Innovation is reaching an explosive rate in the continent in a range of different sectors.
The massive penetration of mobile technology in Africa, and the unique situation of the economies and cultures throughout its nations have provided a nearly ideal circumstance for innovation in these devices in a tremendous range of sectors from energy to banking and from education to agriculture.
These cell phones, smartphones, tablets and other small screen devices are being used to solve widespread problems.
According to the publisher and editor of Stuff magazine’s South African version, Toby Shapshak, explained that “It’s the best kind of innovation – the problem-solving innovation born out of necessity.” The 54 countries that make up this continent that is populated by 1.1 billion people face challenges that are unique to the world, and what is being discovered as each day passes is that mobile technology is helping to provide solutions to many that had never before had any possibility of being overcome.
Mobile technology has become a central element in African culture, even if the latest tech is not being used by everyone.
When it comes to innovations that are occurring in Africa and to the solutions that are being found to various types of problem, mobile devices appear to nearly always play a role in one way or another. That said, it’s not difficult to understand why this is the case. Unlike the situation of fixed line telecom and internet infrastructures, there is very little infrastructure needed for mobile. Keeping in mind that there are massive regions of sparsely populated zones in Africa, it makes far better economic sense to use technology that does not require the installation of wires and cables across thousands of miles of terrain.
While the rest of the world snatches up smartphones, it is the battery life-friendly and especially cheap feature phones that are the most popular in Africa, such as the Samsung E250 and the Nokia 1100. These provide all of the functionality that is required without needing to charge very often. As electricity access can be inconsistent (particularly when leaving urban centers) battery life and apps that don’t bleed power dry are highly desirable.
That said, mobile technology devices are still able to help to give payments services to the unbanked, provide communication where wires fear to tread, and offer a variety of medical and health solutions to help people who do not have access to large hospitals.