With an estimated income of more than $100 billion annually, agriculture remains Africa’s largest economic sector. Agricultural production in Africa continues to increase gradually and is almost at par with South America. However, as Africans become more tech savvy, innovations are on the rise as technology experts turn their attention to creating mobile solutions for the modern farmer.
Analysts have shown that by 2025 half of Africa’s population will have internet access with about 360 million smartphones on the continent. Also based on their estimation, internet technology could increase annual agricultural productivity in Africa by $3 billion per annum.
Throughout the continent, farmers, NGOs and scientists are developing solutions to boost agriculture and make the business of farming less labour intensive. Here are some of the apps that seek to solve these problems, while also changing the face of agriculture within Africa.
CLEAN WATER MADE FROM POOP – HOW RECEPTIVE WILL AFRICANS BE?
If you were given a glass of water on your arrival at home on a hot day. You drank it without a second thought, only to be told that the water was an end product from sewage. What would be your first reaction? Gag? Indifference?
Janicki Bioenergy caught global attention in January 2015 when Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates reportedly drank water that had been transformed by a waste transformer from its poop state. Now, that same waste plant which was first situated at Washington, USA, has been taken to Dakar, Senegal.
The waste transformer is an Omniprocessor, a low-cost waste treatment plant. It combines a steam power plant, an incinerator, and a water filtration system into a machine, which converts 14 tons of sewage into potable water and electricity each day.
Specially designed for those countries with major sewage challenges, the Bill Gates’ Foundation sponsored plant is capable of producing not just clean and drinkable water but also electricity and ash.
Prior to August 11, 2015, Janicki Bioenergy was just another bio-energy company attempting to convert waste to something useful. Today, WHO certified company’s trial for converting feces to clean and drinkable water proved successful in Dakar.
About 24,383 gallons of sludge are processed daily. As the bioenergy website says, the sludge could be feces or even dry, combustible feedstock. The plant can produce up to 150 – 250 kW of Electricity, 50,000 – 86,000 liters of Water and 1 m3 of Ash.
Bill Gates’ Foundation is a sponsor of this project as part of its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Bill Gates says the long term focus of this innovation is more on dramatically improving sanitation for poor countries. It is expected that the market price of this technology will be about $1.5m.
Sewage challenges are however not a problem restricted only to Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that globally, about 2.4 billion people lack safe means of disposal of excreta and waste water.
Same report says, poor waste disposal practices are responsible for a significant proportion of the world’s infectious disease burden. Diseases due to poor water supply, sanitation, personal and domestic hygiene cause 4.0% of all deaths and 5.7% of all disability or ill health in the world.
Would Africans be eager to drink water from poop?
The success of the omniprocessor is riding on the willingness of people to drink something that was once sewage. Like Bill Gates mentioned in his blog post; “You have to find the right personnel to run the machine.” “You have to work with local and national governments and gauge the public’s reaction.”
In some African countries, sewage is disposed through indiscriminate methods. This is one of the reasons why it may prove difficult for people on this side of the world to consider drinking it. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that sub-Saharan Africans have just 37% coverage from untreated sewage. These are liquid wastes containing a mixture of human feces and wastewater from bathing, washing, and cleaning.
The likelihood of Africans embracing this technology, however effective could be slim. A good number have been exposed to sewage in rural areas and the thought of drinking clean water from same sewage may not appeal to them.
“I do not believe people will be so eager to drink water that is a product of sewage”. “I remember Bill Gates pulled a stunt of drinking from the water plant early this year, but I don’t think he has tried it again ever since.” “Considering a lack of water supply in some cities, worrying about sewage may not be important to those living there” says Ogbonnaya Ukwuaba, a Renewable Energy Engineering student at Kingston University, England.
