Welcome to the future: Africa in the next decade
By Yariv Cohen, Ignite Power CEO. Published on The New Times After the countdown is complete, the decorations are back in the closet, and we are all back to work, the third decade of the 21st century has officially begun, I would like to invite you all to join me for a brief exercise. Concentrate carefully, and try to answer: Do you remember where you were when 2010? Now, let’s change the directions: Can you imagine where you will be welcoming the next decade? While these questions are particularly personal, Africa is also facing a new decade, which, by all accounts, will be extremely meaningful, with various trends expected to change hundreds of millions of lives. Clean electricity access, for everyone. Despite many efforts over the past decade, over 600 million people across the continent are still living without electricity in their homes, and have no other option rather than relying on combustible fuels to cook, heat, and light their house after dark. The damage caused by using these materials is tremendous: millions of deaths and respiratory diseases caused by the smoke, a lack of proper education for children, gender inequality, economy impeded, and more. The decade ahead will establish energy inclusiveness: Continued declines in renewable energy production costs (especially in the solar sector) and widespread use of advanced economic models will allow a massive expansion of companies operating in the sector, enabling the connection of the hundreds of millions to power, for the first time ever. My 2030 prediction: More than 2/3 of the unconnected homes in Africa will be connected to power, with the majority of connections made through independent, off-grid solar energy. This will make Africa the leading global example of the benefits of renewable energy, leapfrogging traditional, polluting solutions. Advanced Agriculture. Today, the African is widely based on agriculture, which provides most of the food across the continent, as well as most jobs in the local economy, and a huge percentage of the GDP. Yet, the vast majority of African farmers still operate in basic and outdated methods, with no advanced technology or proper fertilizers. With the continent’s expected growth in population, local governments will have no choice but to invest in the agriculture sector. Over the next few years, advanced technologies will be utilized throughout the continent, from large corporations to household farmers. The use of advanced systems will enable more efficient growth and a much higher yield. My 2030 prediction: With more resources invested in the sector, and the rise of advanced technology solutions such as solar-based irrigation systems, Africa’s percentage of irrigated lands, being only 6% today, will rise to at least 50%.
Advanced affordable medical technology, even in remote clinics. One of the most important fields for development is the medical sector, as hundreds of millions of people are treated with outdated methods and without basic technological equipment. While in the field of agriculture, the lack of advanced equipment results in less efficiency, in the medical sector, the lack of equipment directly affects human life. The main problem is in the remote medical centers and clinics, those located in villages a few hours away from the nearest district hospital. In the new decade, various entities (governments, companies, and organizations) will have to invest in creative and innovative models of operation and finance, that will lead to the deployment of broad technological equipment - even in the most remote clinics. In addition, medical equipment will adapt to market needs (for example, medical machines connected to a solar panel). My 2030 prediction: Medical equipment will become accessible and available in clinics across the continent, no matter how rural they are. Banking: With over 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population living without bank accounts, the need for new technology to lead to financial inclusiveness is unmistakable. Lack of innovation in the sector has been hindering progress all over the world, yet this reality has been changing quickly in the past few years, with Fintech technologies (such as blockchain) adopted at a tremendous pace, offering a wide range of solutions to various problems including inclusiveness and transparency. The new decade is expected to further establish the use of these new technologies in Africa, enabling hundreds of millions of the unbanked to enjoy financial services for the first time. My 2030 prediction: Africa’s economy will be the first in the world to transform to. 100% cash-free, enabling various digital payments and financial services. World leaders in innovation. In most of the areas I have described, the African continent is facing a real challenge, and in the next decade, it will finally be able to fill in some long-discussed gaps. For the innovation sector, let me make a more radical outlook: Over the next decade, Africa can not only catch up, but bypass Western countries, and become a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. With growing numbers of engineers and developers, incredible levels of innovative and creative thinking, and the uncompromising desire of the younger generation to initiate, innovate, and utilize technology, Africa has a real opportunity to become one of the world’s leading innovation centers. My prediction to 2030: Africa, a world-leading hub of innovation. Welcome to the future!