Ground-breaking drone programs abound in Africa, with applications including medical delivery, precision agriculture, flood management, and insect control. At the African Drone Forum today, it is clear that the goals of participating countries and companies are far greater than individual humanitarian projects, however valuable. African nations, including Drone Forum host Rwanda, are focused on the drone industry as part of a plan to use the tech revolution to overcome some of the area’s infrastructure challenges and supercharge local economies.
In the same way that regions without robust land line infrastructure were among the first and the fastest to adopt mobile phone technology, remote areas without a robust road infrastructure may benefit most from e-commerce and technologies like drone delivery. Pointing out that adoption rates of mobile phones in some African countries are more than 90%, Franz Drees-Gross, the Regional Director of the World Bank, outlined the potential for technology and e-commerce. “Drones can accelerate Africa’s digital economy,” said Drees Gross, “Many communities are digitally online, if geographically remote.” If farmers, mechanics, medical facilities and markets in remote areas are able to order supplies online by mobile phone and have them delivered by drone, rather than having to transport goods over ground, production in many areas will see an exponential boost. If customers and suppliers are able to make and receive payments via mobile technology, that boost is amplified further – with traditional banking challenging in remote areas, digital currency becomes more valuable – and feasible. “We need governments that are forward thinking and bold,” said Drees Gross. “Africa is on the rise.”
That governments are ready to support the technical revolution – and the unmanned industry as a first key technology – is clear at the African Drone Forum, as regulators and high government officials from more than 30 countries participate. The President of host country Rwanda was present at the Forum, to welcome delegates and emphasize his government’s support for the drone industry. “Rwanda is committed to fostering technology and innovation as one of the pillars of transforming our economy,” said His Excellency Paul Kagame. “The African Drone Forum is about turning challenges into opportunities.”