Innovation can be found across Africa in many forms. There are different sets of problems in Africa that can be solved by utilising and improving on technology from all over the world. 3D printing technology is saving lives, mobile phone technology is educating people and Fintech is encouraging more and more to think about their finances and save. Technology is enabling African communities and individuals to change their lives, to take different career paths, to learn new skills and be safer.
Safety is something that is not necessarily important across the continent. Cars are often old and no longer meet safety regulations, maintenance culture is not always up to scratch, things break and people get hurt. The same goes for the heavily populated “slum” areas. If disaster strikes there, and a fire breaks out, it would not take long for the fire to spread through the packed together homes. In South Africa this is a common occurrence, with fires often killing many and displacing thousands.
Lumkani have developed a solution specifically for this problem, which alerts households and surrounded households of a fire. Unlike a normal smoke detector, which can go off when cooking, smoking, and heating a house, the Lumkani fire detection technology detects rapid rises in heat, which are consistent with house fires. It won’t go off during the gradual rise in temperature through out the day. This is not only a reinvention of a fire detecting system thought! This system is connected to all the other systems around it, which means that when a fire starts in one house, all the surrounding houses will also receive an alert of the imminent danger. This is another example of how connectivity is improving people’s lives in Africa. This time around it is not the Internet of Things that is being used. Radiowaves connect the Lumkani, which may be slightly lower tech, but still extremely effective.
One thing that innovation can do is completely change a business model. Across the continent you will see people sitting under umbrellas at a little desk along the sides of streets selling phone credit. Because of the rudimental set up, it is quite difficult for these sellers to diversify into other things. ARED, in Rwanda, have developed the Mobile Solar Kiosk to enable sellers to diversify their business. The solar kiosk has four solar panels, a charging station, places to put other items to sale, and draws to keep takings or other stock. ARED plan on using a franchise business model and putting 400 solar kiosks into the Rwandan market. They are also set on rolling this system out across the continent. Their plans are even more exciting for the future as they want to add WiFi capability to their next models. Phone credit sellers are getting an upgrade and can take more control of their businesses by offering services that are in great demand.
E-commerce has been one of the core topics on this blog and there are more and more solutions being offered. From payment methods to digital addresses. One of the problems that many have in Africa is that many of the big stores, for example Amazon, Alibaba, Ebay and Etsy, don’t deliver to the continent. It is possible to use intermediaries to ship your products, but it is often expensive and the waiting times can be lengthy. One firm, Intership UG in Uganda, have developed a method to bring price and waiting times down for those wanting to buy products from outside of Africa. They enable users to have their items sent to a central address and then shop them on to Uganda. Customer who do not have a valid online payment method can even hand over the buying part of the transaction to Intership UG, and then pay in full when the item arrives in Uganda. E-commerce is empowering and enabling Africans to have access to the same things as the rest of the world. This solution is making that more and more possible.
If you would like an innovation featured, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!