During three days in January 2017, more than 184,000 people from around the world packed the majestic Las Vegas Convention Center for the 50th anniversary of the Consumer Electronics Show—the largest trade event focused on technology innovation developed specifically at the consumer level. Each CES features the latest and the next in consumer tech. The most recent edition of the trade show was covered by more than 7,400 journalists who published nearly 60,000 news articles in January alone. This year’s CES saw a lot of attention paid to technologies ranging from virtual reality to drones and from smart home automation to self-driving cars.
Although CES is a global trade show, participation by exhibitors from the African region has historically been scant, and this dearth cannot be attributed to a lack of development in the field of consumer tech. The Continent is currently home to more than 300 tech hubs being nurtured by entrepreneurs, investors and developers; in 2016, investors poured more than $366 million worth of venture capital into dozens of African tech startups. If Africa has been sorely underrepresented at CES, it is because of a lack of market awareness, but this is scheduled to change in 2018.
Thanks to a new partnership between the APO Group, a public relations agency formerly known as the African Press Organization, and International Boost, an event management firm, visitors to the 2018 CES in Las Vegas will be welcomed into Africa Tech Now, a new and unique section that combines all the consumer technology solutions being developed in this part of the world.
In recent years, Africa has been enjoying an innovation revolution that not many people beyond the Continent are familiar with. One example in this regard is M-Pesa, a mobile payments system that transforms cell phones into electronic wallets and personal banking devices that operate on the SMS platform. In 2007, M-Pesa launched in Kenya, where it has become a national financial standard; since then, the service has been adopted by various countries in Africa and beyond: Afghanistan, Albania India, and Romania are also M-Pesa countries.
Africa Tech Now organizers plan on setting up a special display within the Las Vegas Convention Center so that visitors feel as if they are being welcomed into a village of innovation and promise. This initiative has prompted various government agencies to become involved, and there is a great deal of hopeful expectation as to how Africa Tech Now will be received at the 2018 CES, which will run from January 9 to the 12.