Globally, technological advancements are on the rise at an impressive speed, with America, Europe, and Asia leading the way. However, the African continent is never really considered to be active in technology; despite Africa holding the world’s earliest record of human technological advancement, dating back to Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptian Technology actively boasts of many inventions. We see Ancient Egyptian Technological innovations in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, language, architecture, and much more. Some specific examples are the development of writing, papyrus or paper, and ink; calendars, clocks, the pyramids, organized labor, simple machines, just to mention but a few. We will not dive into the technological inventions of ancient Egypt in this article but suffice it to say that they are many and a lot of those inventions are still being used today, albeit refined.
As much as Technology does not have all the answers, it has done and is yet doing tremendously well in shaping the world around us at warp speed. We can see the extent of the positive impact in nations that are classed as “developed.” Advanced science and technology innovations are some of the yardsticks that are used to classify nations as “developed.” The advanced technological base of nations serves as one of the foundational pillars that are helping to drive the economy of these developed nations upwards. This gives them clout, a leadership status in the community of nations. As we can see, technology plays a vital role in distinguishing nations in the alliance of all other nations—nations that show a great advancement in technology and development wield a lot of power, those that don’t recline to the shadows of just being mere spectators lacking power. Countries that are slacking in the science and technological race are competitively disadvantaged to say the very least. Nations that are not as technologically advanced are not usually classified as “developed.” The future of nations is the embracing of science and technologically advanced present and future. The best time to have acted was yesterday, the second-best time to perform is today. As governments come to this realization, they must make a desperate effort to join the technological development rat race.
“Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.” — Jacques Ellul
Africa cannot stay at the bottom of the technological totem pole. There is a need for countries in Africa to rise and pay attention to the state of their technological advancement. Africa cannot and should not stay at the bottom—after all, when we look back at our historical accounts, we see Africa, via Egypt, as the birthplace of many notable technologies that are in use today. So, where did we fall off the bandwagon? Where did we miss the mark? Where did we go wrong? Technology can help solve a lot of problems that we face in the African continent, and it is a reasonable assertion to say the very least. African leaders cannot stay myopic to the need that relates to embracing science and technology. An agenda to infuse resources into science and technology should be one of the prime agendas in the manifestoes of those going to the election polls across Africa. Those contesting for the role of Presidency should not be voted into office if they do not have a clear plan for science and technology. However, there are some countries in Africa making efforts to utilize the technological opportunities available. Apart from the ample supply of human and natural resources these countries possess; presently, they have minds that are among the elite in the space and could further become shapers of the global Tech industry.
1. South Africa
South Africa is said to be the most technologically advanced country in Africa. In the Global Innovation Index of 2015, South Africa came in at the 53rd place when compared with 143 countries of the world. South Africa is said to support its potentials and has recorded massive growth in Information Technology (IT). Several technological inventions put South Africa ahead of the technological race in Africa. The designs include the following: CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) Scan; Oil from Coal by the South African Coal Oil and Gas Corporation (Sasol); Kreepy Krauly; Pratley’s Putty; Dolosse; the Cricket Speed Gun, Smartlock Safety Syringe, etc. South Africa is the home to Multichoice company (DSTV), a video entertainment and internet company, recognized at a global level.
Egypt is hailed as the cradle of world civilization, and for long, it has related to innovation. Like we saw above, many scientific and technological discoveries are credited to ancient Egypt. In our current day and time, Egypt has not failed to impress us in the world of technological advancement. Possessing some of the best universities in Africa, which carry out high-level scientific research, Egypt has widely adopted the use of technology in all her industries. Egypt’s information and communications technology (ICT) and telecommunications industries are particularly experiencing growth and success.
The most populated country in Africa, Nigeria is a country that has experienced huge leaps in technological innovations. The twist to her tale is that many of these innovations still exist on a small scale, without massive investment being put into them yet. There is the Urine Powered Generator that supplies 6 Hours of electricity on 1 Liter (i.e., 0.264 gallons (US)) of Pee. This inventive process was developed by a group of high-school teenagers (14-year old’s)—Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola. The method uses urea electrolysis to make hydrogen and then using that hydrogen to produce electricity.1 This was particularly ingenious coming from a group of teenagers.
We also see the Moringa plant technology that allows the use of the Moringa plant to treat water. It was developed by the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State. We also see the INYE-1 and INYE-2 tablet computers created by a Saheed Adepoju and released to the world on May 8, 2010. Also coming out of Nigeria is the autochthonous privately-owned computer company, Xinox, that specializes in the manufacture of solar powered inverter systems, laptops, desktops, and tablets. We also see the domestic automobile brand, Innoson. These are just some of the technological innovations that we see coming out of Nigeria among many others. Nigeria comes in third in rank in the community of technologically advanced nations in Africa.
Kenya is the rising star of Africa regarding technology. There is a new-found enthusiasm for Tech in Kenya, backed by a fast-growing Start-Up scene. The Kenyans have borrowed from India’s tech policy framework, using it as a template for their development. This adopted framework is reaping bountiful rewards, with Kenya’s E-payment solutions such as M-Pesa, gaining global recognition. Some other noteworthy innovations from Kenya include solar-powered refrigerator to store vaccines in rural areas with a limited power supply; tamper proof voting machine, a drone which flies for two hours, and a Short Message Service (SMS) car immobilizer.
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” — Steve Jobs
Ghana’s rise in the last ten years especially in technology is inspiring. It is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to set up a mobile network. Freddie Green, the man who came up with an invention that uses compressed gas to generate electricity, is from Ghana. The country is also the host of Africa’s largest Tech Summit that “brings together hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers and creatives under one roof together to address humanity’s greatest challenges via technology and entrepreneurship.” The country is not slowing down in the aspect of technological innovations.
Despite the genocide that brought ruins to the country, Rwanda is rising to become one of the centers of Information Technology (IT) in Africa. The nation launched a 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network to provide better high-speed wireless communication for mobile devices and data terminal services to her people. Rwanda is also flying the Made in Africa banner as the nation produces its mobile phone called Mara with three phone specs (i.e., Mara Z1, Mara X1, and S). Rwanda is also embracing and coming up with innovations to help improve the standard of living of her residence. The government of Rwanda is also making bold steps to develop an automobile industry by partnering with brands like Volkswagen.
The country which has one of the most successful economies in Africa is well known for her Innovation Hub (i.e., Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH)), which is designed to grow start-ups, global corporations, health, and research organizations. The BIH is Botswana’s first Science and Technology Park that is supported by the government to push technological advancement in the country.
There is said to be an increased awareness in the country in the aspect of information and technology development. In 2016, the nation invested in Sphera Bluoshen, a healthcare company which launched an app that provides a 24-hour medical consultation. It is believed that with sustained growth and development, Angola could be one of the most technologically astute countries in Africa.
The government established a fund to finance science and engineering programs at the undergraduate level to promote innovation. There is much investment in the ICT sector and the government encouraging developmental shifts in the areas of health, education, and agriculture. The construction of the Center of Excellence in Biomedical Science began in 2016, with the purpose of facilitating workforce in the biomedical sciences.
The country is presently not experiencing any technological revolution but is said to be one of the technologically advancing African countries being involved in research to improve the country’s industries. Zimbabwe is one of the nation’s leading in biotechnology research in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense, it is all about potential.” — Steve Ballmer
We have seen the countries in Africa that are at the forefront of technological advancement. For the continent to effectively compete with the developed continents of the globe, currently and in the future, then all governments and leadership in Africa need to make concerted efforts in investing heavily in the science and technological sectors. All peoples of Africa must see a non-commitment to science and technology as a threat to the economic security of their respective nations. Africa has the knowledge and human capital, natural and economic resources to start redefining its science and technological stance. The future of Africa is now, the future of Africa rests on the foundations of science and technology. Africa needs to embrace it, cultivate it, and eventually reap the proceeds of its benefits in the present and in the future.
- Walia, A. (2013). Urine-powered generator: 6 Hours of power on 1 liter of pee. Retrieved from https://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/12/23/urine-powered-generator-6-hours-of-power-on-1-liter-of-pee/