Another year, another milestone for the African technology space. With things developing at a rapid pace, it is hard to predict what will be the next big innovation in this exciting sector. Let’s have a go, in any case.
Drones seem to have been a topic of discussion for a long time, yet in Africa we haven’t seen much of them. That is probably about to change.
U.S. firm Zipline is using Rwanda as its test country for its drones, which deliver drug and medical equipment to rural areas. It sounds simple, but this is a revolutionary idea that will improve access to healthcare away from major cities.
Zipline has just raised $25 million to expand the service to other countries, and it is likely other companies will enter the space. What will be interesting is whether the usage of drones can then be expanded into the commercial arena, something the likes of Jumia and Konga are surely keeping an eye on.
2016 saw a lot of activity from major global players in Africa, and 2017 will be no different.
The continent is no longer deemed a risky place to do business, but rather digital’s “final frontier”. The likes of Google, Facebook, eBay and Alibaba were active in 2016, and will be again.
One twist on this is that many companies are tapping into Africa in a different manner, by setting up innovation labs. SAP, Thomson Reuters and IBM did so in 2016, so expect a few more to start tapping into African ideas on how the make the continent a better place in 2017.
There was an interesting turn of events in the last couple of months of 2016, with major global institutions taking an interest in the African tech space.
The World Bank is launching accelerator programmes for startups across the continent, and the European Investment Bank (EIB) has partnered the African Development Bank (AfDB) to launch Boost Africa, which will assist 1,500 startups across the continent.
This is a new movement, but something we should expect to see a lot more of as global institutions identify tech entrepreneurship as a valid means of supporting Africa’s development without resorting to aid.
Will 2017 be the year we finally see some developments with Konza Techno City, the long-time flagship of the Kenyan tech space? Who knows. But there will certainly be developments elsewhere.
Rwanda has been working hard to make Kigali as technological as possible, and in Kenya Liquid Telecom is doing its best with Kisumu. There will be more government initiatives that spring up across the year.
These developments will happen at lower levels as well. Take, for example, the transport space. In South Africa, the likes of WhereIsMyTransport and GoMetro are coming up with ways of helping people move around cities. Expect more developments like this in 2017.
2017 may well be the year that more Africans obtain access to financial services than ever before.
Companies like Zoona and Nomanini are banking merchants, and the latter is now heading into the loans space to join the likes of JUMO and Social Lender. There will be more companies that launch in these areas in 2017.
Traditional banking has failed in rural Africa. Tech companies will succeed.