With emerging technologies, Africa no longer has to go through the process of stone age/iron age/industrial revolution to catch up with the West. There are several areas in which African emerging economies can bypass that process and grow in exponential ways.
1. Improving urban sanitation
The traditional water-intensive methods of human waste disposal ignore the fact that water is no longer the unquenchable resource it was considered to be. Even in places not affected by drought, its use is coming under careful scrutiny. Additionally most waste ends up in the sea. While this was possible when the world was half its current population, the problem will only get worse. Many African cities are dealing with 2015 populations using 1970s infrastructure. Much of the population concentration in the cities has grown at a faster rate that could have been possibly envisaged. The JOP Omni Processor in Dakar, Senegal, backed by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a device which converts waste to drinkable water, energy and ashes. Almost all kinds of waste including human can be used. Gates has tasted the water and says it is “delicious”.
2. Clean energy
Many African countries that suffer from electricity shortages also lack a sufficient grid transmission network. Instead of building new large grids, why not build smaller localized ones with cleaner energy sources where possible? What about encouraging solar, mini-hydro, or other technologies as a supplement? As long as we get reliable and constant power, most of us are not fussy about the source Rooftop and other installations will make a huge difference where it can be installed. We won’t have to worry about servicing near-obsolete infrastructure.
3. Finance and money transfer
The success of money transfers by mobile phone in Africa is firmly established. From East Africa it has spread to West Africa and is now becoming the preferred method of payment of domestic staff, students and many other people. With just a regular cell-phone and free registration, anybody can receive money across the country. Although currency controls limit the use to in-country transfers, this does not dampen the life-changing this development has had. This is now being used to buy micro insurance and other financial products. It is a whole new way to access financial services, and it is relevant to our situation. It can even go beyond to educational products, agricultural information and a wide range of other applications.
With the highest proportion of its population engaged in agriculture and paradoxically the lowest proportionate yield in produce, Sub-Saharan Africa has a long way to go to feed itself. With the exception of South Africa and until recently Zimbabwe, the continent has been the land of subsistence farming. The Western model is very water-inefficient and pollutes the environment, especially the waterways and groundwater. African agricultural researchers like Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have been very active in developing organic products which can help this with a new production infrastructure. This will improve yields without compromising environmental integrity. We have the land and we are unencumbered by the way things are presently done elsewhere. We can do this for ourselves and as an example to the rest of the world.