Necessity fuels innovation in Africa


In recent weeks the technology company committed 1.2 billion US dollars to the expansion of its cloud footprint and another 1 billion US dollars investment into establishing its IBM Watson Group, a new business unit focusing on bringing cloud-delivered applications and services to the market.

“I think it’s a case of if you are given lemons, you make a lemonade and so what is going on in our continent is that we are beginning to, out of necessity, innovate around the circumstances that we have,” Dr Uyi Stewart, Chief scientist of the IBM Research Africa Laboratory told CNBC Africa.

With a long history in Africa, IBM is taking its role as a technology leader seriously as its helping to build the continent’s people and institutions. Nonetheless, the continent does not only face infrastructural challenges but also maintenance.


“What innovators are doing is what we call leapfrog, which is a systematic way to walk around infrastructural challenges that we have and that is what is driving innovation whether it’s in mobile payment, agriculture or education. That’s been the catalyst for what has been going on,” he explained.

In the past five years, the company has set up additional offices in Angola, Mauritius, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana, Nigerian and Kenya. As more and more governments are beginning to commit more funds to technology development and innovation, Stewart believes that the continent’s infrastructural development is growing.

“If you look at the expectation in terms of financial investment needed over the next decade, for the continent to catch up just from an infrastructural standing point, it’s put anything between 93 billion to 100 billion per annum which gives us about one trillion US dollars in the next decade,” he added.

According to him, we are therefore spending half of the expected amount in order to bridge the gap in the infrastructural world and that is what is fuelling innovation.