Geographies in Depth

This African drone academy is changing lives

An instructor teaches students how to assemble a drone at the newly opened African Drone and Data Academy in Lilongwe, Malawi, January 24, 2020. Picture taken January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara - RC28QE9290TR

The newly opened African Drone and Data Academy in Lilongwe, Malawi. Image: REUTERS/Eldson Chagara

Eldson Chagara
Multimedia Journalist, Freelance
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Drones 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:

Drones

  • Africa's first drone academy in Malawi is teaching students to create drones that could deliver medical supplies, monitor crops or map disease outbreaks.
  • The academy plans to train 150 students to build and pilot drones by 2021.

For Ethiopian aeronautical engineer Lydia Elias, building and piloting a drone to support humanitarian and development projects on the continent of her birth has been a lifelong dream.

Now, as a student at Africa’s first drone academy, she is about to make it come true.

The institute is in Malawi, and builds on the work of a pilot scheme launched in 2017 with support from U.N. children’s fund UNICEF, in which drones have been used to deliver medical supplies, monitor crops and map cholera outbreaks.

As drones become smaller, more reliable and more affordable, their role in such projects - on a continent prone to natural disasters and dotted with isolated communities - seems certain to increase.

Have you read?

“Aeronautical engineers are very few in my country,” said Elias, 23, as she set off to practice piloting a drone.

“After learning I will try to teach my people. I have an aerospace club, so I will try to transfer this knowledge to (colleagues) in my country.”

An instructor teaches how to operate a drone at the newly opened African Drone and Data Academy in Lilongwe, Malawi, January 24, 2020. Picture taken January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara - RC28QE9M4AP3
“I feel like ...I am going to do more things from this course.” Image: REUTERS/Eldson Chagara

She and 25 others from across Africa are the first batch of students at the academy, which opened outside the capital Lilongwe this month.

They are learning how to make and fly drones, collect and analyze data over a 12-week course.

Other students share Elias’s excitement.

“I have been able to create this drone,...which I made with my own hands,” said Tanzanian Emmanuel Nasolwa, 26, beaming with joy as he showed off his work. “I feel like ...I am going to do more things from this course.”

The academy plans to train 150 students to build and pilot drones by 2021, UNICEF said.

Financing from the Fund’s partners has provided tuition to the first cohort of 26. It is expected that by 2022, the academy will run a tuition-free two-year master’s degree program in drone technology.

“This decade that has just started is going to be digital and to help young people ...learn about drones will be an incredible step forward, not only for Malawi but for many other African countries,” said Rudolf Schwenk, UNICEF Malawi country representative.

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 RevolutionEmerging Technologies
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.

How MENA’s biggest actors can help the region’s suppliers and SMEs to decarbonize

Akram Alami and Kelsey Goodman

May 27, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum