Ducor Sports Live Blog : From Silicon Valley to Silicon Savannah

UPDATED August 20, 2019 07:51 am .

Francis Cordor
August 20, 2019 07:51 am

This summer, a technological wonder soared high above Arizona — a solar-powered drone named Aquila. Developed by Facebook, this drone is but one of an entire fleet that will eventually find their ways to the most remote corners of the earth. The solar-powered unmanned planes, which are still in the testing phase, can fly non-stop for three months. They use only 5,000 watts of power when cruising.

The plan for Aquila and the rest of the fleet is to circle the skies of Sub-Saharan Africa, beaming down Internet access to remote and, presumably until then, unconnected areas. Though the region may be considered remote, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, clearly sees the potential of bringing Internet access to nearly 1 billion people living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ambitious in scope, Facebook’s fleet isn’t here yet — and Facebook isn’t the only tech company extending its reach into Africa. Netflix arrived in Africa this January. A report on TechCrunch says that Netflix’s arrival caught most of the continent’s video on demand providers by surprise as most believed that Netflix was coming to South Africa only.

As the story of Aquila illustrates, not all Africans will benefit from Netflix’s arrival. For most, broadband connections are not yet available or affordable. For now, Netflix will be largely considered a luxury. However, that could change, and it won’t necessarily be attributed to Zuckerberg and his fleet of drones.

The Growing Tech Industry in Africa

Kenya with its cool savannah grasslands, snowy mountain peaks, expansive wildlife reserves, and African Great Lakes region has become a bona fide technology hub on the continent. Often referred to as Silicone Savannah, Kenya is attracting startups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and established tech companies. IBM recently opened its first Africa research center in Kenya to develop “Project Lucy” based off its Watson supercomputer.

According to TechCrunch, Safaricom’s M-PESA mobile money service played an important role in the emergence of Silicone Savannah, as did the development of a global crowdsourcing app, a tech incubator model, and the government’s commitment to ICT policy. Other African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and Rwanda are taking notice and may soon follow Kenya’s lead in developing comprehensive ICT initiatives.

Even without state support, tech incubators are popping up throughout Africa — at least 170 and counting across Sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, VC funding to African tech startups is projected to reach $608 million for 2018.

Solar-powered drones may be in our future, but make no mistake, technology has already arrived in Africa. It’s here and is already changing the continent.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of ANTON BALAZH/SHUTTERSTOCK

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