News / Africa

World Economic Forum Showcases Africa Technology

Donald Kaberuka (C) with Doug McMillon (L), Bekele Geleta at Economic Forum on Africa, in Addis Ababa, May 10, 2012.
Donald Kaberuka (C) with Doug McMillon (L), Bekele Geleta at Economic Forum on Africa, in Addis Ababa, May 10, 2012.
Peter Heinlein

The pace of change across Africa may be about to accelerate, driven by advances in technology that are just breaking onto the scene. The World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa provides a peek at the coming transformation.

Africa's big guns attended the forum. Seven heads of state were at the top of a long list of luminaries such as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

But the big ideas were coming from relative unknowns, names like Ory Okolloh, Bright Simons and Omobola Johnson, who were featured speakers at a session on Africa's innovators.


Young developers driving change


Okolloh, policy manager for Google South Africa, explained what Google is doing with a group she called “young developers."

"We have set up something called Google Tech User Groups in more than 30 countries like DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], Cote d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast]. Establishing a footprint, and giving these developers who are doing what they were doing anyway, but without the resources, without some of the skills around how to improve an application for instance, or to better improve a user interface [or] how to get an app to market," said Okolloh.


Bright Simons is president of Mpedigree Network in Ghana. Concerned about the deaths of 2,000 people a day from fake medical products, his firm came up with a way to help consumers know that the medicines they buy are genuine.


"We've been trying in about six countries in Africa to create a mechanism where manufacturers and distributors of medicine can implant a unique ID, identification tags on each pack of medicine, so when the consumer buys the medicine, that comes with a free text message or a free MMS, using a cameraphone to verify instantly whether the particular medicine they are holding is likely to kill them or save their lives," he said.


Major wave of innovation on horizon


Omobola Johnson, Nigeria's minister of communications technology, said her government is working with the tech giants to allow people with good ideas the chance to do great things.
 

"It's the responsibility of us as policy makers to look at, 'How do we create that environment that allows those innovators to thrive and succeed?' Google is working with us, creating islands of sanity where people can think, and taking ideas into reality and commercialization," she said.


Okolloh said the online world is helping to break down social barriers that have prevented some Africans from achieving success.


"It frees people from waiting for someone to make things happen for them, which has been a big challenge for young people especially. And, that's why they're gravitating to technology so much," she said. "It's the one space where you don't have to come from the right family, or the right tribe, or have the right connection to make it. And it's an area old people don't understand, so they can't dominate it."


Okolloh admits that, as a woman, she also loves technology because it neutralizes gender stereotypes.


"I'm not sure I'd be as successful as I am as a woman in a profession other than in technology," she said. "Because it tends to be a bit neutral. If you have the tools, if you can code, it's a lot more sort of merit, and recognizes talent."


These innovators say that in as little as five years, a combination of fresh ideas and demographic imperatives will begin to revolutionize Africa. As several participants at the forum noted, half of the continent's population is under 30, and they are demanding change.
 

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs