Technologies are leapfrogged and harsh conditions ignite invention

Disruption has become the key word for 2016. It’s linked with words such as digital, data, IT, cloud, innovation and development. It is also the ideal descriptor for the African continent where technologies are leapfrogged and harsh conditions ignite invention and disavow convention. While there remain challenges which pepper the landscapes of various countries across the continent, there is also optimism and inspiration and plenty of opportunity. Africa is where the innovation disruption is taken to new levels as need and demand push the barriers of inventiveness and entrepreneurs step out of the so-called dust and onto the world stage.

“As Africa becomes more and more visible on the international stage, the world also seems to be opening its collective eyes to the continent’s potential,” says Marco Rosa, managing director of Formula D Interactive.

Among the many factors driving transformation across Africa are connectivity and technology. Access to media channels and social media is exposing Africa to developments globally and giving them the impetus they need to create solutions which are as individual as the continent on which they live.

One example is the development of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant in Morocco. Powered by the Saharan sun and built to bring power to millions, the Ouarzazate solar power plant consists of four interlinked mega-plants and will make up the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world once it is completed. It is estimated that it will deliver around 580MW when the four plants have been built and will be the same size as the capital city of Rabat.

According to Robbie Cheadle, associate director deal advisory of KPMG South Africa: “Corruption, poor infrastructure and onerous business conditions in fact do not scare off investors. Total foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Africa have increased by 20% in the five year period ended 2014 and Southern Africa achieved the largest increase in FDI inflows over this period. Central and East Africa followed closely behind.”

Africa may have had some hits in the media, but it’s setting trends and benchmarks on the international stage.

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business surveys, the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index and the KPMG analysis have found four primary factors which influence investment into African states. These include comparatively high growth expectations compared with developed economies, politically mature governments with independent judiciaries, available land and significant mineral and other resources and increased domestic consumption.

Urban Metro in Addis Ababa

In true African style, Addis Ababa has overcome challenges around infrastructure with its urban metro system. It is the first light rail system of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa and makes no small difference to the crowded and clogged roads of this rapidly growing capital city. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s top performing economies with a growth of 10.3% from 2013-2014, a tight inflation rate and a consistently positive outlook. It is making significant strides into becoming one of the leading performers on a number of the Ease of Doing Business rankings such as Enforcing Contracts and Dealing with Construction Permits.

Bosch Brews in Ethiopia

Another organisation which has recognised the potential in Africa and stuck with it since the early 20th century is Bosch. The company is looking to further expand its mining and industrial solutions into the continent and is keen to increase its brand presence in Africa.

“With positive economic development underpinned by both a wealth of raw materials and by an increasingly well-educated workforce and growing middle class, Bosch sees great potential for its business in Africa,” says Landry Meya, key account manager mining Africa region. “The growing infrastructure and industry also offer good opportunities for the mining sector.”

Bosch has recognised that Ethiopia, one of the largest players in the world coffee market, is exporting more than 90% of its raw commodity with the majority of profits generated outside of the country. The company has started developing public-private partnerships to enable entrepreneurs and farmers to actively participate in the industry through processing, roasting, manufacturing, packaging and even distribution.

“Bosch views this initiative as crucial to the progress of the African continent both in terms of economic development and sustainability as well as enhancing food security. It is a partnership as our business model is underpinned by creating long-term, sustainable solutions for emerging and developing markets,” adds Meya.

Multipurpose Terminal In Central Africa

Development in the Cameroon is slightly more waterlogged. The Kribi Port Multi Operators consortium comprising nine local operators and the Necotrans Group were awarded the contract to operate and maintain a multipurpose terminal at the Kribi deep water port. It is the only one of its kind in Central Africa and will potentially drive the economy of the Cameroon, Chad and Central Africa. The port provides employment, accessibility and much needed transportation infrastructure to the region and plays no small role in boosting the viability of the area.

International Stage

African disruption is not limited to the waterfront or mining belt. South African comedian Trevor Noah took over from Jon Stewart on Canadian broadcast television’s CTV’s The Daily Show, an achievement which rocked both his home country of South Africa and his new home of the United States. But wait, there’s more: Nigerian comedian Basketmouth has had a day officially named after him in Houston, Texas. July 17 is now named in honour of his work towards connecting communities.  And in Cape Town, clothing design gurus House of Monatic has been selected to manufacture clothing for fashion label, Stenströms of Sweden.

“Africans are using our culture, heritage and challenges as inspiration to develop creative and innovative solutions to African problems,” concludes Rosa. “When international clients see what we can produce as a result of the level of talent here in Africa, they’re usually somewhat surprised.They’re even more (and pleasantly) surprised when they see what we charge relative to competitors in more developed regions.”

Africa losing out thanks to negative press?  Hardly…