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Innovation allows society to move forward. Forward-thinking inventors can solve critical issues, promote creativity, and modernize pre-existing methodologies to create far-reaching societal benefits. These effects are particularly seen in Africa and will become even more so in the not-too-distant future.
In terms of solving critical social issues, innovations can often serve a vehicle for greater economic inclusion.
JD Houvener, Patent Attorney with Bold Patents, says that “Once an invention becomes patented, it can democratize a field or market once seen as elite. This unique feature of patented inventions can create society-wide benefits that build economic, natural, and social capital in developing areas.”
By 2025, 97% of worldwide growth will occur in the world’s emerging markets, many of which are in Africa. Shortly after that, about 40% of the world’s working-age population will be in Africa. Africa represents the fastest-growing region for entrepreneurship in the world, seen in how nearly 90,000 of its entrepreneurs have come to the US and have made meaningful economic contributions.
Specific inventions, trends, and phenomenon in Africa have had far-reaching effects not just in their immediate geographic regions, but for the whole world. This article will focus on innovation in two particular areas: solar energy and agriculture technology.
Innovation #1: Solar Energy
While solar power has been around for a while, African entrepreneurs have recently begun to truly harness the power of solar energy in Africa. Solar power can promote access to water, lighting, and heating in rural areas. Market reports and large donations signal trends towards widespread use of solar water pumps in Africa.
Arvinder Singh of Steelstone Kenya Limited, one of the leading suppliers of solar water systems in Eastern Africa says that, “The solar water heating market can be considered as growing in recent years. There are many factors contributing to this growth which include:
- Increase in the cost of electricity which is predominantly used to heat water in households has turned consumers to alternative sources such as solar;
- Changes in rules and regulations; and
- An increased interest in solar water heating systems further materializing into the increased demand of the water heating systems.”
A recent market report predicts that Solar Water Pump System market revenues are anticipated to grow at a rate of 20% during 2018-24. In sub-Saharan Africa, major donors and development agencies have piloted and assessed solar pumping programs in Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia, and more. With improved technologies and declining costs, the use of solar water pumps can help raise farmers’ incomes and lower carbon emissions.
Innovation #2: Agriculture Technology
This 2016 invention created a new method for soil sampling for agriculture, more specifically for classification of soil characteristics. The system allows novice farmers to create high-quality crop-nutrition plans that enable sustainable, efficient and traceable food production.
This soil sampling method can be used by farmers to increase food output in areas where soil data, and knowledge of what and when to plant, is severely lacking. One of the areas where organizations have begun to bring near-infrared spectroscopy for soil analysis technology is in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Africa Soil Information Service (ASIS) is developing strategies for content-wide soil maps for sub-Saharan Africa utilizing new analytics, statistics and field trials. ASIS recently launched a 250-meter resolution soil-properties map of Africa to help Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania establish national soil information systems and services based on soil spectroscopy and digital soil-mapping technology.
Digital soil mapping can be used for sustainable agricultural intensification and natural resources management. Organizations and companies can bring these new soil-mapping technologies to farmers in developing areas and impoverished communities to ensure that their soil and landscape resources are described, understood and used effectively. The result of the implementation of this technology could raise agricultural productivity and lower ecological footprints in these areas.
With the projected growth of Africa’s entrepreneurs, its emerging markets, and its increased use of technological solutions to critical problems, the possibilities for innovation are endless.
By Carly Klein
The writer, Carly Klein, is a law student at Loyola Law School. A Los Angeles native and a graduate from Boston University with a B.A. in Political Science & Philosophy, she seeks to pursue a career in Civil Litigation.