I want to take you back to the 1920s, an era defined by an increase in consumerism, a revitalised global economy in the wake of the First World War, and this concept of “mass culture”. It was a time fondly remembered as the Roaring Twenties.
It was a period also underscored by a number of inventions, including the telephone, instant camera, and developments in radio. Now, the tech fundis are predicting a re-emergence of the Roaring Twenties; the decade starting next year.
There are a few themes to look out for, according to Jonathan Sieff from Sasfin Wealth. And they are all about technological advancement.
Healthcare innovation is a theme Jonathan says will dominate the next decade, especially as genome mapping becomes less expensive, leading to breakthroughs in preventative medicine.
We’re already seeing a number of mass immunisation and vaccination drives across the continent of Africa were millions are being inoculated against deadly diseases like cholera, and in areas of the DRC, where Ebola has claimed at least 1 700 lives, experimental medicines are being used to protect health workers and people at risk alike. More on that in a later NewsByte.
Another theme to look out for in the 2020s is smart mobility, especially when it comes to battery power, and combining materials to form newer compounds to drive our innovation forward. As you know, many of these materials, like cobalt and lithium, are mined right here in Africa: Zimbabwe has one of the largest lithium deposits in the world, while the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia are among the top global producers of cobalt.
The Internet of Things and 5G couple up to present the third theme, according to Jonathan. This is the interconnectivity of devices via networks, turning virtually all devices and appliances into smart devices. There is still very low internet penetration and connectivity across the globe, but Africa is among the countries which is showing massive growth in the rolling out of internet infrastructure, paving the way for the smart cities and homes of the very near future.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence is another major theme, with automation slowly leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR. This is an area we as Africans can really focus on educating ourselves and our children in order for them to be impactful and productive citizens of the future.
eCommerce and digital entertainment is also expanding vastly worldwide, with streaming services opening up and reaching into many countries in Africa. This will only become more pervasive once the internet infrastructure expands as well.
Cloud computing and cybersecurity is also a major upcoming theme of the 2020s, and we’ve already seen how dangerous information can be in the wrong hands. Worldwide there is a drive to tighten up any loopholes and protect the data of internet users.
Finally, the seventh theme Jonathan identifies is clean energy, and as we’ve seen in previous NewsBytes, and in the ANA+ news nuggets, Africa is truly leading the way in adopting green power. Kenya recently opened Africa’s largest wind farm, Namibia is growing its solar outputs and one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world is built on African soil.
Now, all this talk about future-proofing ourselves as Africans may seem daunting. “But I don’t even have a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram account,” I hear you say, “how will I survive in the interconnected digital world of 4IR?”
Well, here’s the great news: the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Cape Town, South Africa in September this year is themed “Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
It may sound like a mouthful, but all it means is that the forum will discuss how we future-proof ourselves as Africans.
It’s the first time a World Economic Forum meeting is held in sub-Saharan Africa since 2017. This year’s meeting falls in a year when 20 national elections take place across the region.
The World Economic Forum on Africa will address a number of issues, including: * Supporting growth and integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area * Creating high-quality employment opportunities and protecting workers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution * Employing drones to address health, infrastructure and other societal needs * Using emerging technologies to advance healthcare and prepare for epidemics * Implementing growth strategies that address environmental challenges and deliver industrialization.
Africa’s development depends on building the right conditions for its new generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders, according to Elsie Kanza, who is the head of the regional agenda for Africa and an executive committee member at the World Economic Forum.