Africa has long been known to be a cradle of ancient technology, with many technological developments traced to ancient methods and mechanisms, communities then, created to make things better. While times have certainly changed and other parts of the world have become technology hubs and knowledge-based societies, leading the world in technological advancement, Africa continues to produce its own set of pioneers in the fields of science and technology. Technological advancement now moves faster than the speed of light, and while many parts of Africa remain impoverished, the continent has not lost its contribution to the world of innovative Africans with groundbreaking ideas and world-renowned expertise.
These next set of Africans, in the Continent and the Diaspora, are making waves in the development of technology around the world. One of the fascinating things about these pioneers is that many of them are not only adding to the value of existing technology globally, they are also exploring various ways to create new and innovative technology that will benefit Africa especially. Explore their stories, learn about their work, follow them on social media, whatever the case may be, keep your eyes and minds on their activities, the next technological device you place in your home or office, may very well be their next invention.
1) David Sengeh (Sierra Leone, West Africa)
He has introduced Bill Gates, interviewed by CNN’s Isha Sesay, and shaken hands with Rwandan President Kugame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, among others. Sengeh, born and raised in Sierra Leone, received a Biomedical Engineering degree from Harvard University and is completing his PhD program at MIT Media Lab. His latest work is in designing prosthetic sockets that are computer aided. Sengeh also currently heads Global Minimum Inc. (GMin), an International NGO that has worked in Sierra Leone, distributing over 15,000 mosquito nets. A new initiative facilitated by GMin, called Innovate XYZ, is a Secondary School competition that encourages students in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa, to design prototypes for technological ideas that solve problems in their communities. These students then get the opportunity to transform their ideas into tangible products and services, funded by the NGO and its sponsors. The 26 year old pioneer recently founded the Human Bionic Project which seeks out to redefine disability, illness, and disease. Sengeh begins his new role as TEDFellow in 2014.
2) Cheick Modibo Diarra (Mali, West Africa)
Born in a small town in Mali, West Africa, Dr. Cheick Modibo Diarra is an Astrophysicist, former Chairman of Microsoft Africa, and a pioneer at the National Aeronautic and Space Association (NASA). At NASA, Diarra worked as an interplanetary navigator, working on several missions to outer space. Diarra contributed to Magellan mission to Venus, Ulysses mission to the poles of the Sun, Galileo mission to Jupiter, Mars Observer mission, and the Mars Pathfinder Mission. In 2006, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates offered Diarra the role of Chairman of Microsoft Africa, which he served until 2011. Diarra also served as Mali’s interim Prime Minister in 2012.
3) Nii Quaynor (Ghana, West Africa)
Dr. Nii Quaynor was born in Ghana, West Africa and is simply known as the “Africa’s Father of the Internet” according to CNN. As one of the first in the world to earn a PhD in Computer Science, Quaynor is credited for spreading and developing the Internet across Africa, becoming founding Chairman of the African Internet numbers registry, AfriNIC. He is also credited for pioneering the establishment of the Computer Science Department at the University of Cape Town, Ghana. He is the first African member of the Board for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
4) Dr. Francisca Nneka Okeke (Nigeria, West Africa)
This current Professor of Physics at the University of Nigeria is no ordinary teacher. Born in Nigeria, her wonder about the world around her has been largely the fuel of her drive to making groundbreaking breakththroughs in the field of physics, Astronomy, and Climate Change. In 2013, Okeke received the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science due to her “understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere” (UNESCO). Each year, UNESCO awards the L’Oreal to 5 Women, one on each continent, for their contributions towards research and their impact to society. Okeke became the first female head of the Physics Department at the University of Nigeria, as well as the first female Dean of the Faculty.
5) Kelvin Doe (Sierra Leone, West Africa)
By the age of 16, Sierra Leonean born Kelvin Doe had built his own generator, battery, radio station and ‘wowed’ the world. His YouTube video about his life story received over 4 million views. In 2012, Doe formed a team at his local Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone and together they submitted a prototype for GMin’s Innovate Salone Competition and won. Within a year’s time, Doe was invited to MIT and became the youngest visiting practitioner there. Doe also sat with the President of Harvard and gave lectures with Harvard Undergraduate students about his inventions. In 2013, Doe was invited to speak at the TEDxTeen annual event, hosted by Chelsea Clinton. In the same year, Doe was invited to speak about his inventions at the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference, which he was introduced again by Chelsea Clinton and mentioned by former President Bill Clinton. Doe’s story has been covered by international renowned media platforms such as CNN, The Huffington Post, and Mashable. In May 2013, Doe signed a $100,000 contract with Canadian Firm Sierra Wifi, to design solar panels for 400 network sites.