Africa 2030, the next 25 years: From video games, eco-buildings, robotics, and cycling

African countries are set to upset the form book. Don't bet against them.

AS 2015 starts, it is as good a time as any to look to the future - the next 15 to 25 years in Africa.

Today, a combination of necessity and want have slowly begun to shape several of Africa’s industries. These industries, although negligible now, promise to mushroom and boom within the next decade or so. They will make some African countries famous for them and a reference in conversation towards those specific services or goods impossible to de-link from the continent. 

Here we take a look at what some of those industries and factors may be: 

Eco-Friendly Buildings 

The Mauritius Commercial Bank building in Port Louis, was the first building to receive the prestigious BREEAM rating in sub-Sahara Africa. The building makes use of free cooling and uses a solar farm on the edge of its lawn to meet 60% of its energy needs. Rainwater is harvested for use, and the orientation of the building allows for maximisation of solar lighting. This is a trend that will explode on the continent where high rates of urbanisation coupled with the poor development of infrastructure will make businesses look to renewable natural resources to meet their energy needs. Today, modern renewables, such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal account for just 2% of Africa’s energy mix, but by 2040, this likely to increase to 9%, a projected increase from around 20GW to nearly 170 GW, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.  In fact, by 2040, sub-Saharan Africa looks set to become a world leader in the generation capacity of renewables. The share of renewables projected to double from 21% to 44% of Africa’s total energy mix by 2040 - this share will be higher in 2040 than that of China, the United States or India.

Award-winning Cyclists 

African cycling teams are starting to make international waves - not quite tidal, but certainly ripples. Out of 94 countries featured in the world’s cycling rankings, the top five ranking African nations were; South Africa (32), Algeria (43), Morocco (48), Eritrea (50) and Tunisia (55). Eritrea made this list for one particular reason - altitude. 

As is the case with Kenya and Ethiopia’s hugely successful long-distance runners, training at high altitude –that is between 1,800 and 3,000 metres above sea level – boosts oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Studies with elite athletes have shown that levels of haemoglobin - the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen - can increase by about 1% per week at altitude, which may translate into a 1-3% boost in race performance. As there is increased recognition of national cycling teams in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Rwanda - all with high altitudes - the number of award-winning teams coming from Africa will rise. The reason this has not happened yet is because of a lack of financing and support locally, something which is starting to take root (see: Kenyan Riders) and will propel this group of athletes within the next decade. 

Universities in the World’s top 100

According to the Times Higher Education rankings of world universities, the first African university to feature on the list is in the 124th position - South Africa’s University of Cape Town. The change in future will be partly be due to a massive increase in population; by 2050 Africa’s under-18 population will increase by two thirds, reaching almost 1 billion by the middle of the century. 

As the youth contemplate their places of study, they will choose not to study abroad, but within Africa. A trend that has already started - between 1999 and 2012 the number of African students choosing to study outside of their home countries but within Africa rose from 18% to 28%. The French government’s Campus Agency also that noted that there were 380,376 African students were on the move in 2010, representing about a tenth of all international students worldwide and 6% of all African students. France was the destination for the greatest share with 111,195, or 29.2% of the total, second was South Africa with 57,321 or 15% of the total. 

Leading alcohol producer 

In the next decade Africa is going to become a leading producer of wine and whisky. South Africa is currently the dominant country in Africa’s wine economy and the continent’s expanding middle class is a very alluring target. Even though total exports within Africa are not growing as fast as expected, as African populations expand along with increased disposable incomes, consumption will too and, as a result, so will the number of African producers. 

Today wine is being produced in several countries across the continent including Kenya, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Tunisia. The challenge will not come from the growth but from the challenges by international actors such as Chilean and Argentine wine exporters who receive financial backing from their governments. 

However, as Africa’s wine producers grow in numbers and strength, within the next decade it is likely that governments will offer them greater protection - bear in mind that in South Africa the production of wine contributed over $270 million to state revenue in 2006, up from $144 million a decade earlier. Whisky production will most likely follow a similar path on the continent. Currently South Africa is producing whisky that is starting to gain recognition internationally - this year, South African “Three Ships” bourbon was named Africa’s Best Spirit receiving a trophy and gold medal at the China Wine and Spirits competition, the first South African whisky to do so. But it’s not just about the international market, the spirit also has potential in African markets. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, while global export value remained at £4.3 billion ($6.67 billion), due to struggles in the key EU and North American markets, export value to Africa rose 3%, from £238.7 million in 2012 to £245.2 million ($380 million) in 2013. Exports of Scotch to Nigeria increased by 34% to $10.3 million in the first half of this year. Exports to Kenya in the same period also increased, jumping by 89% to $397,300 and the Senegalese market grew 68% to $511,761. 

Video Games

The excitement around technology and technological innovation has been buzzing for several years on the continent now. In the next 10-15 years this technology-literate mobile generation is going to advance at an accelerated pace, moving into various ventures but the one that will make it stand out from the crowd will be video games. 

In 2012 the global video game industry was worth approximately $78 billion. That’s the size of the world’s movie and music business combined. Today 20% of Africa’s 1.1 billion-strong population is online - and a proportion of them will be seeking out African based video games, ones that haven’t been based on limited perspectives drawn from the Lion King or documentaries. 

What is holding back the African gaming industry today is the lack of skilled people and video games development studios. This is slowly changing. South Africa’s video gaming market is currently worth around $163 million - which just accounts for consoles and games on disc. The industry is only set to grow, as it will in other African nations. In a report looking at detailed information for South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya’s entertainment and media sectors, PwC predicted that the fastest growth, at 9%, will be seen in video games. This is already taking root with groups such as Ghana’s Leti Arts starting to crop up, catering to the growing demand. As advertisers recognise this there will be an increase in resources available to game developers and a demand for their skills and training. 

Desert Colonies 

The Sahara desert covers about 1/4 of the African continent, it’s 9 million square kilometres sandy mass stretching over large parts of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia. Though this land is currently sparsely populated, within a decade the Sahara and Kalahari deserts could become some of the most contested land areas in the world. 

As countries such as China and India struggle to cope with their overpopulation, and other countries such as Japan (said to be on the verge of being destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic eruption) struggle with natural disasters that risk wiping their countries out, Africa’s deserts could become new colonies for displaced global communities. As African countries, such as Algeria, seek to expand their economies beyond oil production, these homelands will provide valuable revenue. They will also act to reinforce innovation in Africa’s renewable energy drive. 

Fashion designers 

African fashion designers are on the rise. These designers, having attained high acclaim in local markets, have carved out their niche in the global market, bolstered by colourful and unusual materials fused with modern shapes and styles. African fashion weeks in New York, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin and Stockholm have managed to generate considerable crowds and the interest of young upcoming designers from around the world. This has propelled African design and there is huge diversity on the continent yet to be explored. 

From South Africa to  Nigeria colleges, institutions and universities are all offering fashion courses to cater for the growing interest and demand. This has been reflected by the high calibre of designers and quality of shows that both Nigeria and South Africa have been able to put together. What looks to propel their rise is the growing economies and potential that these countries have as both producers and consumers of luxury goods. They are also helped by the fact that, for the moment, the big fashion houses, have not set up retail outlets in the continent - giving them the opportunity to grow their own industry. The big challenge they face however will be imports into beleaguered textile industries from South East Asia…though considering the niche market of African fashion designers, they should come out on top. 

Healthcare innovation 

The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, is a 3,000-bed academic hospital attached to the University of the Witwatersrand and is the largest hospital in the world.

It is also the ideal place to learn about the management of gunshot wounds because it has to cater to one of the most violent urban areas in the world. It is this specialised demand, that will propel African innovations in health and training onto the global stage. For example the recent Ebola crisis, that has hit several of Africa’s West African nations, has seen Guinea develop and trial a revolutionary 15-minute test for detecting Ebola. The test uses saliva and blood samples and comes in a solar-powered box. It could be groundbreaking since this test will be six times faster than current methods, reducing the rate of transmission of the virus and curbing the spread. 

The recognition of healthcare innovation is already starting to take root with the first Inclusive Healthcare Innovation Summit taking place in South Africa. There have also been healthcare start-ups cropping up, seeking to address the challenges in current healthcare systems. 

One example is SMS for Life in Tanzania that uses a combination of mobile phones, SMS messages, the Internet and electronic mapping technology to track weekly stock levels at public health facilities in the fight against Malaria. Another example is MobiSure in Kenya, a mobile medical insurance for low-income earners which would allow families and individuals to buy insurance from as short as one day. 


Robotics in Africa is set to explode in the next 15 years, providing world class, cutting-edge technology. Through a combination of computer science and engineering, Afribots will be developed to provide solutions to a variety of problems to “Africa’s problems” - landline sweeping and drone surveillance. It will also act as an effective way to recycle Africa’s growing e-waste problem. 

Today the Afribot movement is spear-headed by large networks such as African Robotics Network (AFRON) - a company established by Ghana and the US in 2012 - which promotes communication and collaborations that will enhance robotics-related education, research, and industry on the continent. But it is also being driven by more local groups such as Uganda’s FundiBots who are trying to engage with youth in schools, educating them on the technological process of building robots so that they can look at their environment from a practical, solution-oriented perspective. 

These robotics will give rise to local solutions and catapult Africa’s manufacturing industry. For example in Ghana, Ashesi university hosted students from high-schools across the country and challenged them to design prototype robots capable of harvesting pineapples. 

World’s leading Afrocentric cosmetics company

 In 2011 Africa’s female population stood at 519,058,499 - almost half a million more than men. Of these, 56.4% were women between the ages of 15-64 years and this group is set to double over the next 40 years. 

Today they are already spending big bucks on beauty products. While still largely based in the informal economy, the African haircare business for example is currently a multi-billion dollar industry with women spending an estimated $7 billion on their hair. Whilst fake hair comes in from the East to meet this demand and international hair experts have been making waves in Afro markets, the cosmetics industry has been lagging. 

Bolstered by access to premium raw materials, a huge market of middle and upper class ladies and products which specifically target and effectively market towards Africa’s women, the world’s leading “black” cosmetics company looks set to emerge out of Africa within the next decade. Cosmetic manufacturing in Africa is currently occurring on a small-scale. But as increasing numbers of beauticians appear on the scene and industries mature, the development and manufacturing of cosmetics in Africa will take place on a huge scale - catering for demands ranging from make-up to skincare and anti-ageing products. 

Even today the supply of afrocentric cosmetics does not match the demand at opens the market for a strong African contender which will export Afrocentric products regionally and internationally. In the US for example, even though African-American women spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty, there are only a handful of quality products designed for them. 


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