Why African consumers are looking to YOU to offer tech-fueled solutions that truly make life BETTER!


Technology has offered millions of consumers across the globe more choice. But in Africa, the stakes are even higher.

Innovative new technologies can often mean a better chance to access education, start a business, or even save a life.

Globally, technology has become ubiquitous, universal and impossible to live without. Why? Quite simply because many consumers continue to crave (and build their lives around) the unparalleled superpowers that technology offers them.

But, as we discussed when we first touched on BETTER TECH back in 2015, the tech stakes are often even higher than that.

While more developed economies race towards a superconnected, augmented and hyperpersonalized reality, in Africa new (or newly-arriving) technologies are often just beginning to address some of the issues that continue to haunt the continent.

Many African consumers are looking for technology that can empower them and offer better access to healthcare and education, to vital knowledge and skills, new connections, and more.


An April 2016 initiative by ICT organization Pearls Africa aims to equip young disadvantaged girls in Lagos with functional IT skills. Girls Coding teaches programming, UI design and animation for free to underprivileged girls aged 10 – 17.

BETTER TECH, same old story?

Hardly! 2016 is the year in which African innovators are finally beginning to serve the continent's deepest needs.

The lives of many Africans have already been touched by intelligent, automated services, copied and pasted from the West. But there’s still a deep demand for African innovators to address the pressing, sometimes grass-roots, issues facing the vast majority of Africans.

Driven by that demand, in 2016, consumers will finally see the great African convergence between do-gooder businesses – charitable initiatives, eco-friendly programs, educational/health/social projects – and tech brands and entrepreneurs.

And brands that start riding that wave will be rewarded. Why? Because rising cultural pride means consumers will embrace by Africa for Africa innovations. And now that many can see that brands in other markets are taking real steps to make lives better, they’ll expect the same from African brands, too.

So where is BETTER TECH heading next?

The answers lie in the innovations being launched NOW!

June 2016 saw a local consumer electronics firm pledge to distribute 80,000 ‘Made In Rwanda’ laptops to teachers across the nation.

In April 2016, the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a USD 200 million deal, the largest environmental development initiative in Africa, to help protect its rainforest: an area bigger than the UK, Ireland, France and Spain combined.

In June 2016, Nigerian software developer training initiative, Andela, received a landmark USD 24 million investment from the Facebook-affiliated Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Which initiative will change the continent forever? Perhaps all; perhaps none! But these innovations are helping to create customer expectations that will transform the continent.

That’s why key to discovering tomorrow’s consumer expectations lies in a game-changing initiatives and innovations like these. And then, of course, creating your own.


Ready for ten African forward-thinking, empowering and positive applications of technology in Africa?

The BETTER TECH innovations below range from new digital services, to tech hacks, apps, and futuristic inventions – even social media applications. But they all share a common purpose: to address the most critical issues currently facing the continent.

Your mission as you read? Consider how each BETTER TECH solution is serving its respective audience or community, the new expectations the innovation is creating for Africans across the continent… and what that means for YOU!


Old issues. New solutions.


UPS Foundation

Vaccines and medical supplies delivered by drones

In some parts of the world drones mean warfare, in others high-end entertainment. In Africa, they’ve often meant health.

In May 2016, the UPS Foundation partnered with US-based drone manufacturer Zipline and global health partnership Gavi to deliver medical supplies to clinics across Rwanda. The year-long partnership will see Zipline’s drones delivering medication, blood and vaccines to Rwandan clinics in areas where delivery can be difficult due to impassable roads. The drones have a maximum distance of 75 kilometers, and can complete up to 150 deliveries daily.

The broader lesson? Think about how playful (or sometimes harmful) technology hardware can be adapted to provide vital short-cut solutions to gargantuan African macro-problems.

Tanzania & Uganda


Digital bank lends money in developing markets

Using digital services to bypass infrastructure issues on the continent is a no-brainer. It’s all about choosing the right problems…

Branch is a mobile digital bank created for developing markets. Set up by the creators of Kiva – a US-based money-lending nonprofit – the branchless bank launched in Tanzania and Uganda in January 2016. The bank has raised USD 9.2 million to help expand the initiative and offer small loans to clients over the phone.

