Wakanda inspired Africa’s real life innovative tech stories
The entertainment phenomenon that is Black Panther has captivated the world since its release earlier this year. It is an action-packed and fun fantasy movie, but moreover, Black Panther has been embraced for its representation of black people generally, and Africans specifically. Another key element of the film’s cult-like status is the appeal of the fictional African country it features, Wakanda.
This futuristic, advanced African country is largely powered using an alien element, Vibranium, which has enabled it to power ahead of other nations in its tech innovations and ultra-modern urban development – and given this, the Wakandans choose to hide this element and their progress from the world.
It’s the stuff of movie magic, a science-fiction version of Africa which has inspired millions around the globe. But how removed is the world of Wakanda from our own? As a continent, Africa has many advantages which are driving us closer to that aspirational vision: economic growth in many states that is outpacing much of the world, and a youthful population with an entrepreneurial bent. And unlike Wakanda, we aren’t afraid to share our innovations.
Microsoft 4Afrika has been playing their part in Africa’s digital transformation, empowering seismic changes in internet access, service delivery enabled by technology, and economic development – through our extensive support for businesses, government projects, start-ups and young workers.
Launched in 2013, 4Afrika’s approach has been one of high impact and strategic partnership on projects across the continent, and as we enter our fifth year and the next phase of Africa’s technological awakening, we are ready to showcase our real world heroes.
Music to our ears
Damola Taiwo, Dolapo Taiwo and Tola Ogunsola are three entrepreneurs who have come through the 4Afrika community, and are transforming the streaming of music in Nigeria through their MyMusic digital music platform (MyMusic.com.ng).
This service – accessed via their site and app – not only gives users access to home-grown music favourites, but has a chat bot that helps users discover new songs and download the ones they love. This bot – built on Skype – was showcased at the Microsoft NexTech Africa conference, and is one of the new technologies that has helped MyMusic grow to 700 000 active monthly users.
A large part of their success is rooted in local knowledge – understanding the peculiarities of the cash-driven market. Given this, their smart use of airtime-as-payment lets users buy songs with a single click. It’s a viable business in its own right, but it’s also creating a powerful ripple effect that supports African musicians.
Pay it forward
Another growing start-up in Nigeria which empowers themselves and others is SpacePointe. This omni-channel platform was started by Sayu Abend and Osato Osayande with the explicit purpose of supporting business owners, and it was a vision supported by 4Afrika through their grant programme and mentorship.
SpacePointe offers an innovative mobile point-of-service application designed for the Nigerian market.This is helping thousands of online and offline businesses transact, and streamline their sales and marketing, business management, and payment processing. Theirs is a superhero narrative of financial inclusion and economic growth in action.
The bright and imaginative people who come up through the various 4Afrika initiatives have proved to us a thousand times over that Hollywood certainly doesn’t have the market cornered in terms of creatives with storytelling prowess.
Nigerians, and other Africans, are creating new characters, challenges and scenarios every day that are engaging local target audiences. 4Afrika grantee Gamsole, for example, has created 50 new mobiles games for Android, Windows and Java platforms in the past two years, and their games have been downloaded over 10 million times.
Skills for good
Our real-life tech heroes are also using their top skills for good, partnering with other heroes of the non-profit sector to contribute to meaningful change on the ground in Africa. The MySkills4Afrika project has supported four Nigerian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in their cloud journey, which has in turn helped them automate many administrative processes so that they can spend more time on their transformative work.
These include Junior Chambers International, United for Education Foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation and Technology for Sustainable Development. In partnering with the essential NGO space, we are amplifying the transformative effects for thousands more people.
In the cloud, on the ground
Because of Africa’s documented historical infrastructure woes, we have become a continent famous for “leapfrogging” traditional infrastructure. Cloud technology is enabling this every day.
Cloud makes sense everywhere, but no less in Africa as it provides the means to scale up without costly infrastructure development. It overcomes the issues inherent in legacy technology and software; it reduces the significant barrier that a difficult and broadly distributed supply chain can become; and it levels the playing field in several important ways.
Through the strategic use of cloud services, young African entrepreneurs enjoy the same powerful processing and generous storage options that established global counterparts have taken for granted.
With these kinds of systemic barriers removed, entrepreneurs bloom, and we are proud of the collaborative supportive role that we have played here.
The next wave
The real Vibranium of Africa is its people and its potential. The next superheroes of trade and industry, of purpose-drive entrepreneurism, and of technology are waking up today in Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg, Yaoundé, Cairo, and Abuja. They are already discovering their abilities and nurturing their dreams. Let’s celebrate them and tell their stories, just as much as we relish a different African narrative on the silver screen.