By Kay Akinwunmi
In many parts of Africa, a tech revolution is underway. It’s predicted 475 million people will be mobile internet users by 2025.
Devices, networks and emerging forms of technology are proliferating, not least in Nigeria which, through R&D, has the potential to become a regional leader in AI and Blockchain.
Driven by an exploding population, (the average age of which is just 19.7 years old), Africa can become a tech powerhouse.
According to the World Economic Forum, between 2015 and 2020 tech start-ups receiving financial backing was six times faster than the global average. Despite the challenge of retaining later-stage funding, it’s an exciting time to be an African tech start-up, whose strength lies in retaining a local identity.
When Uber launched in Nigeria, it was forced to change its payment options to include cash, and this is a small example of a much bigger truth: in Africa, models that work elsewhere can rarely – if ever – be replicated without some adjustments having to be made to cater for local tastes and modes of behaviour.
This is not unique to Africa: China’s WeChat, described as an “app for everything”, has an interface many Westerners would find awkward to use, ugly, or undesirable; the same is probably true of Western apps looked at from a Chinese point of view. And this is one reason why anyone starting a business for the African market must have a presence on the ground in Africa: so that whatever they build looks and feels local.
But it is also one reason why the tech boom is so exciting: it gives Africans the power to develop African products that are uniquely, visibly African. Africans are best-placed to identify African opportunities, as well as African problems. Through tech, they can develop solutions in a distinctly African way.
And this is something that has been denied to Africans for a long time. The reality is that big corporations can have a homogenising effect as they expand overseas, diluting local cultures.
Tech, though innately international and borderless, celebrates diversity by giving power to the individual, wherever they happen to be. And that means that over time, through tech, Africa will be able to shape its own commercial identity: its own principles around user experience, brand and design.
By giving companies and the products they produce a uniquely African identity – an identity that reflects African people and culture – tech can strengthen that culture and showcase it to the world.
Tech also has the power to help Africa address a wealth of more serious issues, some of which have not just been persistent but seemingly intractable.
EdTech, for example, provides a solution to limited access to education for Africans, especially in poorer rural areas. Start-ups like PataTutor, based in Kenya, connects students with qualified private or online tutors, while uLesson, based in Nigeria, sells digital curricula through SD cards.
HealthTech, too, could give Africans the means to speak to medical professionals via video call or assess any symptoms they might have. In 2020, capital for health tech start-ups on the continent rose 257.5 per cent from 2019, according to a Disrupt Africa report, spurred in part by the pandemic, which shed light on the gap in healthcare services and forced healthcare providers to adjust their models and digitalise quickly.
Increasing internet penetration also means that remote working is likely to increase across Africa, and that may mean that those working abroad can return home. Some in the diaspora are returning home already. And as the cost of data comes down and the internet gets faster, the tech wave will build and roll over more of the continent.
We may not even be able to conceive at this stage of the kinds of brands, products, services and new forms of technology that might emerge out of a bustling and uniquely African tech scene. And with all this comes greater foreign investment in Africa and less brain drain, which strips Africa of some of its most talented people.
There is still a way to go before Africa’s tech industries become sustainable and world-leading. Significant problems remain later-stage funding, supply chain disruption and cybercrime:
Nigeria has more tech hubs than any other country on the continent but is also plagued by mobile malware. But through innovation and the need to diversify its economy, Africa will advance. At Zazuu, we’re proud to be part of Africa’s growth, using tech to meet the needs of African people.
Kay Akinwunmi is the co-founder of Zazuu
Nigerian Developer to Launch New First-person Shooter Game
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A Nigerian developer, Mr Okolie Uchechukwu, will launch a new first-person shooter game, NCHE: The Escape, on Monday, March 14, 2022.
A statement from Mr Uchechukwu disclosed that the mobile game, a product of an inquisitive mind, entails the player using the resources available to make his way through lasers and zombies in the quest for survival.
According to him, a test was carried out last year and based upon the feedback, he and a co-developer, Cleec Designs, an indie studio based in Nigeria, improved the skill balance, gameplay experience for both android and IOS devices, and boosted the overall graphics and UI design.
He stated that the online showcase uploaded via his official YouTube channel has gathered interest from fans of the genre across the world.
When officially unveiled in less than two months’ time, game lovers would be able to download and play NCHE: The Escape for free by both iOS and Android users.
Mr Uchechukwu further explained that NCHE: The Escape thrusts players into a mysterious mental facility where escape is seemingly impossible.
“You’ll have to keep your wits about you as you try to find a means to escape. As the perfect icing to the cake, the facility is overrun by bloodthirsty zombies, so making it out of the place alive is indeed a challenge.
“Players will go through a series of eerie levels each time, encountering zombies, picking up defence supplies, and avoiding the lasers. NCHE: The Escape places players in a strange mental facility where the existence of life is unthinkable.