THIS KENYAN COLLEGE STUDENT’S INVENTION IS EASING TRAFFIC IN NAIROBI
A college computer student, Patrick Waweru at the University of Nairobi, Kenya has developed a software to monitor and control the traffic of parking lots in Nairobi, Kenya. It is estimated that traffic jams costs Kenya about 37 billion shillings annually as reported by the country’s Transport and Urban Decongestion Committee (TUDC), which attributed the jams to poor city planning. Another source of the gridlock is infrastructure, which is made obsolete by a growing population that is keen on cars. “Much of Nairobi’s road network is more than half a century old and was developed for a city of just 350,000 inhabitants,” said Dr. Osamuyimen Uyi Stewart, an IBM scientist.
In order to solve the problem of traffic congestion facing Nairobi, which includes the inability of motorists to secure parking spaces, young Patrick Waweru decided to proffer a solution, by inventing a software application to monitor the movements of vehicles in the city.
The system he created uses sensors placed on the streets that detect if a vehicle is parked in a particular area. Although it was built and tested on Nairobi streets, it can also be used for parking buildings. The system displays availability of parking spaces on street maps as well as SMS alerts and it can be accessed through a software installed on desktop PC and mobile devices.
At the Innovation Week of the University of Nairobi which held last week the young innovator said that “there will be geomagnetic sensors installed undergrounds on the streets and detect earth magnetic fields. When a vehicle comes, it will disrupt the field and the sensor will detect and send information to our server.”
Even though the circumstances that surround traffic congestion in Nairobi is slightly different from other parts of Africa, they are similar. For instance, the major reason for the gridlocks in Lagos have been identified to be lack of parking spaces for vehicles especially commercial vehicles. It is in light of this that Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos, ordered a relocation of bus stops near markets and other congested areas within the state metropolis. Despite several measures put in place by the governments and private initiatives like Gidi Traffic and JonnyWaka App (which serves road users in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Accra), extreme traffic jams are still prevalent in these cities especially Lagos.
In some other parts of the continent, particularly major cities like Johannesburg- South Africa, Cairo-Egypt, Kampala- Uganda and Gaborone- Botswana traffic gridlocks have become severe because of the growth in population and increase in the number of car users.
Patrick Waweru’s invention may just be the way out for other African countries as he has finally gotten the support of the Nairobi government to launch the invention.
A large number of people ranging from auto dealers to car owners and intending car wash owners gathered to watch the demonstration of Green Machine; a mobile waterless car wash system, in Ajayi Aina area of Gbagada, Lagos state. At that moment a shocking discovery was made— to the amazement of speculators, a trained operator was able to successfully clean a Nissan Almera using water-soluble wax, micro fibre cloth and only a little water.
The mobile car wash which works in a 3 step process, begins with simply spraying on before wiping off and buffing the body of the car to a shine. With its unique features, the Green Machine is also designed to promote environmental-friendliness by generating good results without the use of large volumes of water. This leaves quite a decent surrounding which would otherwise have been wet or very flooded in some cases. It is easy to move around and can be taken to offices, homes, and hotels making the entire process convenient for car owners everywhere.
The Chief Executive Officer of Green Machine Nigeria, Kemi Koyejo explained that “[…] the Green Machine uses waterless carwash products that lift the dirt from the vehicle by a process of emulsification; meaning that the spray breaks down the dirt into molecules, surrounds and coats the dirt molecules, lifting them off the surface.” She also added that this helps preserve car paint and prevents corrosion of the body.
Mrs Koyejo also stated the potential of using this mobile waterless car wash as a tool for empowering the youths, stressing that Green Machine Nigeria would be open to partnerships with local governments, state government councils and other interested organisations. She explained that while her company would train the benefiting youths on how to operate the system, the other party would buy the machines for them at discounted prices.
This innovation not will not only benefit the hospitality industry, auto dealers and other corporate organisations, but serves as a possible means of reducing unemployment and crime in Africa’s largest economy.
Green Machine Nigeria will, apart from running a car wash service located in Gbagada provide interested customers with fleets of vehicles. The supplier plans to appoint dealers for Lagos and parts of the country to meet the needs of Nigerians all over the country while ensuring they enjoy “huge benefits” accordingly.
AUTHOR: Felicia Omari Ochelle for ventursafrica.com