IN the next 35 years, Africa will need to accommodate almost 900 million new urban dwellers, which is equivalent to what Europe, USA and Japan combined have managed over the last 265 years.
Some of the continent’s urban growth is due to rural-urban migration, but most of it is being driven by natural population increase in the cities. Child survival and life expectancy in urban areas has increased, resulting in an urban population boom.
But a third of urban dwellers in the region have no access to electricity, and the most reported deprivation for urban Africans was clean water, according to data from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. And although urban environments provide easier access to health facilities and services than rural ones, there’s a growing inequality in accessing services such as drugs and skilled practitioners.
Africa’s challenges aren’t intractable; in fact they provide the ideal environment for technology to come in and fill the gap.
It is what has driven companies like General Electric (GE) to invest in technology that solves big problems. A selection of the company’s groundbreaking innovations is featured in documentary programme Breakthrough, aired on Nat Geo, DStv Channel 181.
The show invites viewers to take a look at the advancements that will define our lives in the next few years. Scientists on the cutting edge reveal what’s next in the fields of smart energy, water provision, and living longer, healthier lives.
Digital wind farms
For example, GE’s jet engine technology has given way to the creation of gas turbine technology, which helps power the world. With scientists and engineers working around the globe, GE is on the cutting edge of developing more efficient energy solutions, including digital wind farms and solid oxide fuel cells.
In the area of water, GE’s ZeeWeed Membrane technology — an advanced filter that delivers clean, usable water from wastewater — is featured as part of the solution.
The programme highlights the Butler Water Reclamation Facility in Peoria, Arizona, that uses GE’s technology. The facility has the capacity to recycle over 37 million litres of water every day, transforming the area. The facility delivers water to a 5-acre lake and a town park, in one of the US’ most arid states, and in the near future, it will support the growing town and the people who live there.
And in health, molecular pathology scientists are studying tumour cells, in order to understand how to be more effective in fighting cancer. Using GE’s MultiOmyx technology, scientists can determine the cell makeup and characteristics of these tumour tissues, as well as the likelihood of potential growth.
Smart African governments should be watching. It airs every Sunday at 20:05 CAT on Nat Geo DStv Channel 181.