[Column] Nixon Kanali: Three technology trends that will shape 2021 in Africa
11-01-2021 11:04:00 | by: Nixon Kanali | hits: 4407 | Tags:

2020 was the most disruptive and unprecedented year of our times. Good news is that 2021 is going to be a great year for tech.

The covid-19 pandemic altered the usual way of doing things and we should therefore expect a number of innovations on new emerging technologies to adapt to this new normal, mostly from African tech startups. 

Here are three emerging trends to look out for in 2021 in Africa:

5G rollout

5G is set to roll out in most countries and become the situation normal. I’m personally looking forward to this. This rollout, led by giant telcos in Africa will make a big difference for many businesses across the continent and remote working will now become a more secure and safer option for African businesses. 

Some African countries are already gearing up to this. In South Africa for example, Huawei, in partnership with Rain, South Africa’s data-only mobile network, already launched Africa’s first standalone 5G (SA 5G) network. Early in 2020, MTN also went live with Ericsson-powered commercial 5G in the South African cities of Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. Ericsson had been earlier announced as an MTN South Africa vendor in November 2019, to deploy products and solutions spanning its radio access network (RAN) Ericsson Radio System, transport and 5G Core network portfolios. 

In Kenya, Airtel also inked a deal with Finish telco equipment maker, Nokia, to modernize Nairobi with high speed 4G and 5G-ready hardware.

In Madagascar, Telma recently switched on its 5G commercial network to offer subscribers high-speed services enabled by the new generation of mobile connectivity and powered by Ericsson, the 5G network is now live in multiple cities in Madagascar.

In 2021, 5G will be going fully mainstream, bringing with it an entirely new mobile experience. 


In 2021, more and more people will continue shopping online as has been the norm since the pandemic started. 

Data from the IBM US Retail Index shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of the e-commerce industry by about 5 years. Amazon, the global E-commerce giant recorded a 37% increase in its revenue in Q3 when compared to last year’s Q3 earnings. Walmart saw a 97% increase in its e-commerce sales and Target set a new sales record when its same-day fulfilment services grew to 273%. 

In Africa, the largest eCommerce marketplace Jumia reported a 40% increase in the number of active consumers in Q2-20 Y-O-Y. 

The shift away from physical stores to online services was already underway, but the pandemic has accelerated this shift. Which means  that we should also expect to see more e-commerce platforms coming in Africa.


Covid-19 pandemic is making a huge transformation on healthcare. It has shown us that a shift to e-health and digital systems can be an essential tool to reform vulnerable health systems.

These systems according to a recent oped by Désirée van Gorp and Girish Ramachandran

can help to increase the availability of health services in remote areas, for example, due to lower costs, and via public and private partnerships, less dependence on physical infrastructure and by increasing trade in health services.

The pandemic has proven that essential healthcare services can be digitalised to help reduce the burden on the healthcare system and halt the spread of infections. More Governments and the private sector are expected to contribute to the infrastructure on which digital health interventions take place.

In 2019 for example, Kenya’s leading ePharmacy platform MYDAWA, became the first online pharmacy in Africa and part of the top 4% globally to earn the LegitScript certification that verifies internet operated pharmacies as safe, credible and trustworthy. In 2020, the platform partnered with AstraZeneca for patients to have convenient, private access to AstraZeneca’s innovative products via the MYDAWA platform and also be able to engage with an online telehealth pharmacist for more in-depth medical consultations.

These kinds of innovations and partnerships are likely to increase and set the pace for many health service providers across the continent in 2021.

Nixon Kanali is the Tech Editor for Africa Business Communities. 


This column is a contribution to [Forum] What are the opportunities for the African Tech Industry in 2021?