Leapfrogging into Tomorrow: Africa’s tech revolution to support green growth 

By the Africa report

© Professor Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank.

As we navigate the early stages of the 21st century, Africa finds itself at a pivotal moment, facing the challenges of accelerating climate change impacts, and at the same time, the opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings.  

According to the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the African continent is warming faster than the global average, and consequently risks losing up to 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050 if current climate trends continue unabated. Yet, within this impending climate crisis lies an unprecedented opportunity for Africa to redefine its developmental trajectory by embracing the disruptive potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution heralds the integration of digital, biological and physical systems, offering novel solutions to longstanding challenges. Africa’s burgeoning population—expected to double by 2050—requires an urgent and innovative approach to sustainability. 

As a climate professional, I cannot say enough about how important it is to harness technology to catalyse Africa’s leap into a future where economic prosperity and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. 

Technological advancements like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, blockchain, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are reshaping industries across Africa. These innovations can significantly enhance efficiency, increase access to essential services and improve the lives of millions.  

In agriculture, for example, precision farming, enabled by AI, has shown promising results, with studies indicating up to 25% increase in crop yields and 30% reduction in water usage. Such advancements are crucial in addressing pressing challenges like malnutrition and hunger, which affect millions of people across Africa. By leveraging the capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Africa can revolutionise its approach to food production, thus ensuring greater food security and nutritional outcomes for its population. 

However, unlocking this potential requires a shift towards innovative financing mechanisms, especially considering recent trends. In 2023, Africa witnessed an alarming 36% decline in investment for startups. This reflects a challenging landscape for entrepreneurship and technological innovation. Despite this setback, countries like Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria collectively absorbed nearly 75% of total funding raised by African startups, with fintech companies emerging as the frontrunners.  

Green bonds, blended finance and other creative financial instruments are also essential to mobilise the substantial investments needed to propel Africa into a sustainable and tech-driven future. This approach both supports technological adoption and ensures that solutions are scalable, sustainable and accessible to all layers of society. 

The African Development Bank is committed to advancing economic development and social progress across Africa, leveraging project and programme lending. It is focusing on strategic investments, policy advocacy and capacity building. In collaboration with governments, the private sector and international partners, the Bank’s goal is to implement Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to tackle a wide spectrum of challenges – from climate change to fostering economic inclusivity. 

Supporting grassroots youth initiatives, nonprofits and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is vital for turning technological innovations into real-world community benefits. The African Development Bank supports various initiatives across Africa, like the Ekiti Knowledge Zone and Jobs Creation project in Nigeria. With a commitment of US $80 million in loan financing, the Bank is spearheading this state-led pioneering special economic zone project to foster digital entrepreneurship and generate 26,000 jobs.  

The Ekiti Knowledge Zone initiative aligns well with the Bank’s commitment to promote entrepreneurship talents as well as develop a skilled workforce matching employers’ needs, contributing to sustainable economic growth and job creation in Africa.  

Similarly, the Zayed Sustainability Prize illustrates the significance of recognising and rewarding innovative SMEs and non-profit organisations that tackle critical challenges raised by African startups.  

The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents Africa with a historic opportunity to redefine its development path, enhance resilience to climate change, and secure a prosperous future for its people. By embracing technological innovations and creative financing, Africa can overcome its current challenges. It can harness its immense potential and resources to lead the way in sustainable development. 

The journey is complex and requires collective effort, but with determination and collaboration, Africa’s future in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is both promising and revolutionary. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *