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How Practical is Africa’s Infrastructure for Technology Innovation

Posted on

May 13th, 2024

First, let me be honest and admit that overworked, sweaty men covered in grime and surrounded by dirt – as is seen in the cover image – is not an accurate description of the current state of Africa’s infrastructure. However, we all know that the current state of Infrastructure across the continent is not a coordinated system of technology-based and AI-powered processes.

The true state exists in one of a million gray areas between both extremes, depending on the location and industry.

What is the Technology for Infrastructure Hackathon?

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Earlier this year, AL for Infrastructure teamed up with Hindsight Ventures and Spurt! to announce the second edition of the AL for Infrastructure Hackathon to create Technology Solutions to Tackle Africa’s Grand Infrastructure Challenges, with a focus on “leveraging the power of collaboration and technology to develop solutions to some of the challenges in the Manufacturing, Environment, Retail & Supply Chain, and Financial Services sectors in Africa.”

The hackathon is scheduled to take place between 1st April and 24th May 2024 before concluding with a demo day on 28th May 2024. After the demo day, participants will also receive post-hackathon follow-up and implementation support to facilitate their solutions.

Does Africa need an Infrastructure Hackathon?

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The African continent has made giant strides in its collective adoption of modern technology, with research estimating that a quarter of the total population currently has internet access, and projecting that three-quarters will by 2030. However, several studies still reveal that Africa is still far from the rest of the world, and despite the rapid technology adoption, it is worth noting that there is a remarkable deficiency when considering its impact on infrastructure.

Let us take transport and electricity as examples; two key components in most industries. A recent study shows that according to the ‘Quality of Transport Infrastructure’ index of the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), only 10 African countries are ranked among the top half globally (i.e. they are among the top 74). Meanwhile, in the ‘Quality of Electricity Supply’ index, only five African countries are above the global median.

This is not only an indication that Africa is behind on Infrastructure, but a pointer as to why Africa is behind. The rest of the world simply utilize technology better both in setting up and running their transportation systems and electricity supply. Africa simply lacks the infrastructure to support technology innovations, and that is a problem that needs urgent attention.

What Good will a Hackathon do?

Results have shown that spurring African professionals into action is a productive endeavour, as is evidenced by the rapid integration of technology in financial systems across Africa following marked emphasis on financial systems in the last few years. The stats show it too, as 2021 saw 576 financial technology companies operate with their headquarters in Africa.

A similar emphasis on other industries - something the Technology for Infrastructure Hackathon will surely initiate - should set off a similar growth trajectory as Africa's young professionals focus their efforts on creating fluid technology-based and AI-powered systems.


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