10 Ways Mobile Technology Is Empowering Africans In The Workplace

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Mobile technology is empowering Africans to work better, smarter and faster, allowing people across the continent to thrive in the workplace thanks to their mobile phones.

Certain traditional industries such as farming and fishing have even more to gain from the benefits of technology, from a food security point of view and in terms of the livelihoods of individuals working within these important sectors, due to the previous lack of tech in those professions.

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From farmers who receive up-to-date weather information, to policemen and women who are able to respond to emergencies more efficiently thanks to their phones, mobile technology is making it easier and more productive for Africans at work.

With 81 percent of the total African population using a mobile device, the majority of African internet traffic is accessed via mobile devices as opposed to a computer or tablet, according to WeAreSocial.

Here are 10 ways mobile technology is empowering Africans in the workplace.

Fishermen know the price of their catch

Traditional industries such as fishing have been transformed thanks to new mobile technology that is disrupting the way sectors operate entirely. Previously, a fisherman was uninformed when it came to the prices of their catch and the markets they could access, but apps such as Abalobi, a free app in South Africa created in partnership with academic institutions, government, civil society and fishermen, is supporting the small-scale fishing industry as a digital information management system for fisheries, according to Goodthingsguy.

Mobile money makes it easier to pay and be paid

Mobile money has been perfectly designed for Africa in terms how the continent has embraced mobile and how many unbanked individuals are able to benefit from the mobile-based tech thanks to high mobile penetration rates across Africa. Companies such as M-Pesa have made it possible for people to make and receive payments simply by owning a mobile phone.

Farmers unlocking potential through agritech

African farmers are embracing tech to enhance production and ensure a more profitable future while maintaining food security. Kenyan apps such as FarmDrive, M-Farm and iCow assist with data collection, messaging and education dedicated to the farming industry, while other platforms such as Farmerconnect help with weather forecasting, and Nigeria’s FarmCrowdy empowers farmers by connecting them with investors through a digital platform in order to increase their production. Earlier this year Ghanaian agritech startup Agrocenta won the world’s biggest startup competition in emerging markets, beating 64 other tech startup finalists from around the world, according to Techmoran.

Emergency services can respond faster

Mobile technology solutions are helping the vulnerable in dire situations and allowing emergency services to respond faster than ever before. These solutions include mobile panic buttons that prompt an emergency response such as South African app Namola and Kenyan platform Flare, early-warning fire detection systems like Lumkani, and the Hawk Eye Reporting System, which is anti-crime tech used to support the police in their duties in Nigeria, according to News24.

Giving doctors the digital edge in the fight against disease

Mobile tech is being used to give doctors an advantage when diagnosing and treating patients. An ingenious smartphone diagnostic tool from Uganda called Matibabu helps to detect malaria early, while revolutionary South African app Vula provides African users with access to specialist doctors, which is incredibly useful with regards to rural areas where specialists are not often available. By uploading images and information via the app, the user receives diagnostic feedback from specialists, with eight medical specialities currently on offer, according to Businesstech.

mobile technology
Mobile technology is empowering teachers to provide students with a better education. Image – AP Photo – Jerome Delay

Education delivered via mobile

Cheaper mobile devices combined with the surge in educational app development means that many learners in African countries now access quality educational media outside of the classroom, and this is fast becoming the future of education across the continent. Teachers are empowered to provide their students with a better education through digital means thanks to edtech apps such as Leaph in Zimbabwe, Nigerian e-learning platforms Prepclass and Edves, and Kenya edutech startup M-Shule. Other platforms such as Tuteria in Nigeria and Tutor Roots in South Africa connect students to vetted tutors, according to HeraldLive.

Empowering the informal economy

Mobile tech is also leading to advances in the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the second-largest in the world after Latin America and the Caribbean, with up to 90 percent of jobs outside agriculture in the informal sector, according to the IMF. Kenyan e-commerce startup Sokowatch has developed a mobile app that allows informal traders to use their mobile phones to buy products directly from large suppliers, while arranging for transport and make payments online, empowering these traders within a massive African informal economy, according to Techcrunch.

Providing better access to markets across industries

From farming produce to artwork, and everything in between, there are an increasing number of mobile apps that offer people working in various industries access to more markets through connectivity. An example is South African app Khula!, which enables emerging farmers to connect with the formal marketplace by bringing together numerous farms to basically crowdsource and deliver on bulk orders made via supermarkets, restaurants and private individuals, according to MTN.

Making it easier to gather information via mobile

Thanks to mobile survey platforms such as GeoPoll and African versions like mSurvey, gathering information across a wide cross-section of people has never been easier, benefiting industries where data is important such as retail, construction and health. GeoPoll often gathers research via text messages, while Kenyan app mSurvey collects real-time data via surveys that use mobile phone messaging technology to interact with people. The platform does not require users to have an internet connection, as feedback can be collected from respondents via text messages, according to Forbes.

Mobile used to ensure fair elections

Mobile technology has been used in Africa to ensure democracy and empower politicians and election observers. In Nigeria during the 2011 elections, a mobile app called ReVoDa turned eligible voters into informal election observers and, allowed monitoring organizations to draw conclusions about the legitimacy and accuracy of the elections. Zimbabwean app Vote Africa is a platform that aims to educate, motivate and empower the people taking part in democratic elections to fully own the electoral process and hold government accountable, according to Techmoran.