The imminent threat of AI going rogue. Weaponry with freshly demonic kill power. Untrammelled illegal data collection. Wouldn’t it be nice to draw a line through 2023, and sigh with relief that it’s over? Well, the number of bad tech thresholds we crossed last year rules that out. Tightly fastened seatbelts would seem to be the sagest advice for 2024.
But on the subject of thresholds, there was one area that, believe it or not, is promising a better year. African technology. With innovations that may seem rudimentary if you’re viewing them from your smart lounge on the 110th floor of the Burj Khalifa. But they display genius nonetheless. Over two thousand years ago, Plato wrote “Need is the real creator”. Today we know this as “Necessity is the mother of invention”.
It seems Africa is taking this millennia-old insight just as seriously today.
Here are some examples.
Air into Water
Kumulus is a Moroccan company who’ve found a way to use solar power and humidity to provide healthy drinking water out of thin air. When you consider there are a billion people without access to regular supplies of water this really is a jaw-dropping piece of tech. Let’s hope it’s democratized before it’s monetized.
Plastic Waste into Building Materials
There are a number of issues solved here. Using discarded plastic instead of standard materials turns the building into a carbon negative zone. That’s an incredible thought; that underdeveloped and underserved communities can lead the world in a key sustainability drive. Also, this reduces landfill waste substantially. And thirdly, it’s a perfect solution for an economically challenged community. It comes from Kubik, a Kenyan/Ethiopian venture.
Anaesthetic-free Uterine Inspections
From South Africa, a hand-held device for use in remote areas requiring no anaesthetic and featuring disposable sheaths for sterilization purposes. It brings prenatal gynaecological care into villages challenged by distance and lack of roads from cities. It’s called FlexiGyn and, as its name suggests, is flexible and battery-powered. Effective and convenient, it obviates the need for uncomfortable hysteroscopies.
The One Dollar Cell Phone
At last, the much-talked about, ultra low-priced cell phone has arrived in the form of IFIOK from Nigeria. It hardly even puts a dent into the country’s minimum wage yet is AI-enabled and even features an inbuilt lie detector. It doesn’t even have a screen. Instead, it features a holographic display! Most importantly, IFIOK takes connectivity out of the realm of privilege and into the arena of a basic human right.
South Africa, economically in its death throes because of corruption destroying the country’s electricity grid, could learn a lot from this entrepreneurial innovation from Tanzania. The East African country has also been beset by unstable electricity. But one electrical engineer has created a portable device using recycled power packs from batteries to power businesses and homes, and even electric bikes. It’s called Waga and it has been the saviour of a country whose informal economy sits at about 83% of total GDP.
Five stunning examples of creativity and ingenuity from a continent often referred to as the world’s last commercial challenge and which is threatened by more debt trap diplomacy from China. From air into water to the cheapest connectivity on the planet, Africa cannot be discounted as a global technology contributor.
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