Fraud-free voting, quantum research and buses without fuel - examples of Africa's tech leapfrogs!

Somaliland set to become first country in the world to use iris-recognition software in an election!

THE subject of growing innovation in African countries continues to generate interest and, therefore funds.

Today Africa’s budding entrepreneurs, universities, scientists and professionals are demonstrating that there is huge scope to push the envelope with global-standard technological break-throughs.

At the recent World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that “Africa has the possibility of being the first continent to become a green continent”. That because of the deficit in electricity, people are increasingly turning to the continent’s abundance of renewables for results. 

Some countries on the continent already pushed the boundaries of renewable energy research and, it has now been about three years in the making. Uganda’s automotive engineering and technology innovation in particular is also looking to take off to a new level by relying on environmentally friendly technology.

The 35-seater “Kayoola” bus, currently being tested and set to launch later this month, is going to be Africa’s first solar-powered bus. This comes just three years after the world’s first solar bus was launched in Australia. 

The launch of the bus also highlights the high innovative activity and potential within African universities. The idea was inspired by Uganda’s Makerere University’s participation in the 2006-2008 Vehicle Design Summit 2.0, which was headed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

In first photo, the solar panels on top of the bus. Above, the finished product. (Photo/Kiira Motors).

According to local reports, Makerere University students, under Kiira Motors Corporation (the company that was partly created by the government to start motor vehicle manufacturing in Uganda), built the electronic vehicle which is powered by 240 Lithium Ion cells, packaged as two battery banks, one running the motor at a time and it is designed to cover 80km before the next charge. 

The fuel-efficient model is just the beginning. According to Kiira motors, they will make different kinds of cars including pickups, compact SUVs, sedans and light and medium duty trucks. 

Quantum leaps

In recognition of the potential of African research, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) - a pan-African network of centres of excellence for postgraduate education, research and outreach in mathematical sciences - is pioneering quantum research to the continent. 

Africa’s first quantum research centre - Leap Africa - is to be launched later this year in Rwanda. Going beyond start-ups, it is showing a new appreciation for cutting edge research.

 For this reason, several companies have even redirected their efforts towards solutions aimed at the increasingly lucrative African market. 

Take for example the renewable industry sector which is growing in the world’s emerging economies nearly twice as fast than in industrialised nations. Not only are renewable energy technologies now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many developing nations, but they are often more reliable, safer, and at times cheaper than conventional grid power.

Fraud-free voting

There are also however very specific technologies that could take off because of their unique demand in the African context. 

For example, a worrying time in many African countries is when elections crop up on a calendar. This can lead to situations of instability when there are allegations of rigging or suppression. 

The self-declared independent state of Somaliland however is showing that this can be overcome, and just how progressive it is, becoming the first country in the world to use iris-recognition software in an election! 

The move comes after the Somaliland government’s election experts approached University of Notre Dame’s biometric research group to develop the biometric system to improve the accuracy of its election process.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in 2017, and in the build up citizens started their registration process in January 2016. Iris recognition software has the ability to make the voting process fairer, accurately establishing the number of eligible voters per district in a country where many citizens still do not yet have identity cards. 

These feats have continental, and even global, magnitude. Considering the high rate of innovation and adoption this is just scratching the surface and we can expect to see a lot more…very soon. 

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