How can you serve African consumers who are currently excluded from key services? Remember, BETTER TECH is not always sexy tech: this is about making improving consumer’s lives!



Rapper’s debts compared to the costs of humanitarian aid

You don’t always have to be a creator of technology systems/hardware/apps to be a facilitator of BETTER TECH.

#helpkenyanotkanye was launched in February 2016 following Kanye West’s tweets regarding his personal debt of USD 53 million. Set up by Gabriel Ferrer – a Kanye West fan – the website compares the cost of West’s products (ranging from an album or a sweater from his fashion brand) to the cost of food, water, school supplies and humanitarian aid for the people of Kenya. A Kanye West CD costs around USD 13; the same amount can provide ten HIV kits to pregnant women in Kenya. The site included links to charities where people could donate directly.

How can you – whether you’re a charity or a brand – leverage existing platforms in a playful way to get a BETTER message across?

South Africa

George Airport

Solar-powered airport opens in Africa

Few brands have the resources to invest in massive infrastructure projects. But they can respond to the expectations those projects will create.

Serving 600,000 passengers every year, George Airport is Africa’s first solar-powered airport. Situated in South Africa’s Western Cape, the airport will initially have 40% of its electricity supplied by solar power, eventually becoming completely independent of the country’s national grid. The airport unveiled its USD 1 million photovoltaic panel update in February 2016.

When consumers see projects such as this, their view of what to expect – and what’s possible – will shift. Sure, you’re (probably ;) not going to build an airport. But can you employ better tech to solve smaller problems in ways that make life BETTER?


Barbie Savior

Instagram account satirizes voluntourism

Highlighting deep-rooted issues and changing global perceptions of the continent – especially if done with a sense of humor – is always a good play.

Barbie Savior is a parody Instagram account drawing attention to the issues that can arise when people from the West do volunteer work in developing countries. Launched in the US in March 2016, the account features tongue-in-cheek images of a Barbie in various situations in Africa – teaching, fetching water and helping in orphanages. Image captions include: ‘Who needs a formal education to teach in Africa? Not me! All I need is some chalk and a dose of optimism.’

There’s no longer room for old and patronizing attitudes about how Africa’s problems get solved. How can you use content, tech platforms and biting wit to empower African innovators and problem solvers?



Sensor integrated hat tracks vital data of newborns

Pushed to its limit, BETTER TECH is about saving lives.

In May 2016, US-based Neopenda achieved its Kickstarter funding target for a hat monitoring the vital signs of newborns. The device detects heart and respiratory rates, blood oxygen saturation and temperature via rechargeable sensors and uses Bluetooth to send alerts to a monitoring system. Designed for hospital use in the developing world – after research revealed that 98% of newborn deaths occur there – the system can monitor up to 24 babies at a time. Neopenda announced plans to partner with hospitals in Uganda once testing is complete.

You have a worthy problem, and a BETTER TECH solution? Traditional funding models are no longer the only way forward. Let the crowd help make your idea a reality.


Twitter & iHub

Hackathon invites people to solve city's problems

Some challenges are way too complex for even the smartest of innovators. So how about pooling ideas from the collective brain?

Hosted in April 2016, the #SmartCityNairobi challenge was a hackathon, inviting individuals to solve problems in the Kenyan capital. Participants needed to use Twitter’s API to solve problems across quality of life, sustainability and service delivery, with the best ideas receiving cash prizes. The winners also received mentorship and support to develop their ideas, as part of a six-week program, before three final winners received further cash prizes of up to USD 10,000.

No one acting alone can come close to solving Big Problems.  Empowering Africans to do more will mean faster progress – and more (rightly earned) love for your brand.

Nigeria & Sudan


Solar power unit provides electricity, clean water, and internet services across rural Africa

Effective BETTER TECH can be truly transformative.

