Four amazing advancements in science and technology in Africa

At the PEI, we want to shine a light on outstanding scientific, technological and commercial innovation happening in and for Africa. In no particular order, here are four news stories that illustrate how innovators are harnessing science and technology for real impact on the continent.

 1) South African company empowers ‘green entrepreneurs’

South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, with 40% of young people aged 15-34 out of work. The public-private Johannesburg Inner City partnership has decided to tackle this problem in a new way by launching an initiative to create urban gardening businesses on vacant rooftops in the city. According to Brendon Marten of Wouldn’t it be Cool, the initiative uses hydroponic technology, which allows basil, lettuces and other crops to grow in special water solutions without the need for soil. These cutting-edge techniques use up to 80% less water than traditional farming, and provide employment for young people as well as equipping them with valuable vocational skills.

In the next three years, about 100 farms will be established in the city alongside the two now operating, and the scheme has received many applications from aspiring agri-preneurs. Those shortlisted will receive business and technology, and ten of the highest performers will each be allocated a rooftop farm of at least 100 square metres with about 3,600 plants. We look forward to learning more about the impact that these farms have.

2) A tech-powered livestock market in Somalia

Livestock trade accounts for 40% of Somalia’s GDP. However, local pastoralists lose 20-40% of their herds ever year, which is the result of frequent droughts and water scarcity. In response, Sweden based start-up, Ari.Farm, created a tech-powered livestock market that is open all year. The company’s objective is to encourage investors to purchase livestock from locals, injecting desperately needed liquidity into the Somali market. Once a purchase is made, an investor is able to name their animals, follow their progress online, and even gift or donate them. Ari.Farm looks after the animals at two farms in Somalia, which are located in south-central Somalia and outside the capital, Mogadishu, respectively. According to Jimale, since the company’s inception in 2016, people from 26 countries across the world have bought almost 1,000 goats, sheep, and camels through Ari.Farm.  An amazing story!

3) Creating the next engineering leaders in Kenya

According to the World Bank, young people under 25 year account for the largest number of unemployed in Kenya. However, local entrepreneurs struggle to find talent to fill open positions. For Kenya-based social entrepreneur, Audrey Cheng, this is largely the result of higher education curricula that teaches computer science in an overly theoretical way.

This state of affairs encouraged Cheng to found the Moringa School with former partner Frank Tamre, in 2014 to help equip aspiring software developers with skills needed to break into the job market. Students are aged between 18 and 25 years and can enrol in a variety of programs that range from five to 15 weeks. Moringa School says that it has a 95% job placement rate with many students becoming junior or mid-level software engineers in the Kenya tech ecosystem. This year, 500 students will graduate from Moringa School. Truly inspirational!

4) Mobile apps transform farming in Ghana

Mobile technology is increasingly ubiquitous in Ghana, with a rate of 1.3 mobile phone subscriptions per person. As such, mobile applications are a great way of assisting local smallholder farmers to optimise crop yields. A great example is local app, Farmerline, which provides smallholder farmers with daily voice-based information in their local language. As a result, farmers can access vital information on market prices, appropiate farming inputs, and weather data to determine optimal crop planting times. In an interview with SciDev.Net, Farmerline reported that it has seen revenues for some farmers increase by 50 percent as a result of using its tools. Its mobile application supports about 100,000 farmers in Ghana and sends out 15,000 voice-based messages there daily. Learn more here!

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