At the turn of the century it was estimated that there were more fixed-line phones in Manhattan than across the entire African continent.  In 2012, Africa was reported to have more mobile phone subscribers than the US or EU.

Robot Binary

Now with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterised by technologies that break the boundaries between the internet and the physical world, Africa is redefining how the continent does business.

Africa has not lagged behind in implementing technology to leapfrog towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, through Artificial Intelligence and Automation.

Some of the most progressive innovations in technology on the continent include: Cloud Computing, Robotics, Deep Learning, Drone usage for deliveries in remote hard-to-reach places and other technologies.

Making strides towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution

1. Cloud Computing Technology with Amazon Web Services in South Africa

Amazon Web Services (AWS) teamed up with three universities in South Africa, namely; The Durban University of Technology (DUT), University of Johannesburg (UJ) and University of Cape Town (UCT) to offer Africa’s first cloud-computing curriculum. South Africa is the only African nation among 32 countries worldwide selected that offer this ground-breaking specialised curriculum.

Middle East and Africa Public Sector Head at AWS, Zubin Chagpar, says “the motivation to launch the academy in South Africa is not only in line with its expanding presence in Africa but also to invest in the future of the African technology community, reported IT Web”.


2. Robotics Technology – iCog Labs from Ethiopia

iCog Labs is Ethiopia’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab, which launched in 2013 with $50 000 and a staff compliment of only four programmers. They proudly participated in the world’s first humanoid robot, Sophia, the first non-human to attain citizenship. Sophia was also named UN’s Development Programmes Innovation Champion, also a first non-human to receive any UN title.

ICog Labs in collaboration with Hong Kong’s Hanson Robotics worked on the first prototype of Sophia – some of the cognitive engine code was developed and written in Addis Ababa. The cognitive engine brain designed by iCog Labs enables Sophia to observe a crowd and perceive the type gathering that crowd is having. This ranges from a meeting to a conference and everything else.

Ethiopia is emerging as one of the world’s fastest growing economies and with these kinds of innovations from future-thinking companies such as iCog Labs, the country will rise to glory.

3. Deep Learning Technology – Cattle Watch, South Africa

Only a handful of futurists could foresee the possibilities of how Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Mass Data Algorithms could impact the farming sector.

Enter South African tech-company Cattle-Watch that developed an Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning and Algorithms powered system that monitors large cattle herds.

Through Cattle-Watch, farmers can monitor their livestock remotely, while the technology has an automated animal counting system that promises to tally hundreds of cattle.

Geofencing and GPS tracking help to prevent animal theft and allow farmers to monitor the health of each cow.


4. ICT Policy & Governance in Rwanda

Rwanda is at the forefront of technological development in East Africa, where they have implemented a forward-thinking Aviation and ICT policy that has led to the of opening Africa’s first Drone Port.

According a Forbes Africa report, Rwanda was lauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos for adopting the world’s first performance-based regulation for Drones. The Rwandan Government’s innovation saw it partner with a California based robotics company, Zipline, to deliver medical supplies using Drones. In the dense landlocked east African country, this change saves lives and it’s already transforming the healthcare system in the country.

Under President Paul Kagame’s leadership the country ICT Policy & Governance continues to earn worldwide praise for its progressiveness in technological innovation, investment and regulatory frameworks.


5. Drone Technology by Kumba Iron Ore in South Africa

Kumba Iron Ore is leading the charge in drone usage in the South African mining industry. It’s said to be the the only mining company that has its own remote aircraft system in Africa, this after a two-year battle with logistical and legal challenges.

At its Sishen Mine in Kathu, Northern Cape, Kumba Iron Ore’s surveying processes have been optimised by drone technology. This has minimised the risk of sending surveyors into constricted and hazardous environments, while the drones’ capabilities of mining big data enhance the whole mining process, as a result, other functional areas benefit in the process.


Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence for Africa whitepaper highlights how technological advancements such as Artificial Intelligence will be an impetus for development, improvement and democratization in the continent. African governments should look at innovative and developmental strategies to promote technology. Strengthening and investing in ICT infrastructure will lead to a continent better equipped to deal with the demands and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

With business, institutions of higher learning and governments making strides in advancements for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Africa has a real opportunity to lead in this space. Over the next few years, collaboration may accelerate the process and ensure that the continent sees greater rewards.