Innovation; A Sure Bet to Keep Africa Moving Forward

Photo: Courtesy

The celebrated Africa month  reminded us of how far we’ve come as a continent and as Sthe urges leaders and innovators, it is equally important to remember what still needs to be done to propagate our continent further.

By Sthe Shabangu

In the wake of Africa month celebration, it is easy to be proud of milestones achieved as a continent and get carried away with African Development Bank research that ranked Africa as the continent with the world’s second fastest growing economy.
With our economy expected to grow by 3.4 per cent in 2017 and 4.3 per cent in 2018 according to research in the African Outlook Report, there’s little doubt that our vibrant continent is making great strides towards a bright future.

Children are being left behind
Despite the good picture we see, report by Internet for Education in Africa approximating 110 million children in Africa having never stepped inside a classroom certainly tells us that it’s not enough.
Children across Africa’s rural communities are being left behind – and with more than 70 per cent of the continent’s population living in rural areas, this is a major problem. The same report similarly shows that at least half the population resides more than 25km from the nearest fiber connection; clearly, while we may be celebrating the growth of connectivity in cities, last-mile connectivity is still a major setback.

Many diseases; few doctors
Education is not the only challenge that requires our urgent attention. Equally troubling and of no less importance is the healthcare sector. With serious diseases like Ebola, Malaria, Cholera, Meningitis and HIV/AIDS still posing a great threat to African lives, we have a long journey ahead. In fact, unfortunate as it is, Brand South Africa reports that while Africa shoulders one quarter of the global disease burden, it is home to just 2 per cent of the world’s doctors.

In addition to the gravity of the matter of many diseases, Africa’s health care systems still lacks the capacity to research, produce and deploy the health care solutions we so desperately need.

This health issue was highlighted at the recent World Economic Forum Africa Summit where it was evident that the private sector will play a vital role in improving healthcare in the continent; that it is in the private sector that the resources to invest in people and product development exists.

Changing lives, One Digital Village at a time
As Samsung has discovered first hand, each investment, whether in education or health care or perhaps even both, has the potential to transform hundreds of lives at a time.
“Last year, we at Samsung partnered with UNESCO in Tanzania to provide innovative education and healthcare solutions to the Maasai community in Ololosokwan, Ngorongoro,” observes Sthe Shabangu, the Lead Public Relations Person at Samsung Africa Office.
Together, we established a multi-donor programme comprising of a Samsung Solar-Powered Internet School, a Samsung Solar-Powered Health Centre, a Solar-Powered Tele-Medicine Centre and a Solar-Powered Generator.

While the Internet School contains an interactive whiteboard, Samsung Galaxy Note PCs and a printer, the Health Centre provides a variety of eye, ear, blood, dental and pre and post-natal screening and treatments. On the other hand, Tele-Medicine Centre, provides prescription and expert healthcare assistance through the use of tele-conferencing made possible by the internet and Samsung Tablets. This ultimately enables greater access to qualified medical assistance where initially, there was none.

Samsung also launched West Africa’s first digital village in Volo in the Volta region of Ghana. Here, it is partnering with government, local health services and international stakeholders including UNESCO.

Similar to the initiative in Tanzania, the Village is comprised of a Solar-Powered Internet School, Solar-Powered Tele-Medical Centre, Solar-Powered Health Centre and Solar-Powered Generator.

Not only is the Village instrumental in the improvement of healthcare and education in the region but also helps local traders to develop their businesses through the aid of an alternative, low-cost energy source.

“Through innovations like these, we believe it’s possible to start changing the status quo. Replicating similar initiative of Digital Villages in the community is Matshiding in Mpumlanga, of South Africa with the goal of making healthcare accessible to more people thanks to Samsung,” points out Shabangu.

Because the Village drastically reduces the distance that patients have to travel to access medical care, almost 700 patients visit the Village each month to access basic healthcare services.

It’s true that we still have a great deal of work to do if we want to see our incredible continent continue on its path of transformation, but I firmly believe that the key to our success lies in the power of innovation.

In finality, Shabanga says, “Indeed Samsung’s innovations have been changing millions of lives since we first set foot in Africa many years ago. The drive to serve as a catalyst for transformation across the continent is in our DNA. And just as it’s been our mandate to inspire innovation in Africa, so Africa has inspired us.”

When it comes to innovation, the limits to what we as a dynamic and developing continent can achieve are few. We have only to look to ourselves.

Sthe Shabangu is the Lead: Public Relations, Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Africa Office