Realm Digital

The last decade has certainly been all about the software, but we’re keen to explore the development of hardware in Africa.

It was back in 2011 when Marc Andreessen famously wrote that “software is eating the world”. While here at Realm Digital we certainly don’t think that is going to change, we have noticed increased activity in the hardware space recently. 

This is hardly surprising. The Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics trends are two drivers of this. Very often though, a hardware play is a factor of necessity: you can’t access cloud services without a good, affordable internet connection or a predictable power supply, and for this, you need a hardware solution. 

Below is a snapshot of six fascinating hardware startups in Africa, where entrepreneurs have really met their customers where they are through ground-breaking, innovative solutions.

1. BRCK, Kenya

BRCK provides consistent internet access, even in remote areas. The second-generation SupaBRCK is a waterproof, solar-powered WiFi box that functions as a mobile hotspot, storage device and charger. It can handle 100 internet connections, stream videos to 50 devices, and has server capacity for a Linux stack.

2. KopaGas, Tanzania

KopaGas combines smart meters and a mobile app to allow people to buy gas to cook with, affordably. Paying for gas upfront was too expensive for most people, but this pay-as-you-go service changes that, and allows customers to move away from cooking with firewood and charcoal.

3. FreshBox, Rwanda

The lack of cold storage and transport means that 40% of perishable food is spoiled in Rwanda and farmers lose up to a quarter of their income every year. FreshBox combines as-a-service thinking with physical refrigeration infrastructure and transport to offer customers a pay-as-you-go cold chain service.

4. Jonga, South Africa

Jonga is an affordable home and community security system comprising a motion sensor device that is powered by a rechargeable battery. It connects wirelessly over a dedicated IoT network and is controlled via an app and Bluetooth. It includes a siren and panic button, and the ability to share alerts with the community.

5. M-kopa, Kenya

M-kopa provides affordable solar power to more than 750,000 homes and businesses in Kenya and Uganda. Customers pay a deposit and daily fee via mobile money for one of several types of solar power units. These include a radio, battery, lights, phone charger and torch. More expensive options include a TV and a fridge.

6. Snappbox, South Africa

Snappbox from Snapplify is a hardware solution to the lack of, or expensive, data in schools. Once an ebook is downloaded it’s available for all students at that school to access. This means that it only needs to be downloaded once, and can then be accessed multiple times. For schools with no internet, the biggest benefit of using a Snappbox is having offline access to the thousands of ebooks that can be preloaded onto the device.

And it’s not just in the hardware world where Africa’s technology entrepreneurs are seeing success. Read our previous article, 5 Reasons Why Africa Is Not Behind In Technology, to see why.

So, watch this space. African inventors are producing innovative and useful technology solutions that have wider applicability around the world. They are working to overcome a lack of infrastructure, so are not bound by legacy ways of thinking and the development of IT hardware in Africa. 

This is the mindset that we, at Realm Digital, bring to unpicking and solving your digital enterprise challenges.

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