest and sends information to the smartphone via Bluetooth.Once it gets more support,the jacket will go a long way in saving more lives.

Traffic jams are a major headache in many major cities around the continent, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo also has the same congestion problems. This is why a team of Congolese engineers at Kinshasa Higher Institute of Applied Technique have created human-like robots that can detect and record traffic flow. The info is then sent to the institution and analyzed and used to drive traffic.

The future of farming in Africa might include artificial intelligence. Software Company, Aerobotics has developed a combination of satellite, drone and artificial intelligence technology to help farmers. It gives farmers accurate data analysis of their crop performance in different seasons and highlights problem areas.As a need,many agricultural technologies have been developed and more research is still in progress.

It should be noted that there are many great innovations that have been done by many Africans across the continent and globally.

The African story is awash with negativity. Often the continent is associated with discontent and lack of infrastructure and innovation. This could not be further from the truth. The good thing is more and more Africa countries  are developing technology to improve people’s lives. The new technology and innovation is exactly what is needed to move swiftly into the 21st century. Africans must harness scientific and technological advances, invest in infrastructure, foster higher technical training, and create regional markets. It must also produce a new crop of entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to the continent’s economic improvement.

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