Earlier this year when hard lockdowns hit all over the continent, it sadly brought some companies to their knees. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an 'adapt or die' situation that shone a light on business agility and survival. Happily, though, many small African firms rose to meet the challenge. And embraced technology in order to keep going. In a recent Business Live article, columnist Jonathan Cook discovered just how innovative African enterprises could be. This is what he found...
Clever African firms used technology to survive the pandemic
Hydroponic Farms Uganda
According to its website, this brilliant African company is a 'home-grown Ugandan climate smart urban farming social enterprise that primarily designs, manufactures and distributes Hydroponic Farms.' It claims that with an average of 140 plants in your hydroponic farm, a farmer can earn nearly $500 a year. This year, in order to help vulnerable urban women farmers keep food on the table, Hydroponic Farms installed close to 20 000 hydroponic units. They assist in areas ranging from small urban units to large commercial farms. This clever use of tech and innovation likely helped feed millions.
In addition to doing their bit to help the nation's farmers in 2020, Hydroponic Farms came up with an innovative way to monitor crops - when farmers couldn't access their land due to lockdown restrictions. They partnered with an AI company and drew on open-source software to develop an automated monitoring system for clients' farms. The founder and CEO, Amon Mahikaho, harnessed technology to help his company - and others - stay alive.
Lentera Africa, Kenya
Another small business that wasn't afraid to embrace new things to keep the cogs of industry turning. As Jonathan Cook says, Lentera 'looked to the skies' for innovative solutions to their challenges. This agriculture tech start-up created an exciting app called CropHQ that uses satellite technology to monitor the health of their crops.
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Some of the app's abilities include offering accurate weather predictions in small areas, monitoring soil moisture content and local rain predictions in order to alert farmers on when to water. CropHQ also studies the health of crops, predicting possible issues so that solutions can be confirmed in advance. In order to help farmers keep track of daily records and qualify for export certification, the app includes a built-in record-keeping tool so farmers can easily find the reports they require. This was crucial during the pandemic.
African Drone and Data Academy, Malawi
A company that isn't a stranger to embracing the power of new technology is the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi. Part of UNICEF's Drone and Data for good initiative, this organisation focuses on exploring the benefits of drones. And how they can be used to deliver goods and services in hard to reach areas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these operations were put to good use.
The academy is an example of how an African institution can grow and thrive if they adapt global technology developments for their own local conditions. The collaboration between global organisations and forward-thinking African firms is important for African sustainability and growth.
So, it doesn't matter if the technological advancements are big or small - so long as they're taking place on our great continent. And, they don't need to cost the earth. As Jonathan says, 'in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, technology enables innovative entrepreneurs to provide a compelling value proposition, drawing on little more than their own ingenuity.' If your firm doesn't have the ability to build the kind of innovative technology you need, take the leap and look to tech-savvy entrepreneurs who have spent years growing their skills for exactly this purpose. Coming up with ideas and partnering with the right people can be innovation enough.