Geographies in Depth

How Africa can lead the way in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Eye patients wait in the background as a Smartphone apparatus is seen for eye examinations at a temporary clinic by International Centre for Eye Health at Olenguruone in the Mau Summit 350km (217 miles) west of Kenya's capital Nairobi, October 29, 2013.

Image: REUTERS/Noor Khamis

Gary Coleman
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Innovation is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Innovation

Follow the debate via our live-streamed session Africa's Fourth Industrial Revolution taking place at 11:00 on Thursday 12 May at the World Economic Forum on Africa, in Kigali.

The idea that exponential technologies – those innovations that change the world as we know it – might allow Africa to lead the way in the Fourth Industrial Revolution seems far-fetched for some. After all, two in three people on the continent lack access to electricity.

But it’s precisely these types of deficiencies that could allow Africa to use existing technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the internet of things to become the next great “leapfrogging” success story.

     Navigating the next industrial revolution

By leapfrogging directly to cutting-edge technologies, Africa can bypass the industrial phase in which developed countries invested in now cumbersome technological infrastructure – and bypass the cost of revamping it as well. This is of particular importance when it comes to addressing Africa’s deficiencies in basic needs. As Peter Diamandis points out in his book Abundance, exponential technologies can accelerate access to water, food, energy, healthcare and education. And a whole new wave of entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa are doing just that.

Take agriculture. Technologies from sensors to mobile to predictive analytics are driving new models and outcomes. Kenyan digital platform MbeguChoice is a joint effort by researchers, agriculture inspectors and seed specialists that asks a series of questions to help farmers determine the best seed choices. Start-up UjuziKilimo provides tailored recommendations on planting via text message to farmers by using sensors to measure and analyse soil qualities. And recognizing the increased demand for farming data and analytics, Gro Intelligence maps any form of agricultural information to its classification system, enabling comparable sets of data. Already more than 70% of African farmers have used information and communications technology, with 90% percent seeing increased overall output.

Similarly, exponential technologies are helping healthcare leapfrog over constraints in communication, transportation and affordability. Platforms that use mobile technology, such as Clinic Communicator, ensure patients and doctors can communicate even when meeting face to face is a challenge. Code 8 – invented by four young Ugandans – uses a sensor device on a smartphone to diagnose malaria without a blood sample. Increased access to 3D printing even allowed South African surgeons to “make” a jaw implant when conventional options were too expensive. Just as striking is the fact that it was only the second time a 3D implant had been used in this way.

This innovative and entrepreneurial drive is key to Africa’s future success – and clearly exponential technologies can accelerate that success. Yes, there are many obstacles to overcome in Africa. But for an economy to leapfrog to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, turning those disadvantages and deficiencies into opportunities is the first step.

This article is part of our Africa series. You can read more here.

The World Economic Forum on Africa is taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from 11 to 13 May.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geographies in DepthFourth Industrial Revolution
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Talent trends in Asia: How to boost workforce productivity and well-being

Peta Latimer and Catherine Li Zhaoqi

June 20, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum