Africa has a lot to offer – just another reason to take off our blinders.
Here are some myths that keep us from truly connecting.
#1. Africa is for Low-Skilled Labor
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is initiating immense change, driven by digital forces which are expected to shape the next decade – artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), network-based logic, augmented and virtual reality, quantum computing, etc.
The unprecedented speed of change will bring more advancements in the next ten years than in the last 250 years.
With a surplus of workers, more stability, and technology transforming many nations’ economies, Africa is now an attractive destination for investments, fast-growth startups, and the high-tech companies driving these technology trends.
By 2030, Africa will be home to more than 25% of the world’s population under 25. With that, there’s an opportunity for the continent to drive inclusion, economic growth, and rapid expansion in the pool of highly-skilled professionals in cognitive STEM-based skills (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
There’s an opportunity to develop not just an inclusive future of work, but new transformative ideas that add tremendous value to the evolving world. Unleashing our full potential is essential and requires diverse, inclusive collaborative models that take into account the colorful tapestry of our common humanity on both local and global levels.
#2. Africa is not a Powerhouse
6 of the 10 fastest-growing economies are located in Africa, a fact that serves as a testament to its ambition.
Long-term trends that African countries are now more attractive investment destinations.
70% of the population of Africa is under age 30 and sub-Saharan Africa will soon be the only place with birth rates at replacement level or higher. The continent is also increasingly urban, with more than 50 cities with populations greater than a million people. Thus Africa is well-positioned to support the workforce of the future. The young age demographic, coupled with the urbanization of Africa, is a recipe for further innovation and development.
#3. Africans Lack Access
Mobile data usage in Africa is expected to grow 20 times by 2025 – a statistic that is double the projected growth on a global level. Mobile technology has transformed many African countries because it is more readily available than computers. Consider the following:
- Mobile banking is everywhere in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.
- Cell phones are as ubiquitous in Nigeria and South Africa as they are in the United States – about 9 out of 10 people own one.
- Smartphone usage is on the rise, with 34% of South Africans and 27% of Nigerians owning one.
#4. Africa Lacks Innovation
The truth is Africans are undoubtedly resourceful.
Some lack access to education and have few resources but breakthrough innovation and the capacity for creativity continue to abound.
Africa is a hotbed of brilliant ingenuity.
Consider the following African inventions as examples:
- Mathematics – Most accounts of ancient mathematical systems seem to begin and end in Egypt. But that’s not it. The Lebombo bone found in Swaziland and the Ishango bone, discovered on the border between Uganda and Zaire, both baboon fibulas, are the world’s two oldest mathematical objects – the former at least 35,000 years old. The Ishango bone may be the oldest table of prime numbers.
- Digital Laser – Dr. Sandile Ngcobo invented the world’s first Digital Laser.
- Construction – Prof Mulalo Doyoyo invented the “cementless concrete” Cenocell and Amoriguard, a paint whose fillers are based on recycled industrial waste.
- Medical Inventions – Prof Mashudu Tshifularo was the first to transplant 3D-printed bones for reconstructive middle ear implants on 3 March 2019, at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The Freeplay fetal heart rate monitor was also invented in Africa. It is a hand-crank-powered diagnostic device.
- Traffic-Regulating Robots – Thérèse Izay from Congo-Kinshasa invented humanlike robots to regulate traffic in Kinshasa. The robots function as a traffic light combined with a crossing guard. In March 2015, there were five robots regulating traffic in this city, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Drone – Nigeria’s first unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly referred to as a drone, was created at the Nigerian Air Force School of Engineers. It can fly nonstop at 3,000 feet for nearly four hours. This is a significant accomplishment because it was Nigeria’s first indigenous drone flight.
- Mercedes S-Class Interior Design – Steeve Burkhalter from Congo-Brazzaville designed the interior of the Mercedes’ concept car.
#5. Africans Live on Less than a Dollar a Day
The middle class is ambitious and working toward bridging economic gaps.
In fact, 23 African countries are now middle-income level. Africa’s leading cities account for 80% of consumers with the disposable income to acquire assets such as cars, televisions, and appliances, according to research from Fraym.
Urban corridors and regions like Lagos (Nigeria), Johannesburg (South Africa), and Nairobi (Kenya) stand out for their financial-technology hubs, middle-class consumers, and connectivity.
Beyond the top three in sub-Saharan Africa are cities like Luanda in Angola, Khartoum in Sudan, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania; and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
There are many small, microfinance projects which help lower-income people get access to capital or learn skills to earn a better living.
African countries are also maintaining relationships with non-African countries, specifically China. Such relationships are helping many African countries execute large infrastructure projects such as roads and dams.
What’s the Connection Between Myths and Stereotypes
When we buy into these myths we create false stereotypes.
Remember that Africa is a vast, culturally diverse continent. There are likely folks who benefit from keeping you in the dark about the continent. But what’s worse, these myths and misconceptions are a disservice to humanity.