“So, making your way through the facility overrun by violent zombies will be a challenging task. Players can pick up guns and ammo on their way as they move ahead in levels, in search of their way to escape.
“The hitch here is that players have to be critical when using their weapons as ammo is limited. They will come across moving lasers and zombies that can be shot down any moment but sometimes simply dodging them would be a better alternative for players to make it through the advancing intense levels.
“The difficulty level increases with every progress as players will find it more and more challenging to withstand the approaching obstacles,” he added.
Nigeria to Launch Another Satellite in Space Soon—FG
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has disclosed that it plans to launch another satellite through the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) before the end of the year.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, during a tour of facilities at the agency’s base in Abuja.
He said: “That approval of federal government which I have secured has been forwarded to NigComSat. Now, it is on the table of NigComSat to answer that question. I want to make sure that as I said that 2022 is NigComSat year along with NIPOST. I want to make sure that all work in progress must be completed by 2022.
“As I said earlier, 2022 has been dedicated to NigComSat and NIPOST, and I want to do the best I can to improve what we have achieved in the previous years.
“I recently approved two subsidiaries of NigComSat and I am here to supervise what they have been doing, and I discovered some areas where we need to work to improve their performance significantly.”
He also stated that for the agency not to be considered for privatisation again, it must provide quality service and generate good revenue for the federal government.
He added: “Before I was made the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), there was the Oronsaye report which recommended for the scrapping of NITDA. But when I was able to turn things around from a generation of N7 billion to N19 billion in a year, no one talks about scrapping NITDA again.
“So, if you are able to turn things around, render quality service and generate income, no one will talk of privatising your company again.”
On her part, the Director-General, NigComSat, Mrs Abimbola Alike, appreciated the Minister for his immense support.
Mrs Alike stated: “We all know what our budget used to be N200 million-N300m, for a company that needs capital after overhead.
“He stood for us and said there must be something good in NigComSat because he is a man who believes that we can actually turn around NigComSat.”
She assured Mr Pantami of the agency’s readiness to deliver quality service and generate revenue to justify his efforts at revitalising the agency.
According to her, this year, Nigerians would see new significant changes that will make them know that NigComSat is a new company that can compete with its global counterparts.
Balthazar Secures $3m to Achieve NFT Gaming Platform Growth
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The sum of $3 million has been raised by an NTF gaming platform, Balthazar, through the sale of tokens, with Animoca Brands emerging as the lead purchaser.
Other token purchasers were Finder Group (through Hive Empire Capital, which is led by Fred Schebesta), Zip co-founder Larry Diamond, Digital Asset Capital Management (DACM), Fantom, ZED Run, Darling Ventures, Pluto Digital, San Francisco-based VC Side Door Ventures, Algorand, and Three Arrows Capital’s TPS Capital.
With the new development, Animoca Brands, a global leader in gamification and blockchain with a large portfolio of over 150 investments in NFT-related companies and decentralised projects, will provide advisory services to Balthazar, which aims to be the leading NFT gaming platform in the metaverse.
Balthazar, which commenced operations in 2021, wants to be the largest decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) in the play-to-earn space.
The company is a community-focused platform, removing the barrier to entry for gamers to access play-to-earn games through its scholarship program with no upfront costs.
Balthazar is more than a guild, with plans to develop its tech platform, its rent-to-earn lending model, and to scale up its community.
Prior to the token sale, Balthazar deployed 1,100 scholars into several NFT games including Axie Infinity, Splinterlands and Thetan Arena, with a further 30,000 people on its waitlist, and a community of more than 70,000 people in its Discord channel.
“We are so thrilled to be backed by Animoca Brands and all of our supporters in helping to shape the metaverse and to continue assisting and expanding our community.
“This support means we can fulfil our vision of empowering the biggest community of gamers to create a self-sustaining, wealth-building ecosystem.
“We are developing the most incredible platform that will bring together gamers, crypto holders and individuals through our own NFT games, valuable tokenomic strategies and gaming partnerships.
“I’m excited about the future of the play-to-earn space, in particular how it’s spreading earning opportunities to those who need it most, as well as providing a new use-case for cryptocurrency,” the CEO of Balthazar, John Stefanidis, stated.
Also commenting, the Executive Chairman and co-founder of Animoca Brands, Yat Siu, stated that, “Balthazar has a thriving and fast-growing community, offering opportunities for all people to be involved in the NFT gaming space, including gamers, game companies, and crypto holders.
“With its dynamic leadership, we believe that Balthazar will be able to tap growth for NFT-based gaming in new markets, and we are excited to be part of its journey.”
Balthazar has opened a private token sale round, with plans to sell $8 million of tokens at a token cap valuation of $150 million by February 2022.
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