Is Africa ready for the Internet of Things?

Posted on December 17, 2014 08:24 am

Africa is lagging behind in the global technology stakes, with lack of investment costing the continent dearly in the connected global marketplace. While the continent flounder with broadband options, the global market is getting more connected than ever before. The cloud computing, mobility and Big data trends have already forced businesses to rethink their strategies. For high cost regions like Africa, the “Internet of Things” holds enormous promise for the continent industries to compete globally. Key sectors such as mining, agriculture and logistics have to adopt these technologies to cut costs and improve efficiencies.In the logistics industry in particular, being able to monitor every part of the supply chain makes suppliers more accountable and reduces the risk.The ramifications of the technology on the transport sector are potentially profound. From a public transport perspective, the ability to connect vehicles to a centralised control platform opens up the opportunity to devise real-time information channels to commuters. This vast network of data can in turn be leveraged to better pin-point faults and mobilise maintenance and emergency services efficiently.This is already happening in East African region where cargo movement from the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa to Kigali Rwanda has reduced from from 21 days to six days. Agriculture is another sector that’s ripe for an Internet of Thing driven transformation. These include the ability to place sensors in the field means that data ranging from soil temperature, livestock management, to water management can be collected and used to make better business choices.

African countries failure to efficiently rollout modern communications network, courtesy of the risible technocrats ineptitude, is only part of the risk facing the continent contrary to what researchers have made us believe.The greater problem is the battle between levels of government. Attracting technology business to boost the local economy hasn’t just been the strategy of African governments, but cities like Cairo, Nairobi, Lagos and Johannesburg have become cities of culture, creativity, knowledge but mainly fairness and wellbeing and Contador Harrison would love to see many other cities as places where people live near where they work, I would love to see the cities self-sufficient in energy and they should be zero emission city.That vision is being acted upon in Nairobi and Kampala with the authorities rolling out smart city technologies while working with business and the community to attract modern businesses.While cities like Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi and Johannesburg are working on attracting entrepreneurs and global corporations other countries in Africa are struggling and failing to upgrade their communications infrastructure. Thoughts of meaningful tax reform or programs to encourage local or foreign entrepreneurs are the stuff of pipe dreams in almost all countries in sub saharan Africa.To industry observer like me, the “Internet of Things” may appear to be a technology issue but Africa’s inability to keep pace in this field is really about the failure to invest in the future and the lack of leadership from both the political and business communities.

Contador Harrison