Africa is a continent that has long been seen as lagging behind in terms of development and especially technology. However, in recent years, the continent has witnessed a surge of innovation and creativity in the field of mobile technology, driven by young entrepreneurs who want to solve local challenges and seize global opportunities.
Mobile money: a revolution in financial inclusion
One of the most impactful innovations in mobile technology in Africa is mobile money, a service that allows users to send and receive money, pay bills, buy goods and services, and access other financial products using their mobile phones. Mobile money has enabled millions of Africans who were previously excluded from the formal banking system to access financial services and improve their livelihoods.
According to the GSMA, there were 469 million registered mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2019, representing 54% of the global total. Mobile money has also fostered the development of other sectors, such as e-commerce, agriculture, health, and education, by facilitating payments and transactions.
Africallshop: a platform for affordable international calls to Africa
Another innovation in mobile technology that is making a difference in Africa is africallshop.com, a platform that offers applications for making international calls to Africa at low rates. Africallshop was founded by a group of African entrepreneurs who wanted to provide a solution for the diaspora and the business community who need to communicate with their families, friends, and partners in Africa.
Africallshop allows users to make calls from any device (smartphone, tablet, computer) to any mobile or landline number in Africa, without requiring internet connection or credit card. Users can also benefit from free calls within the Africallshop network and earn rewards for inviting their contacts to join the platform.
M-Pesa: a solar-powered smartphone made in Africa
A third example of innovation in mobile technology in Africa is M-Pesa, a smartphone that is powered by solar energy and manufactured in Africa. M-Pesa was launched in 2019 by a Rwandan company called Mara Phones, with the aim of producing high-quality and affordable smartphones for the African market.
M-Pesa is equipped with a solar panel on the back that can charge the battery using sunlight, making it ideal for rural areas where access to electricity is scarce. M-Pesa also runs on Android Go, a version of the operating system optimized for low-end devices, and comes with pre-installed applications that cater to the needs and preferences of African users.
Zipline: a drone delivery service for medical supplies
A fourth innovation in mobile technology that is transforming Africa is Zipline, a drone delivery service that delivers medical supplies to remote and hard-to-reach areas. Zipline was founded in 2014 by a team of engineers and entrepreneurs who wanted to use technology to save lives and improve health outcomes.
Zipline operates a network of distribution centers that store blood products, vaccines, medications, and other essential health items, and dispatches them on demand using autonomous drones that can fly up to 80 km/h and carry up to 1.8 kg of cargo. Zipline currently operates in Rwanda, Ghana, and Nigeria, and has delivered over 100,000 medical products to more than 2,500 health facilities.
BRCK: a rugged device that provides internet connectivity
A fifth innovation in mobile technology that is reshaping Africa is BRCK, a rugged device that provides internet connectivity in areas where it is unreliable or non-existent. BRCK was created in 2013 by a group of Kenyan technologists who wanted to address the challenge of internet access in Africa, where only 39% of the population is online.
BRCK is a battery-powered device that can connect to multiple networks (Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G) and switch between them automatically depending on the signal strength. BRCK can also create a Wi-Fi hotspot that can support up to 40 devices at once. BRCK has been used for various purposes, such as education, agriculture, tourism, and media.