Africa is increasingly becoming a centre for big technology investment and fertile ground for tech start-ups. The prospect of new markets and rapid expansion in operations has drawn a host of global technology giants and investors to the continent.
The continent’s expanding tech market is a result of Africa’s nations embracing the technology revolution, in particular the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, to address the continent’s growing needs and overcome its development challenges.
It is aptly demonstrated in Africa bypassing the costly infrastructure of fixed-line technology to leapfrog directly to the use of mobile technology.Today there are more than 747 million people or three-quarters of the population on the continent who have a mobile connection.
This similar type of growth across other technologyareashasseen global technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, Microsoft and SAP expand their operations into Africa. For example earlier this year the first Google Station on the continent was established in Nigeria to providefree wifiservices to disadvantaged communities.Similarly this month also saw the rollout of one in Cape Town, South Africa.
Greater access to new technology and technology investment is driving industrial development, job creation and access to information across the continent. By gaining access to information via the internet, communities will have a more equal opportunity to learn, develop and live more empowered lives.
Through new technology infrastructure, applications and servicesmore Africans are also integrated into social, political and economic activities.Something as simple as a mobile phone has proved to be a game changer by enabling Africans to keep connected, send and receive money through their mobile phones or even buy insurance policies.
As Africans, we must harness the dividends of these technology investments and developments to allow greater access to the huge variety of information, services, and technologies offered by business, government, and local communities.
The economic advances through technology investments are supporting job creation and the development of new growth industries. It is estimated that there are more than 100 technological hubs spread across the continent such as MEST in Ghana, ActivSpaces in Cameroon, iHub and Nailab in Kenya, Co-Creation Hub in Nigeria, BongoHive in Zambia, IceAddis in Ethiopia and the Innovation Hub in South Africa.
The explosion of technology and its increased access has also improved our chances of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It provides an opportunity for young people across the continent to participate in the digital economy and to increase the participation of women in the workforce.
Moreover, the investment of technology companies is accompanied by trained digital skills that allows many Africans, in particular young people, to pursue careers in technology. For example Microsoft is investing over $100 million to open its first development centresto employ 100 full-time African software developers this year and grow its developer pool to 500 by 2023.
The skilling of young Africans in the digital sphere means that the next generation of the digital workforce will emerge from the continent. With half of the world’s young people living in Africa by 2040 and being among the most tech savvy, the continent will be at forefront of change and development.
The investment in technology by the world’s big tech companies bodes well for the continent. Through embracing technological advanceswe can power the nation and our continent to ever greater heights.
Ms Phumla Williams is South Africa’s Cabinet Spokesperson and Acting Director of Government Communication and information Systems.