The vibrant city of Nairobi has much to be proud of, and with the resounding display of talent during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Nairobi boasted its growing technology innovation sector. We're not yet at our best, but the latest event was the strongest statement yet: Africa can do better.
Nairobi represents an Africa-wide aspiration to innovate and become self-sustaining. This dream similarly took hold of the SwahiliBox team, now a project in Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city after Nairobi. A vibrant community of technology enthusiasts, the space helps SwahiliBox be close to Sub Saharan African development with two superpowers: the Internet of Things (IoT) industry and impact investment. Why these two areas?
The IoT Industry in Africa
According to McKinsey & Company, the "bottom-up analysis for the applications we size estimates that the IoT has a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025”. With the backing of impact investors, the potential for IoT in Sub Saharan Africa is huge.
The Internet of Things is still a new concept to many African readers. IoT focuses on hardware systems connected to the Internet, powered by software that allows the hardware components to automate procedures or interact with their environment in complex ways, from home automation to security to entertainment applications.
The African IoT industry is nascent, and the base hardware is extremely affordable. Apps can be developed even for rudimentary local hardware, as many IoT projects do not demand especially powerful processing. Even with limited Internet access, the hardware and software can be tweaked to provide amazing localized solutions: ones we own, that are tailor-made to the local market, and that solve unique local problems. Best of all, these IoT solutions are sustainable to develop and sell to local consumers because all the components and development is sourced locally.
Empowering the Next Generation of Innovators
Mombasa's startup scene also understands that the full potential to create innovate solutions in IoT lies not just in this generation, but the future generation. Recently, the BBC unveiled the micro:bit, a "pocket-sized codeable computer with motion detection, a built-in compass and Bluetooth technology, which is to be given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK", which according to the BBC - “the micro:bit is the BBC's most ambitious education initiative in 30 years, with an ambition to inspire digital creativity and develop a new generation of tech pioneers.”
SwahiliBox is actively looking at empowering high school and primary school kids with the skills they need to become the next generation of innovators in the African market. The company offers bootcamps and training programs to primary and high schools, as well as directly to colleges and universities. This approach is creating local technologist and innovators with a deep understanding of the local consumer behaviors, needs, and resources - which is saving Kenya money on hardware, talent imports, and operational overhead. In this way, Mombasa is training its own future technologists and dreamers to develop sustainable, highly customized, impact driven solutions. Not all these kids receive a college education, but they can all be empowered to build productive software and hardware, and become globally engaged citizens.
The journey before Mombasa is long, but the community - with the lead of companies like SwahiliBox - is making it happen together. Initiatives like SwahiliBox are building momentum in Mombasa and aim to scale throughout Sub Saharan Africa by creating impact and educating the populating with lasting skills, regardless of whether or not the students can afford a college education. Not just a disruption of hardware and software trends, SwahiliBox is nurturing talent, providing a pubic service, and empowering a whole country to take the future into its hands.
Excited about the potential of IoT in Africa? Let us know in the comments.