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South Korean products are used by millions of people on the African continent every day – from Samsung mobile phones to LG air conditioners to Hyundai and Kia cars. In fact, in this year’s Brand Africa 100 ranking of the most-admired brands on the continent, Samsung and LG featured in second and 10th places respectively.

‘Africa Tech’ is the True ‘Africa Rising’ 

Leading African technology (Africa Tech) innovators believe the African culture has become attuned to the internet age. [1] The internet-consuming culture is now fully African, they say. As they are some of the leading techies on the continent, they probably know what they are saying. The example of one of them, Jason Njoku – who founded iROKOtv, perhaps the most comprehensive online catalogue of Nigerian movies, popularly known as ‘Nollywood’ – is instructive. His idea was about using technology to meet a longstanding need of Africans in the diaspora, who are typically nostalgic about home, craving content and news about the continent. It also typifies the trend towards making technology more African: Africa Tech is essentially Africans using technology to produce African content targeted at Africans and interested non-Africans alike, and there are quite a couple of those.

WhatsApp has been hugely successful in Africa, partly because it allows cheap international phonecalls in addition to chat. And one company invented a new use for the application – bargaining. BalogunMarket.ng allows people to haggle over prices at Lagos’ Balogun market and pay for the goods they want, via WhatsApp. The service tries to replicate the actual experience of going to a market and bargaining, without any of the sweat.

What makes African tech exciting is the growing bouquet of content being developed by locals to suit local needs. But global players like Facebook and Google are taking notice of the continent too. In September 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Nigeria and Kenya. Earlier this year he invested US$24m in a Nigerian start-up that incubates software developers and links them with employers.

Rafiq Raji, an adjunct researcher at the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, discusses five technologies changing everything from medicine to manufacturing.

 

 

 

NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies

 

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