African Presidents are currently visiting, or en-route to, Japan for the TICAD VII Summit which is being hosted Japan. Ironically, they all left their individual countries to go and discuss “Advancing Africa’s Development through Technology, Innovation and People" in Japan.

Nevermind discussing African Development in Japan but a whole country summoned a whole continent’s leaders, so much for “Africa is not a country.”

I digress.

What caught my eye is that while in Japan, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa got to test drive the Nissan Leaf semi-autonomous electric car. Apparently quite a number of these will be shipped to South Africa sometime in 2020.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa test driving the Nissan Leaf semi autonomous drive-assist model at Nissan Oppama Plant in Japan.

I get it and I agree that a President has to keep the “optics” to motivate and inspire the populace and keep it upbeat about the vision of a better tomorrow. Even in Kenya, recently the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics announced the use of locally made tablets for their 2019 census, a commendable move.

However, as much I like all this, can we sort out electricity first?

In 2017, NASA released the Night Light Maps and it tells what we all know as people who live in Africa, electricity is still a problem across most parts of the continent. Take Africa’s Giant, the number one economy on the continent, Nigeria. If you get more than one hour of government-supplied electricity per day you can count yourself among the lucky few. Yet the country’s policymakers, rightfully so, wax lyrical about tech startups and the digital economy as being important to economic development. But you know what’s even better for economic development, stable electricity supply.

It’s not rocket science, we sort out electricity supply across the continent and we’ll be well on our way to prosperous economies and generally happy citizens. Making speeches via hologram, inviting Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg over is also great, but let’s get the basics right first if we are to benefit from any of these emerging technologies.

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