By Segun Adekoye
A wave of transformation is sweeping across Africa. This change is driven by innovation in the technology sector. At the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, this revolution was put in perspective.
The Forum was attended by key players in the continent, some of which were heads-of-state. Also in attendance was former United Nation’s Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
At the helm of the discussion regarding innovation in Africa were feature speakers such as Ory Okolloh, Bright Simons and Omobola Johnson.
Ms. Ory Okolloh, the Policy Manager, for Google, South Africa explained that Google was working with a group of “young developers”. She said “We have set up something called Google Tech User Groups in more than 30 countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire. Establishing a footprint, and giving these developers who are doing what they were doing anyway, but without the resources, without some of the skills around how to improve an application for instance, or to better improve a user interface or how to get an app to market,”
Bright Simons, President of Mpedigree Network in Ghana was concerned about the deaths of people from fake medical products. His firm came up with a way to help consumers know that the medicines they buy are genuine.
He said “We’ve been trying in about six countries in Africa to create a mechanism where manufacturers and distributors of medicine can implant a unique ID, identification tags on each pack of medicine, so when the consumer buys the medicine, that comes with a free text message or a free MMS, using a cameraphone to verify instantly whether the particular medicine they are holding is likely to kill them or save their lives,”
The Nigerian Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson who was also present at the forum, explained that her government was working with the tech giants to allow people with good ideas the chance to do great things. She said “It’s the responsibility of us as policy makers to look at, ‘How do we create that environment that allows those innovators to thrive and succeed?’ Google is working with us, creating islands of sanity where people can think, and taking ideas into reality and commercialization,”.
Okolloh said the internet is bridging social gaps that have hindered Africa’s technology development.
These innovators stated that in as few as five years, a combination of fresh ideas and demographic imperatives will begin to revolutionize Africa.