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Smart Ecosystems for Rural Africa Report - Desert Technologies

July 1, 2021

Already home to one-fifth of the world’s inhabitants, Africa is the fastest-growing continent on Earth. By 2050, the central continent is projected to double in population. And with that comes substantial challenges, but also ample opportunities.

The urban-rural divide in Africa stretches long and wide. And with a demographic crisis looming large, steps are to be taken to ensure a greater future for the long-deprived continent. Urban regions are expected to attract the majority of Africa’s demographic growth. Governments, businesses, and individuals alike will all need to contribute to the adaptivity of Africa with its projected reality.

With that being said, the mass-development and urbanization of the continent’s poverty-stricken rural areas is key to a bright future, and an optimal solution could be via smart technology and innovative means; faster, cleaner, and maximum cost-effectiveness. The urban-rural divide should be addressed by taking firm action through sustainable solutions.

Transforming remote villages to smart cities can drive local economies upward and allow rural towns to rely on themselves. Innovation and urban development of the countryside are greatly welcomed by the locals, and many samples of such are already on the ground. Local companies and startups, the likes of Vaya Africa, Strauss Energy, and Juabar, have caught on. Mauritius-based Vaya, for example, is serving Africa righteously by providing a clean alternative to the trendy ride-sharing commute concept. Just as well, Vaya aims to play a role in growing the continent’s green infrastructure using their self-developed solar powered charging stations. (TechCrunch) Also, the Africa Mini-grid Developers Association (AMDA) continues to raise awareness regarding sustainable ways to advance rural Africa and is leading the way to a sharper future. With proper resources and smart investments, Africa is primed for a digital revolution.

Certainly, several sub-Saharan countries, the likes of Liberia and Mozambique, are eager for quick and effective action. Data suggests that by the end of the decade, approximately 90% of those suffering from extreme poverty globally will be sub-Saharan Africans; with an overwhelming majority based in rural areas. (PovcalNet/World Bank Blogs) Agriculture is a prime source of income for many of the continent’s rural dwellers, and a lack of diverse resources is a cause for concern. Land attracts settlers for agricultural purposes, and in doing so, find themselves lacking access to necessary facilities including schools and clinics. Innovation and the systematic sustainability of smart cities can play a fruitful role in enabling that all aspects of societal needs are met and met sustainably.

Smart ecosystems ought to be implemented around the notion of supporting local economies. Energy, agriculture, manufacturing, health, and education are all crucial elements in the struggle to empowering rural Africa. And it all begins with the electrification of remote areas.


From west to east, and the sub-Sahara in-between, rural communities continue to suffer extreme poverty; not only with food, but energy.

Energy inequality has long restricted Africa’s potentials in all fields. With only the most major of cities being attended to, the people of rural Africa and their economic ambitions remain in the dark. Energy is a pillar essential to every community’s growth and prosperity, and it is evidently difficult to move forward with development without fortifying this pillar from the ground up.

Despite the continent’s immensity, Africa accounts for less than 4% of the world’s electricity consumption. (Economist) California, at its current rate, uses more electricity state-wide for video games than the country of Senegal does altogether. Over half a billion Africans go about their lives everyday without access to lighting, refrigerating, air conditioning, internet, and so much more.

These bits of information are only some of the many concerning energy statistics clouding over Africa. Without these basic energy-driven necessities, development is impossible; schools can’t teach, clinics can’t treat, and living conditions will continue to spiral. The energy landscape continent-wide is in need of vamping.

With smart technology being utilized to activate digital ecosystems at the heart of remote areas, smart cities will arise and promise a safer, brighter, and more sustainable future for Africa.

Renewable energy, solar at its core, may serve as the foundation of every smart ecosystem, the backbone of the region’s development. With smart tech taking lead, solar-powered mini-grids are a prime solution to power the unpowered, while performing as the central command or nerve center of interconnectivity to operate a self-serving digital and sustainable community.

Through Desert Technologies’ Sahara Series, we find a solution; a foundation to be set in place for rural communities to reset, operate, and grow with smart ecosystems leading them to brighter futures. Compact and portable, Sahara is a containerized solar generator built specifically for off-grid electrification; a fundamental solution to kickstart a transformative future for the largely-deprived continent. This low-maintenance piece of technology is made up of solar modules, inverters, batteries, and the controller. The highly-efficient system is capable of providing electricity throughout the day and night, allowing for 24/7 operation in total and complete silence. (Desert Technologies)

With the Saudi-based firm’s invaluable resources, tech capacity, and field expertise, groundbreaking steps can be taken to empower the needful remote regions.

Sahara is only one of the several solutions available to advance rural Africa. Many local and international firms have established patented technologies and sustainable strategies that can play roles in Africa ascension. It is irrefutable that the continent will require many hands on deck. And given the minimalism and rawness of the continent’s rural areas, it is a great opportunity to join hands with the local governments and tech expertise to allow smart ecosystems to flourish and harness economic and social development.

