Updated: Jun 27, 2022
From tech start ups in Silicon Savannah to ground-breaking ecological ideas, Africa is showing its talent for innovative problem solving. tomorrow stories uncovers the 5 most promising innovations from Africa with a global impact.
Start up continent
“Rwanda was the first country in the world to ban plastic bags already as early as 2008. Once every month every citizen (yes, every citizen between 18 and 65) ) is asked to clean community spaces.”
When you are thinking of Africa, everything but trendsetting comes to mind? Think again! Even though corruption, poor infrastructure and service delivery are still holding back many economies on the continent, there are some telling signs that Africa is on the rise and chasing the spotlight on forefront of making a better future for itself - and the world. Anne-Liese Prem, founder of tomorrow stories, and former AFRICAN WOMAN editor in Uganda and Kenya, finds out how:
1. Expect the next tech sensation coming from Africa.
With currently 1,3 billion inhabitants and a median age of 19,4 years, Africa a continent to watch. Africans have always been entrepreneurial minded and now their talent for finding practical and economical solutions to everyday problems are streamlined into a new field: Global tech giants are investing big time into Africa´s promising start up communities across the continent: In 2017 Facebook started training 50,000 Nigerians in digital skills and sponsored the Techcrunch StartUp Battlefield in Kenya. Also in the same year, Google set put a launchpad space in Africa - the first ever space outside of the US. Kenya has been dubbed the „Silicon Savannah”, being host to many promising start ups, such as the learning platform Eneza, off-grid solar systems like M-Kopa solar or M-Farm, a platform to connect farmers and consumers without middle men.
2. How we will pay tomorrow: Mobile Money
Ever since Bill Gates said that the African system of Mobile Money, M-Pesa, will be our new way of paying, banks from across the world are looking to East Africa to learn from this ground-breaking revolution in transactions. If one day you are using your phone to quickly and conveniently send and receive money and pay for small good in a store (instead of using your credit card), then Africa made it possible.
Another financial service from Africa to watch: Twiga Food and IBM extend micro loans to stall vendors via mobile phones and SMS.
3. Development 3.0: Sustainable solutions made in Africa
With a growing middle class in many African nations, the rise in consumption also results in more waste. Instead of ignoring the rising problem, many African countries try to avoid the mistakes made by industrialized nations before them and tackle the issue from the start. Rwanda was the first country in the world to ban plastic bags already as early as 2008. Once every month every citizen (yes, every citizen between 18 and 65) ) is asked to clean community spaces. Rwanda is known for its impeccable streets and city spaces across all of Africa. Kenya banned plastic bags last year and demands penalties as high as up to 38.000 US$.
Eco innovations from Africa to watch are Forest Watch, an app that helps against poaching animals, The Flipflopi, a boat recycled from 30,000 flip-flops to raise awareness about plastic in the oceans, and Nelplast, a company in Ghana producing roads from recycled plastic.
4. African tourism rebranding
Recently Kenya Airways announced a new direct flight form New York to Nairobi - only one of the initiatives to bring Africa closer to the world. While it has remained a long and difficult journey to many of the continent´s most beautiful locations, airlines are now offering direct flights from Europe, Asia and the US to African capitals (Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria) and it is much easier to reach those once secluded destinations. Also interesting to watch: Check out Rwanda´s controversial sponsorship deal with the Arsenal soccer team.
Smartly, African tourism has also been an early adopter of eco tourism. Many lodges and resorts are offering sustainable packages to customers: „responsible safaris”, infrastructure made locally from natural resources and integration of local initiatives are on offer (see here, here and here). Inter-African tourism is also reaching a new high: Inter-African airlines such as Nigeria Airlines or Kenyan Airways are adding destinations across Africa. Another tourism sector booming is the African diaspora rediscovering its African roots: Urban tourist look at new ways to discoverer cultural Africa, from music festivals to fashion weeks. Check out for example Tastemakers Africa offering a new kind of curated experience of Africa.
5. African-made design/music/fashion/food goes mainstream.
Be prepared to see a lot of African influences in your lifestyle: Aware of cultural approbation, brands are turning to the continent to authentically showcase Africa´s talents. Watch out for example for 2019´s IKEA collaboration „Överallt”: 10 African designers and artist have teamed up with the international furniture giant to showcase their designs. South Africa´s Design Indaba is a not-to-miss on the design aficionado´s list (Tom Dixon is a guest speaker in 2019). But not only African design takes centre stage: Listen to African music on the Africa Hub on Spotify or enjoy the latest African food trend with West African cuisine favorites like Yassa chicken and jollof rice.
Finally more diverse and complex stories are being told about a continent full of exciting opportunities. Don´t miss out on opportunities arising from Africa and keep your eyes and ears open to what´s next to come from this incredibly interesting continent.