Our desk research and interviews with stakeholders indicate that many of the existing as well as potential emerging technology use cases that are unfolding in different parts of the world can be applied in Africa to help the continent leapfrog. In this report we highlight 30 such example use cases across the five levels of impact amplification which may find application and be scaled in Africa over the next decade. These use cases give us preview of what is possible today – and what will shape our problem solving towards an Africa in 2030.
To find their way to the market, emerging technology led innovations need to factor in the local context and aspects such as dependence on policy and regulatory environment, need for infrastructure, required financial and human capital, degree of required behavioral change as well as existing market demand and the availability of existing deployment models. Deployment dependencies shape characteristics that technology innovations need to assume for being successfully introduced in a market and create value for its users. Users can be directly BoP consumers or intermediaries, enterprises and institutions like healthcare providers, schools or development organizations. We have identified the most important dependencies and scored the 30 use cases according to a three-point scale.
The purpose of this scoring is to encourage innovators, corporates, investors as well as development actors to assess the feasibility of different use cases and to identify “low hanging fruits” as well as understand the ecosystem requirements to enable more long-term systemic shifts. While the methodology is clearly subjective, the findings have been validated through conversations with experts and stakeholders. The mapping of the consolidated dependency scores of the 30 example emerging technology applications against the five levels of amplification exhibits interesting insights. It provides a peek into the degree of ease of deployment of these innovations in the African context and helps construct a timeline of their ‘arrival’. The timeline highlights innovations that will be possible to deploy in the near term and those which can unfold in the medium and long term. IoT enabled use cases have the potential to lead the way, given that the underlying technology is at an advanced stage of development. In Africa, various enterprises are already using IoT to drive innovations across multiple sectors. The next wave of innovation will be around creating commercially viable solutions. Use cases which require multi-stakeholder or industry buy-in are more difficult to deploy
IoT strengthens cloud powered sharing of farm equipment between small farmers on on-demand and low cost basis to help overcome under-cultivation and poor harvests
Sensor-enabled real-time livestock, crop and soil monitoring and weather predictions improves decision-making, optimizes use of agricultural inputs and enhances agricultural productivity
Emerging technologies empower farmers by providing them greater control over the value chain by removing middlemen and enhancing their economic earnings
Blockchain enabled open source data market places facilitate peer-to-peer research collaborations and exchange of real-time and longitudinal data
AI enables customization of online education based on individual needs and preferences
AI enabled efficient energy distribution helps minimise distribution losses
Blockchain enabled peer-to-peer trading democratizes access to energy
Convergance of emerging technologies enable solar power based decentralized autonomous microgrids replace the conventional power grid as the primary source of household energy
AI enabled targeted product development for customers without prior banking history or in underserved segments
Blockchain, IoT and AI enable creation of new trust networks and consensus-based decision-making, boosting peer-to-peer lending, loan syndication & early stage investing
Blockchain enabled trustless exchange enhances cross border trade and reduces need for third party intermediation
Emerging technologies enable FSPs to better assess client needs, risks and deliver customised and affordable products to wider customer segments without expanding physical branches
Wearables enabled "on-demand" economy provides new income opportunities and empowers informal & self-employed workers
Blockchain enabled social benefit transfer reaches beneficiaries without leakages, ensures process integrity and increases government efficiency
Blockchain enabled transparent and tamper-proof property ownership registration helps prove ownership and resolve disputes, prevent fraud and further financial inclusion
Blockchain enables verified, reliable and quality data to enable digital identity creation
Drones, AI, and Big Data enable accurate prediction & detection of conflict, natural disasters and emerging disease outbreaks
AI and Big Data enabled data mining & sharing facilitates better policy formulation
Blockchain supports process integrity during elections and increases transparency
Emerging technologies reduce the need for intermediaries in the development sector and makes aid transfers to beneficiaries more need-based
Wearables enable tracking of health of mothers and their fetus in low resource environments
Blockchain & AI enabled verification in the pharmaceutical supply chain increases traceability and provision of safe, high quality and authentic medicine
Blockchain enabled health information exchange and transfer of health data ownership to patients provides them greater control over use of their data and enables data privacy and security
Wearables facilitate inculcation of good health and hygiene habits in school and household settings
Sensor-enabled real time monitoring of temperature & humidity improves delivery and storage of medicine
Drones, AI & IoT facilitate rapid last mile delivery of healthcare and humanitarian assistance
IoT and AI enable doctors and medical health workers offer faster and more accurate prevention, diagnostic and treatment decisions and reduces costs
Convergence of emerging technologies enable data driven and patient-centric solutions across the healthcare value chain and help create new healthcare delivery systems
Convergence of technologies decentralizes manufacturing and disrupts economics of traditional manufacturing
IoT enabled mapping and monitoring of water quality and use provides communities with greater control and management of their water resources
Successful deployment and scale up of innovations driven by emerging technologies in Africa will require an enabling ecosystem which helps address and overcome the various deployment dependencies. In the regulatory context, a learning approach informed by practical experience paves the way for enabling policies and regulations. Rwanda’s decision to experiment with deployment of cargo drones for delivery of medical supplies and promote indigenous design and manufacture of drones is an example in this context. An enabling regulatory environment helps set standards and technical specifications and ensures data privacy and security for innovations to scale.
Infrastructure in the form of connectivity and digital infrastructure is a precondition for emerging technology innovations. In Africa expansion of traditional forms of infrastructure is unlikely to keep pace with technological advances. Innovation deployment is therefore, likely to bypass existing infrastructure constraints by leveraging alternative forms of tech-enabled infrastructure. Google’s Project Loon, Facebook’s Internet.org and SpaceX, are examples of aerial infrastructure innovations that can help bridge the connectivity gap in Africa. Innovators like goTenna Mesh, Tuse and Village Telco are using mesh networks for offering more secure and stable network connections. Alternative approaches like small scale, off-grid solar power systems developed by BuffaloGrid can help bypass the need for grid electricity. Drones can help leapfrog the need for building expensive road infrastructure for last mile delivery.
New kind of patient and risk taking capital is needed, on one hand for enterprises who develop and deploy innovations, but also for end users. Use cases which entail convergence of multiple emerging technologies have a particularly high financial dependency. Successful deployment of innovations also calls for users to be equipped with skills to be able to understand, apply and maintain the innovations. The level at which talent and user training is required varies across innovations. The user can be a BoP consumer, a business, government entity, an intermediary or a service provider applying or benefiting from the innovation. Use cases which require low levels of user talent and user training will be relatively easier to deploy and scale in Africa.
Successful deployment of innovations also depends on the readiness of consumers, professionals, intermediaries, and policy and decision makers to adopt the technology. Users need to be motivated to change their behavior and the environment needs to enable the required behavior change. Closely linked to the need for behavior change is the degree of existing market demand. Innovations which offer tangible benefits, bring in affordable solutions and leverage existing delivery channels and consumer touch points are expected to experience greater market demand. Finally, prevalence of existing business and deployment models for technology innovations indicates greater ease of deployment. Our analysis indicates that currently evidence of innovation deployment is limited to the lower levels of amplification. We also found that deployment evidence is a function of the level of advancement of the underlying technology. As IoT is at a relatively more advanced stage of development compared to Blockchain and AI, there are more instances of deployment of IoT based innovations.