Modern science is pushing us to view the cities of the future as bundles of systems rather than concrete; an intertwined method of growth that allows for cost-effective building, living, and maintaining. Solar energy is just one, though central, aspect of a smart ecosystem that may fortify rural Africa’s future. A sustainability and data-driven approach, leveraging the Internet of Things and building cognitive systems, may just well prime Africa to be the envy of tomorrow to other parts of the world.


It is important to take into account the health and environmental factors of transforming remote villages into tech-driven societies. Strategies may be put into place to ensure safety and livability. Green infrastructure and the advancement of renewables may have room to be a part of the modern African culture on the road to sustainable living. And logically, cybersecurity becomes increasingly significant as a smart city grows and grows. Public and private sector may see the value in ensuring that these factors are addressed while ‘Africa Rising’ is underway.


With plenty of space and rural land, it’s important not to get carried away when innovating the Africa of tomorrow. Agriculture and farming comprise of more than 60% of Africa’s workforce, and tech ought to work with this fact rather than attack it. Smart cities isn’t a one and done solution to Africa’s problems. The continent mustn’t alter its identity to adapt to the future, but rather make the necessary changes to ensure its growth continues in harmony towards a bright future for sub-Saharan Africa, coast to coast. Africa economically and socially. Also, manufacturing may benefit greatly from interconnectivity within a base city and with other cities.


Statistically, African youth are more likely to stay in school in developed urban societies than remote rural ones. That’s paves way for immediate impact on the educational system through tech-based urbanization of rural sub-Sahara. At the same time, the renewable and smart-tech focus will require that more and more locals gain the necessary skills to support their surroundings. That means engineering, agriculture, and other sustainability-driven fields of study should be pursued at a greater rate. Lesser-sought majors, the likes of data science, computer science, and bioinformatics are to be expanded and embraced. Newfound job opportunities will roll out east to west, central to southern.


It is critical to this process that the relevant policymakers advance forward-looking and pro-green regulations and take brave steps ease the lives of the businesses supporting Africa’s digital revolution and smart-tech takeover. Political and financial obstacles surely arise with projects of this magnitude, so it is important that governments are able to make that shift in regulatory and critical thinking. The supporting and easing of bureaucracy for investors, tech firms, and other contributors will be expected.


For any massive development project to succeed, ethical investors, loaners, and grantors are critical. Ever since 2015, it is important that development projects use the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) as a reference for what they are ultimately trying to achieve. Uplifting rural Africa through smart ecosystems and intelligent tech is certainly SDG-friendly and impacts the majority of the semi-integrated 17 ‘Global Goals’. (SDGs) that being the case, financiers can rest-assured that they are impact investing at the highest degree.

Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), in its recent past, launched the Mutajadeda Program, aiming to boost the renewables sector in search for further social, economic, and environmental well-being. The United States’ Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has long made impactful contributions for extraordinary projects internationally.

For all this to come together, financiers near and far will have to play an integral part with the right partners; for the sake of rural Africa, and the rest of the world.

We, at Desert Technologies, are fully committed and working tirelessly for sub-Saharan Africa’s future; strategizing and polishing our action plans in anticipation of playing an impactful and tangible role in the smart ecosystems of the fast-growing continent. We look forward to partnering up with some of the relevant regional parties, as well as international investors and grantors, to eventually turn our collective dream for rural Africa into a reality. Together, anything’s possible.

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“More than Half of Sub-Saharan Africans Lack Access to Electricity.” The Economist, www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/11/13/more-than-half-of-sub-saharan-africans-lack-access-to-electricity.

OECD, and Sahel & West Africa Club. “Africa’s Urbanisation Dynamics 2020: Africapolis, Mapping a New Urban Geography.” OECD iLibrary, www.oecd-ilibrary.org/development/africa-s-urbanisation-dynamics-2020_b6bccb81-en.

“PovcalNet: an Online Analysis Tool for Global Poverty Monitoring.” PovcalNet, iresearch.worldbank.org/PovcalNet/.

Bright, Jake. “Vaya Africa Launches Electric Ride-Hail Taxi Network.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, May 2020, techcrunch.com/2020/05/27/vaya-africa-launches-electric-ride-hail-taxi-network.

“Sahara.” Desert Technologies, Desert Technologies, desert-technologies.com/sahara.

Schoch, Marta, and Christoph Lakner. “African Countries Show Mixed Progress towards Poverty Reduction and Half of Them Have an Extreme Poverty Rate above 35%.” World Bank Blogs, Dec. 2020, blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/african-countries-show-mixed-progress-towards-poverty-reduction-and-half-them-have-extreme.

“Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, sdgs.un.org/.

Adotey, Sampson. “Why Digital Inclusion Must Be at the Centre of Resetting Education in Africa.” World Economic Forum, World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/digital-inclusion-is-key-to-improving-education-in-africa/.

“Mutajadeda.” Saudi Industrial Development Fund, Saudi Industrial Development Fund, www.sidf.gov.sa/en/ServicesforInvestors/Programs/Pages/Mutjadeda.aspx.

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“US International Development Finance Corporation.” DFC, DFC, www.dfc.gov/.

“Global Urban Poverty Research Agenda: The African Case.” Wilson Center, www.wilsoncenter.org/event/global-urban-poverty-research-agenda-the-african-case.