How tech is empowering Africa's youth

The tech scene in Africa is booming. Young Africans have direct access to advanced technologies that weren’t as widely available to previous generations, and they are making the most out of it. With 80% of the African labour force being aged between 15-24, it is clear to see why the continent is investing in youth-led technological innovations. In this blog, we explore some of the most exciting tech projects being developed in Africa right now.

1.     Malawi is home to Africa’s first Drone Academy

This month Africa’s first Drone and Data Academy opened its doors in Malawi, welcoming 26 students from across the continent to learn how to construct and pilot drones. The Academy has been made possible by support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and aims to improve drone technology skills across Africa, starting in Malawi and its neighbouring countries. The drones will serve lots of important needs, such as transporting medical supplies to remote areas. The academy also plans to partner with Malawi University of Science and Technology to provide a free master’s degree program in drone technology by 2022. It’s exciting that tech is becoming centre stage in Malawi right now and a project like this could directly benefit remote communities in Malawi, like Chazuka.

2.     An entrepreneur has helped to inspire Ghana’s next generation of inventors

A 25-year-old Ghanaian entrepreneur, Charles Ofori Antipem, has created a science set (a small black box the size of a textbook) packed with an electrical kit costing only $15 to help school children learn electronics in a fun and experimental way. Charles set up his company Dext Technology 18 months ago. He now has nine members of staff and has so far sold more than 5,000 sets to government and private schools across Ghana. He wants every child in Ghana to have access to one in the next two years. As the 2020s is expected to be a decade of redeployment into jobs requiring some sort of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) qualification, projects like Charles’ are really important, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where they are currently lagging behind when it comes to investment in STEM. People like Charles are empowering children across Africa with the tools to help them to create a better future for themselves in this new, digital age.

3.     Refugees are learning to code a new future in Malawi

After Remy Gakwaya fled his native Burundi aged just 15, he found himself in the Malawi refugee camp, Dzaleka. While living at the camp, Jesuit Refugee Service supported Remy to take courses in computer programming and he was able to learn languages such as HTML, Java and Python. Ten years later he began leading the charge for technology and the education of refugees. In 2016, Remy founded TakeNoLab, a community organization that allows him to share his love of computer languages with young refugees in the camp. Remy started off by teaching just six students, but now can teach many more thanks to support from the UN Refugee Agency and Microsoft 4Afrika who have helped to provide Wi-Fi connectivity and better technology such as laptops and tablets. Remy’s students now learn how to design and code apps with help from Microsoft technicians and the first app developed – Habari – helps new arrivals find services in the camp and teaches them the basics of English or Chichewa (the national language of Malawi).

Although the camp continues to receive support from the UN Refugee Agency, facilities remain limited but Remy is determined to continue.  He has even created a Girls’ Smart Code club to encourage refugee women and girls to join the technological revolution. This is especially important as young girls in Malawi are often marginalised and undertake traditional roles.

4.     Extraordinary new talents are emerging from unlikely places

The entrepreneurial spirit and innovations coming from young Africans right now is truly inspiring and is often coming from some of the most unlikely places. Nur Jemal, Anwar Wudu, and Fikir Legesse, from the remote village of Kombolcha in Ethiopia managed to grab the attention of a large audience at the UN youth forum in Ethiopia with their 30 technological innovations. With no money and no smartphones, they showed how they could create robots for various purposes including censors of different types, a solar water pump, an FM transmitter, mobile application, and a helmet with a fan, among many other innovations. They were determined to find solutions to common problems in their village and spent time in internet cafes to teach themselves how to overcome these problems by watching other inventors online. They made their inventions from only the free items available to them.

Final thoughts

With great minds and determination like this, it is no wonder there are so many exciting technology projects coming out of Africa right now. The continent is producing the next generation of technologists, entrepreneurs and engineers and Malawi will be an important part of this story. Although rural villages such as Chazuka are still without electricity, this doesn’t mean the people living there need to be left behind. 

Help us light the way for the children of Chazuka by donating to The Chazuka Project here and perhaps one day we will be reflecting on the success of one of our very own students from The Chazuka School.

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