Technology in Africa: Tech Hubs, AI and Expats on the Rise

Africa is the world’s second fastest-growing region, and by 2025 it will outnumber China’s population.

Over the past couple of decades, an influx of new tech hubs and global investor support, a spike in newly established foreign embassies and other events have caused an increase in jobs, economic growth, foreign engagement and industrialization across the continent.

Today, international companies and global supporters continue to invest in Africa, creating more opportunities, and expats are beginning to follow.

A rise in Africa’s international relations

Between 2010 and 2016, more than 320 embassies opened in Africa, likely the largest embassy-building boom in history, according to The Economist. In addition to global nations’ diplomatic efforts, military ties also have grown. The United States and France are supporting the front against jihadism in the Sahel, and China now is a main provider in arms and other military needs for sub-Saharan countries.

Investing in Africa’s tech hubs

South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, and Morocco account for more than half of Africa’s 618 tech hubs, a 40% leap from 422 hubs counted last year. These hubs, or communities, are key in providing locals educational opportunities, fostering innovation and helping launch startups.

Many of these hubs and overall tech support are backed by global giants like Google and Facebook, generating interest, attention, and support from other industry leaders.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans to build an underwater cable around the continent in an effort to connect more users, according to the Wall Street Journal. From Silicon Valley, the African Technology Foundation delivers programs on key economic sectors and provides African technology startups with the necessary knowledge, tools, and resources to empower them to raise the economic profiles of their communities, municipalities, and countries. And in 2017, France was recognized as the largest investor in African economies, followed by the Netherlands and the United States.

The continuous support from global leaders and nations has led to increased innovation and Africa’s capabilities.

A growth in AI in Africa

As Africa’s global tech scene has grown, efforts in artificial intelligence (AI) have followed, and over the past two years, three major movements have introduced AI opportunities in African countries.

In 2018, Tejumade Afonja, a young Nigerian with a passion for AI, launched AI Saturdays, a community-driven nonprofit offering free AI education in Lagos, Nigeria to anyone interested in the field, according to Fast Company.

Earlier this year in Ghana, Google opened its first African AI research center, which was created to develop solutions that will help to improve healthcare, agriculture, and education.

In an effort to increase AI education and opportunities for young African researchers, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in the capital of Rwanda is currently running a one-year program where scientists and innovators across the continent are being trained in machine learning, a type of AI, the BBC reports. The one-year master’s degree program is a partnership between AIMS and Facebook and Google.

With tech hubs, thriving startups, investments, and more resources powering and creating opportunities across Africa, global talent is beginning to relocate to the continent.

Moving to Africa

Moving to any new country can present downsides and hurdles to overcome. If you’re considering a moving to Africa to work, here are four tips to follow.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to work through the immigration process.

The first step in starting the immigration process is understanding the process that is tied to the country you wish to move – some call for a long lead time, and some can be complex and confusing to navigate.

For example, in South Africa alone there are eight types of temporary residence visas to decipher: Relatives, Spousal/Life Partner, General Work, Critical Skills Work, Intra-company Transfer Work Business, Retirement, and Study.

And in Uganda, single-entry visas are only valid for three months, meaning expats will need to apply for an extended multiple-entry visa.

  • Study the culture, etiquette, and languages relative to the country you will move to.

There are 54 countries in Africa, and within its communities, villages and towns between 1,500 and 2,000 languages are spoken. Be sure you research and get to know which ethnicities and customs are practiced along with the main language spoken. From there, start to study basics.

There are dozens of online tools and organizations to support cross-cultural training. For example, Global Training Partners offers training in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Angola, Kenya, and Mozambique. Communicaid offers a cross-cultural training course for living and working in South Africa and a course on how to work effectively with peers of various international backgrounds.

  • Be financially prepared. 

Being financially prepared starts with understanding the currency exchange, cost of living compared to what you’re used to and more. Rent and food in many countries in Africa are estimated to cost 55% more than comparable cities around the world. Be sure to take a look at the pay cycle and how long you will need to financially support yourself before your first pay day.

  • Consider safety and security.

Africa’s communities are evolving daily, but there are still several countries with high travel advisory rankings. Before accepting a job opportunity or committing to move, research crime rates and the current status of travel advisories, which can be found here. If you’re planning a move to Africa and have questions about international relocation services, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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