Hunger, disease, famine and war. These are the left half of the things that pop into minds whenever Africa is portrayed by the international media. The other right half of this list would probably be economic development, growth and change. This right half and left half is the Ying-Yang of the image of Africa created by local and international media and I believe that the right half is not winning as much in this battle. I believe that there is one thing that should be able to add to the ammunition of the right half and contribute to making the image of Africa much more colorful and that is technology.
iHub’s mobile statistic (Google funded research on mobile usage in Africa) shows that the adaptation of mobile technology across both East and West Africa is much more than phenomenon (Okune, 2012). That is to say more Africans are owning more mobile phones than bank accounts. Now, that growth of mobile technology adaptation is slowly moving towards the incorporation of the internet onto these mobile phones. Mobile network providers now provider their users with flexible payment plans to provide their users with mobile internet. As at 2012, there were more than fifty-one million internet users in Africa of which more than three million were from Ghana (Miniwatts Marketting Group, 2014). This number, which has massively grown today, shows that Africa and Africans for that matter, are not left behind in what seems to be the “in thing” for the world today. In Kenya, Mpessa –a mobile payment method – rules as a major payment method for most point-of-sales services in the country. Its adoption especially by the middle and lower classes of the country debunks any thought of illiteracy being the only stumbling block for the adoption of technology in Africa. It (Mpessa) also goes a long way to show that Africa is the fertile ground for technology to thrive and it is doing exactly that. The potential Africa possess through the adoption of technology far exceeds what we see today . Another example of how technology has impacted the image of Africa is the onset of the Arab Springs which used social media such as Twitter and facebook to cause political change in countries like Egypt and Libya. This shows the potential technology has once it is well harnessed in Africa.
Africa must shift from reliance on commodities to technology & innovation-driven development to achieve sustainable growth.
— Michel Sidibé (@MichelSidibe) March 29, 2014
Around the world of technology one should notice that there is a lot of emphasis on mobile apps and mobile versions of websites and software. A lot of effort is put into making them much more lightweight and faster to load on low-bandwidth i.e. slow internet connections. This is because there are much more mobile users of technology outside of the USA with much less available bandwidth and in my humble opinion, I believe that Africa was a big part of this industry shift due to its mobile penetration. Africa has had a different approach to technology which has not been experienced anywhere else in the world. Historically, technology grew from Desktop computers, through to laptops and then mobile. This has generally been how the world has adopted tech however Africa had a small desktop phase and then jumped straight to mobile. Is it that the continent has seen something the rest of the world has not or is it just circumstance? I believe the former and I also believe that Africa’s image would be carved out through technology. BY Nathan Fletcher
Miniwatts Marketting Group. (2014, April 25). Internet Usage Statistics for Africa. Retrieved from Internet World Stats: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm
Okune, A. (2012, November 15). RELEASE OF GOOGLE AND IHUB RESEARCH MOBILE INTERNET USAGE FIELD SURVEY RESULTS FROM KENYA AND GHANA. Retrieved from iHub: http://www.ihub.co.ke/blog/2012/11/release-of-google-and-ihub-research-mobile-internet-usage-field-survey-results-from-kenya-and-ghana/