Launched in Nigeria and Sudan in April 2016,Watly is a solar-powered machine aiming to provide electricity, clean water, and internet services across rural Africa. The device captures solar energy via photovoltaic panels on its surface, delivering 5,000 liters of drinking water each day, and providing wireless internet access within an 800-meter radius. The unit also operates as a charging station for electronic and mobile devices.

If you’re an African brand constantly consumed with non-African issues, maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy. How much do you know about the lifestyles of your customers and the problems they face? What can you do to help solve them?

South Africa


App provides on-demand access to local police support

Not all fundamental issues are physical (food/shelter/health related). From Johannesburg to Djibouti, less tangible social and community issues are also pressing.

Q2 2016 saw local government authorities in Tshwane, a municipality outside of South Africa’s Pretoria, partner with developers at Happimo to create Namola, a free app allowing users to alert police immediately when they need assistance. The app transmits the user’s GPS coordinates to the police, whose systems alert the closest officer and provides details of the location of the incident. Happimo is nonprofit organization that aims to offer South Africans access to technology that can help them live safer and healthier lives.

When your customers see innovations such as this, what will they start to expect of you? Think about how you can devise new solutions that collaborate or partner with officials to spearhead better security, welfare or wellbeing amongst your community and customers.

Ghana & Kenya


African communications platform expands into Mexico

And when you reach the epitome of BETTER TECH, your brand will ultimately become EXCEPTIONALL: an exceptional innovation that spreads globally!

African agricultural communication service Esoko launched a pilot project in Mexico in January 2016. The program partners with the Environmental Defense Fund – a sustainable fishery NGO headquartered in New York – to provide fishermen with daily prices from Mexico City’s La Nueva Viga fish market. The up-to-date market information supports the livelihoods of 300 corvina drum fishermen in Mexico’s Gulf of California.

Have you already served your community well via BETTER TECH solutions? Well, then, like Esoko, it’s time to share the love! Explore other markets going through similar issues and see how your service can help them too.


New customer expectations don't emerge out of the blue – it's all about evolution.

The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism.

Our identification of the BETTER TECH trend in Africa wasn’t the result of a midnight brainstorming session ;)

Instead, as with all our trends, the process was rather more straightforward – and structured.

That’s because all the trends we spot and share are really newly-emerging directions of travel in one (or more) of our 16 mega-trends. These mega-trends are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena and, taken together, they form the Trend Framework: our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.

Grab a glimpse of the Trend Framework below (clients of our Premium Service have full access).

Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations we receive from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day. Meaning we can keep spotting and sharing great trends.



This trend will keep evolving...

The BETTER TECH trend sits under two mega-trends in our Framework. UBITECH is the mega-trend via which we track the evolution of technology and its ubiquity in the lives of consumers. Meanwhile, BETTER BUSINESS is the mega-trend via which we track the quest for a more ethical, sustainable, better kind of business.

Seeing BETTER TECH in the context of those two mega-trends helps us understand where the trend came from, and, more importantly, where it’s going next.

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Customer expectations wait for no one – so GET GOING!

Necessity is the mother of invention...

This trend is a no-brainer. Start from basic human needs and the tech available, and work outwards. Remember, this isn't about glamorous or sexy tech: consider how you're addressing the most pressing need of the people you seek to serve!


Want to take it to the next level?

At our upcoming 2016 Trend Events in Singapore, Sydney, Chicago, London and Amsterdam you'll hear about THE trends that will shape consumerism in 2017 and beyond. And hear from innovators in the field already putting those trends into action!


And if tech's not your thing...?

Every brand, entrepreneur, institution, organization must interact with tech in one way or another - and the same is true of your customers. But if tech isn't your thing, think partnerships. You can still find a pain point and solve it – via BETTER TECH!


New expectations can come from anywhere!

And today, customer expectations cross geographical borders faster than ever. So why not broaden your (G)LOCAL trend sources and subscribe to our free Global, South & Central America and Asia Trend Briefings?



Gather your team and start brainstorming on how you'll serve new expectations around BETTER TECH. Our free CONSUMER TREND CANVAS ideation tool can help!