10 African Tech Trends That Will Define 2019

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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The new year is upon us, and we reflect on what African tech trends we can expect to see over the course of the next 12 months.

The year 2019 will likely see the continuation of increased startup investment, with African entrepreneurs growing their businesses thanks to their ability to raise capital. Artificial intelligence will be another focus, while cyber security will definitely be a topic of debate and action.

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African tech will no doubt experience another year of ups and downs, with the 2019 pendulum expected to swing back and forth on subjects like cryptocurrency and tech regulation across the continent.

Here are 10 African tech trends that will define the year 2019.

More investment in African tech firms

The year 2018 saw tech firms across Africa securing funding deals, with unconfirmed figures for total investment expected to soar above $1 billion, including estimates for many undisclosed deals. The year 2019 is expected to build on that. Fintech will likely remain the most popular tech sector for investment, while health-tech, mobility and agritech should also attract investment. Tech companies in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are expected to secure the biggest funding deals of the year.

The cyber security threat will be taken seriously

With all of the cyber security threats that appeared in 2017 and 2018, the year 2019 will see an added focus on the subject, and unfortunately, more attacks are expected. While Africa is increasing its focus on cyber security in light of the increased threat, and some analysts believing that a major cyber attack may be on its way this year, there is still a great deal to be done to prepare African nations for this impending threat. Perhaps 2019 is the year that governments and private enterprise take this threat more seriously, and act accordingly.

Excellent growth in e-commerce user numbers

Africa’s e-commerce market is showing record growth at the moment, with around 21 million online shoppers in Africa helping to drive a market valued at $5.7 billion in sales during 2017, according to a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. This trend is expected to continue and expand in 2019.

International tech players investing in Africa’s youth

With the youngest population on the planet currently growing up in Africa, international tech brands are beginning to understand the value of investing in the youth of the continent and in entrepreneurs specifically. Brands such as Google and Hewlett Packard have plans to invest in young entrepreneurs in Africa. Hewlett Packard recently pledged to empower 100,000 students across Africa in the next three years through its HP foundation’s HP Life program, according to a press release.

Bitcoin – Good news and bad for Africans

Popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin recorded a 71.4 percent drop in 2018 and hit its lowest level at $3,222 in December 2018. For this reason, 2019 might be a good time for new crypto investors to benefit while the market is at its low level. Having said this, analysts and traders expect the digital currency to fall further before it increases once more, owing to various market factors, according to Pulse.

African tech trends
The year 2019 might be a good time for new crypto investors to get involved. Photo – AP – Stephen Wandera

Artificial intelligence becoming mainstream

While artificial intelligence and machine learning are already part of many of the things we own and do, written into the software on our phones, in our cars and homes, improving our lives on a daily basis, the coming year is likely to see another major growth spurt for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Artificial intelligence has experienced a marked increase in investments, with 80 percent of large enterprises investing in AI while 30 percent are planning to expand their AI investments in the next three years, according to Forbes.

Growth and acceptance of the gig economy

One of the major global work trends, tech-related or otherwise, has been the growth of the gig economy. Africa is also involved in this, and the year ahead will likely see more workers and companies embrace and accept need for and benefits of the gig economy. There will likely be an increase in gig workers contracting to companies who may never enter an office or meet co-workers in person, but provide the required work remotely, according to ITNewsAfrica.

Over regulation could stand in the way of progress

As is the case in Africa from time to time, over-regulation and misguided policies may hinder the progress of tech in some quarters. An example of this is proposed regulation by Nigeria’s central bank which could make it more expensive for local fintech startups to operate, stifling the growth of fintech in one of its most promising markets, according to QZ.

Further strengthening of ties with China

Africa’s relationship with China has strengthened considerably over the last few years, and this will likely continue over the coming year, with increased tech investment and partnership expected. South Africa is an example of this. Bilateral trade volumes between China and SA amounted to $39.17 billion in 2017, according to StatsSA. The two countries recently agreed on increased tech collaboration, and digital economy, cyber security and e-government were identified as areas where partnerships may be forged and collaboration would take place, according to ITWebAfrica.

Cloud services to dominate the business conversation

This year will see cloud services dominate many important discussions at business level, as the amount of data and the need to analyse that data continues to grow at an increasing rate. Tech giants such as Amazon and Microsoft have invested in cloud data centers in Africa in recent times, according to BusinessInsider. Cloud services will therefore gain increased influence with African businesses.