Africa, Agriculture, Food & Nutrition, Circular Economy, Climate Change, Health, Inclusive Growth

5 African innovations that could help achieve an equitable and prosperous future

Responsible Business | Apr 27, 2018

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Unleashing the power of innovation in Africa will help create an important platform for widespread sustainable development across the continent. It stems from the extreme need there exists to find immediate, sustainable solutions for critical problems the continent has been facing, and which threatens to diminish its next phase of development. The provision of innovative products as well as modern services will enable better healthcare, increased access to education, improved social life, poverty reduction and better quality of life.

Here we have listed 5 African Innovations that are changing lives for the better:

1. 3D Printers from E-Waste

Photo credit: WoeLab

Each year, the electronics industry generates up to 41 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste). It is an ever growing problem in Africa, where certain countries have become dumping grounds for electronics from Europe and North America. To combat this worsening trend, WoeLab is stepping up its recycling efforts on the continent. Members of the Tanzanian community technology hub joined together to create Africa’s first-ever 3D printer from e-waste, utilising discarded electronic parts to help advance the technology of the impoverished region. In a country where about 60% of the inhabitants live in poverty, offering access to emerging and self-sustainable technologies is a viable way to improve their livelihood.

2. New electric mini taxis

Photo credit: Mellowcabs

Africa is urbanising and ‘motorising’ faster than any other region in the world. Unless action is taken, says the WHO, the continent’s urban air pollution levels could triple or quadruple within 15 years. Mellowcabs manufactures and operates three-wheeled, electric mini-cabs to provide low cost, eco-friendly and convenient taxi and transport services in built-up cities. The vehicles are manufactured from recycled materials, and feature state of the art electric motors and batteries. Advances in information and communications technologies, connectivity, data collection, and analytics are catalysing a technology revolution that could dramatically alter the face of the transport sector in Africa and beyond.

3. Farmers and Agribusiness Marketplace

Photo credit: Mlouma

Agribusiness can play a vital role in economic development in many developing countries and this is especially true in Africa where agriculture accounts for 25% of the continent’s GDP, and 70% of employment. Fragmented markets, price controls, and poor infrastructure has hampered production in recent years. However, new and exciting innovations in technology has seen things start to move in the right direction. Mlouma is a web and mobile service that allows farmers and agribusiness to take best decision of purchase or sale of agricultural products through the information in the market that we give them in real time. Farmers and buyers can receive updates via the internet, SMS notifications or even a call center to quickly find out where to buy their products at the best price.

4. Off Grid Solar Power

Photo credit: Off Grid Electric

More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity; 71 million in Kenya and Tanzania alone. Without any other options, citizens are forced to either go without power or use kerosene, an expensive and oftentimes dangerous fuel that pollutes the air and creates fire hazards. Now, with the aid of new mobile and solar technology, access to basic electricity is becoming a reality for many rural African communities. Off-Grid Electric is one company providing pay-as-you-go solar power to customers in Africa. The company leases systems that include solar panels, batteries, lights, mobile phone chargers and televisions with users able to make payments with mobile phones. Renewable energy, in its many forms and with a multitude of financing options, is here to stay, as it will play a pivotal role in efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

5. Biomedical smart jacket

Photo credit: MamaOpe

According to UNICEF, pneumonia kills half a million children under five each year in sub-Saharan Africa. A main contributing factor is the slow diagnosis. Ugandan inventor Brian Turabagye has created a biomedical smart jacket that can diagnose the condition four times faster than a doctor and it’s also more accurate. Its sensors pick up sound patterns from the lungs, temperature and breathing rate and within four minutes, the data is computed and sent to a mobile phone application which then gives a diagnosis. The device is called MamaOpe, which means “mother’s hope”. Since it doesn’t require a doctor to run the tests, it can be used at remote locations. This wearable medical device could help save millions of lives in Africa and beyond every year.

An increasing number of start-ups in Africa are driving innovation, and contributing to an innovative business environment that seeks to offer consumers better experiences in areas such as commerce, health, finance, and agriculture. There is no doubt that innovation in Africa will continue to play a key role in its sustainable development future.

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Join us at RBF Africa 2018 under the theme ‘Transforming Africa’s Development through Innovation, Youth and Technology’ to learn and discuss about what can be collectively done to accelerate development rate, address inequalities, improve energy access, food security and new ways to create fair and decent employment in Africa.

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