The case for rebuilding Africa.
When researching the state of development and infrastructure in the African continent I was overwhelmed by the amount of data there is, to say the least, the African continent is the most underdeveloped area in our modern world, the paradox that I discovered while doing my research was that there is a lot of data about the problem with significantly less effort to correct this current situation.
The main problem appeared to be sort of a catch-22 situation, where the poor state of infrastructure reduced economic growth by 2% each year and reduced business productivity by 40% according to a study funded by the World Bank. And when you know that Africa is rich in so many economic resources and minerals to the point where Africa is ranked first in the number of reserves of bauxite, cobalt, industrial diamond, phosphate rock, platinum-group metals (PGM), vermiculite, and zirconium you know that this situation is inexcusable.
The reasons behind this developmental paradox range from corruption to issues that still remain from the colonial era that the continent is still trying to recover from. But pointing fingers and finding the historical causes of this problem is beyond the scope of this article. In our opinion, what we need to focus on today, is where we are now? and how can we move forward as a human race to correct this wrong that plagues the lives of 1 billion Africans still living today with minimal infrastructure, lower standards of living than anywhere else in the world, low education, and low connectivity?
When trying to measure the infrastructure in a society a very important metric we use is to examine the penetration of electricity in that society, electricity is a clean form of power that is used to run everything from our phones to our tea kettles all the way to businesses and factories. And the state of electric grid penetration in Africa is greatly lacking, without using very complicated data and diagrams it’s enough to know that about 0.6 Billion people lack access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa which is about 66% of the global population without power. And to make it even worse, those who belong to the middle or higher social class do have access to generator-based electricity in those regions. Still, due to the nature of this method of energy production, they often pay 2 to 3 times the global average for electricity which could be acceptable for some families & individuals but for society as a whole this means that a significant portion of their GDP is wasted on a resource the majority of the global population gets for a much lower price.
(Courtesy of McKinsey & Company)
According to McKinsey & Company, 80% of infrastructure projects fail at the feasibility and business-plan stage. This is something we at Futira are very familiar with; When our founder Dr. Hatim Zaghloul started his journey towards connecting the unconnected communities in sub-Saharan and equatorial communities, he faced the same problem. It was extremely unfeasible and uneconomic to cover those huge areas with a mobile network.
But Dr. Zaghloul being the innovative inventor he is didn’t take “NO” for an answer and he turned to our R&D department to work on a solution, and after a few years of research, the team was able to reach an acceptable solution creating a new iteration of mesh networks in addition to new and improved mobile towers that are taller and can extend its signal to limits unseen by any mobile network operator.
And this is the main point we’re trying to highlight in this article when management companies and investors work based on raw numbers and feasibility studies they are locked in a stagnant mental framework where they do not see possibilities beyond the current technologies and the idea of funding research that may or may not produce results is almost laughable for them. But at Inovatian and Futira where the scientific lead is also the CEO of the company, we were able to create a market where others saw none and today we’re proud to say that our new iteration of mobile networks is currently in the beta stage in Chad and in the construction phase in Mauritania. Proving to the world that only science, research, and education can change the status quo and bring light where there was only darkness and projections of loss.