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

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora