Despite the entire hullabaloo in the news about Africa, the continent is beginning to take its place in the spearheading of business and technological innovations and not just leapfrogging into 21st century trends and inventions as used to be the case. Some of these innovations are being created within fields that deal with the most basic human needs such as education, banking, agriculture, healthcare, entertainment, information technology etc.
With the majority of its population being youth, there is need for these innovations to provide mass employment which will serve as an opportunity to unlock the potential of other African youth. Thriving African innovations taking the world by storm include the following;
Mobile money innovation began in Africa with the launch of M-Pesa six years ago – the service has spawned a number of further products built around the mobile money concept which includes M-Shwari, which allows customers to borrow and save money via their mobile handsets, generating interest.
iROKOtv, the world’s biggest online Nigerian movie distributor, is making great strides in mobile video (as opposed to focusing purely on an online video-watching service). In January, it announced that it was teaming up with Nokia to develop a mobile app allowing Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 users to watch Nollywood movies. Visitors to their sleek website will also notice subtle differences between iROKOtv and Western equivalents – including categorisations by actor as well as genre and the ability to watch certain films for free.
Spinlet enables African music artists to upload their singles and albums for sale. A point of difference between Spinlet’s Africa-based model and the business models of music platforms like global giant Spotify is its greater emphasis on enabling users to access music via their mobile phones, rather than online. Spinlet’s capacity to innovate in this particular area is therefore something to celebrate.
Innovation: Yolo Smartpones/Wise Tablets
A low-cost revolution in smartphones and tablets Smartphones and tablets are another area of innovation to watch in Africa.In December, for example, Republic of Congo-based company VMK launched what it claims is the first African-designed smartphone and tablet – although it is manufactured in China and powered by Android. The price is competitive – at $170 for the smartphone and $300 for the tablet. The South African firm, Wise Tablets, has also developed its own extremely competitive tablets, starting at R1500 ($163) for the Wi-Fi-only seven-inch version.
Innovation: Changamka Creative e-health solutions
Kenyan company Changamka (meaning ‘Be Happy’ in Kiswahili), which offers health-card smartcards in the cities of Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa. These allow Kenyans who are outside the private health system to save and pay for treatments via a prepaid wallet system, which can be topped up using M-Pesa.
Innovation: M-Farm, Agriculture
Africa is also witnessing pioneering developments in agribusiness, as companies seek out ways to cut costs and deal with risks commonly associated with agriculture. Agribusinesses are seeing the value in using ICT for all of these different purposes and in many cases are making the investments into implementing them themselves. M-Farm, a mobile app that allows farmers to access market information in real time designed to prevent farmers being exploited by middlemen because of their lack of knowledge of the markets inspired M-Farm co-founders Jamila Abass and Susaneve Oguya to come up with the system.
Innovation: kwiksta, wise tablets, M-prep, ukufunda; E-learning takes another step forward
Country: South Africa
Cutting edge e-learning development is taking place in Africa.
The South African Wise Tablets, which include access to a range of pre-loaded content, including an Education Centre aims to make the tablet a practical tool for education and so work directly with educational institutions to develop their own content and use it on the Education Centre, which provides a standard way of viewing educational content via a removable SD card.
Online training provider GetSmarter.co.za’s platform, Kwiksta, which makes it easy for anyone to develop their own online courses, Kenyan company, MPrep, also offers a similar platform, usable with mobile phones rather than computers and Ukufunda, a mobile platform for a virtual classroom on Africa’s biggest social network Mxit.
David Lanre Messan is Chief Innovation Officer at ideas portfolio management firm, Infinite Impact Ltd and founder of www.yaggyenergie.com. Follow on Twitter @ideastrategist
Views expressed are solely the author’s