When you think “Africa” and “tech”, what comes to mind? Kinetic soccer balls? A rapper turned energy supplier? What about smart boards, intelligent classrooms or tech partnerships? How about mobile payment systems? If you thought “none of the above”, then it’s time for you to reassess your perspective of the so-called dark continent. Far from being backwards, Africa is, in fact, leading the way for many technology advances designed to resolve uniquely African problems.
A few months ago, I was invited by the Council of Young African Leaders to the 5th annual CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, New York. The theme for the symposium was Transforming Africa through Partnerships: it focused on the importance of public and private partnerships within the African community and abroad. I sat on a panel with other technologists, discussing the transformative nature of technology. We were each given five minutes to present prior to the Q&A session following our respective presentations.
In preparation for the session, I decided to conduct a survey of the various apps developed by Africans touching the banking, health and energy sectors, since I had experience working on those kinds of apps here in the United States for brands like CVS, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and PSE&G utility company.
I expected to find a few apps here and there, but nothing like the overwhelming breadth and variety of apps I ultimately discovered in my research. There were so many apps of all kinds that I realized that I needed to scale back and focus on one area (versus the multiple areas I had planned to cover.)
It was in that moment that I had to acknowledge just how ignorant I was about the state of technology in Africa. And it was in the spirit of erasing the ignorance surrounding African tech that “Tech Tuesday” was born.
Each week, I’m going to take a deep dive into African tech: the players and entrepreneurs, the technical advances and the innovations, the hits and misses. Tech Tuesday will shine a light on the amazing things taking place in Africa, and hopefully end the perception that African is anything short of a cradle of innovation.
We’re going to talk with innovators like Jessica O. Matthews, the founder of Uncharted Play, the makers of the kinetic soccer ball and other technology harnessing the power of movement. We’ll profile entrepreneurs like Akon, whose initiative ALA (Akon Lighting Africa) is providing solar energy to 600 million Africans who were living without reliable energy. And we’ll examine technical advances like M-pesa, which is revolutionizing money transfer and mobile payment in Africa.
But Tech Tuesday isn’t intended to be a one-way street. If you’ve got an idea or think there’s someone out there doing something truly remarkable, we want to hear about it. Feel free to drop us a line. If you see something in social media you think we should know about, post or retweet it and add the hashtag #techtuesday and we’ll check it out!