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The continent of Africa has been historically subject to colonization, civil war, deadly disease, and corruption, but despite the difficulties that they face in their day to day lives, Africans find a way to rise above it all, and ultimately, give back to their communities. Many prominent personalities from the continent have done things from help end a civil war in the Ivory Coast to help end apartheid in South Africa. While Africans live in all corners of the world and are employed in many industries today, the number of Africans helping the less fortunate in their homelands despite living abroad is in no short supply.

Rapper and R&B singer Akon, who was born in Senegal, is starting a school in Mali to help bring electricity to 600 million people in Africa. While some African countries have prospered because of their natural resources, plenty of countries have suffered. Africans have not been able to harvest their natural resources because of corrupt government, war, and disease. Some parts of Africa have sporadic access to electricity, which is often taken for granted in many Western countries.

“We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities. We now need to consolidate African expertise,” said Samba Baithily, CEO and co-founder of Solektra, an energy firm operating in several sub-Saharan African markets. Solektra is partnering with Akon Lighting Africa in his drive to bring electricity to Africans without it, recruiting engineers to install solar panels in remote villages and other places without access to electricity.

The Saharan Desert, which is bigger than the continental United States, has the perfect climate for harvesting solar energy. According to Tech Times, Africa gets 320 sunny days a year, thus making it the ideal place to harvest a continuous and seemingly infinite supply of energy. Another thing going for the African continent and new tech is that as much as 70 percent of Africa’s population is younger than 35, meaning Africa’s adoption and implementation of new tech will help it prosper in the long run.

Another example is Africa’s meteoric rise in the global smartphone market. Although smartphone usage is common in North America and Europe, African smartphone penetration has grown the fastest in the entire world—particularly sub-Saharan Africa. The African market uses smartphones for mobile banking, where physical banks are too far for the rural population, and carrying cash is impractical.

Although many African countries lack developed infrastructure for one reason or another, that could also be a reason why Africa is a great place to deploy new technology—there is a fresh start in Africa. In North America and Europe, decades-old infrastructure will have to be dismantled or upgraded (often at a great cost) to give solar energy a chance. That’s not the only problem Americans and Europeans are facing—they have to navigate a political climate where oil companies and other lobbyists often block efforts for renewable energy.

The current cost for solar power in Africa (as of 2013) has a starting cost of around $50, still a significant amount for an African family, but still far less than the $8 per kilowatt-hour they used to pay for kerosene (Americans and Europeans pay about 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, 400 times less than in rural Africa). According to the Scientific American, “In practice, [solar] kits are paid off after about 18 months and subsequent electricity is free to the new owner.”

One example of a North American tech project being extremely expensive is California’s high-speed rail project which will link the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, a distance of around 400 miles. Currently, driving to Los Angeles takes six hours (depending on traffic). High-speed rail seeks to cut that time down to about two to three hours. In 2008, California voters approved a measure for the construction of high-speed rail, which is looking to be the most expensive public works project in American history at a cost of $68 billion over 14 years.

Africa has the perfect setup for new tech—vast opportunities to set up new infrastructure, a young populace fascinated with technology and the willingness to use it, and generous benefactors from multiple industries willing to give back to their home countries. Although some political challenges still remain in many African countries, the future is bright for Africa and technology.

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