IBM Q: The next level in supercomputing capability

The logo for IBM is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RC16EF48DDF0

Q systems are designed to one day tackle problems…seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle Image: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Jake Bright
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Education?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education 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:


IBM has just launched its Quantum computer program in Africa, announcing a partnership with South Africa’s Wits University that will extend to 15 universities across nine countries.

Quantum — or IBM Q, as the U.S.-based company calls it — is a computer that uses quantum bits (or qubits) to top the capabilities of even the most advanced supercomputers.

When launched in early 2019, IBM said, “Q systems are designed to one day tackle problems…seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle.” It named future IBM Q applications in financial data, minimizing global financial risk and optimizing logistics.

On how Q works, “It’s not your usual ones and zeros. It’s about the superposition of states to create a qubit,” IBM Research Africa VP Solomon Assefa told TechCrunch on a call.


What is the World Economic Forum on Africa?

“Because of that, and that it has so many difference states, the amount of computing you can do becomes exponential.”

IBM Q operates out of IBM’s Yorktown Heights research center in New York and will be accessed from African universities via the cloud.

A rendering of IBM Q System One, the world's first fully integrated universal quantum computing system, currently installed at the Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where IBM scientists are using it to explore system improvements and enhancements that accelerate commercial applications of this transformational technology. For the first time ever, IBM Q System One enables quantum computers to operate beyond the confines of the research lab.
Image: IBM

IBM believes Q could yield research and development advances in areas such as drug discovery based on Africa’s genetic diversity that could lead to new treatments for diseases like HIV or TB.

This is one of the research areas IBM will focus on in its rollout of Q Africa to Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Assefa sees other potential research and use-cases for Q Africa in financial sectors, mining and natural resources management.

“What excites me here, is for once we are ahead in Africa for joining this movement. In five to 10 years, Q will have significant impact, but if we can start the wave now, you never know what kind of applications and research will come out of this technology,” said Assefa.

Wits University will manage access to Q from the 15 additional African education institutions, which include Addis Ababa University, the University of Nairobi and University of Lagos.

Have you read?

IBM will also convene in Johannesburg this December a camp for 200 computer scientists using Q. Researchers interested in working with IBM Q can apply online.

The program is part of IBM Research Africa’s extended build-out on the continent, since launching a facility in Kenya in 2013 and expanding it to South Africa in 2016. In Africa, IBM Research has extended its capabilities to a number of partnerships, including blockchain-enabled collaborations with agtech startups Twiga and Hello Tractor.

IBM also maintains an extensive commercial services and consulting business in Africa, for which its research activities could have application.

It could be a ways off before Q rolls up into that, according to Assefa. “We are developing commercial-grade Q machines…in terms of that being applicable for Africa, it’s still early days,” he said.

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.

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.

How boosting women’s financial literacy could help you live a long, fulfilling life 

Morgan Camp

April 9, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum