This article was contributed to TechCabal by Balkissa Idé Siddo, Public Policy Director, Facebook, Sub Saharan Africa
The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took place this year as the world continues to see complex socio-economic issues. Many economies are still reeling from the Covid-19 crisis. And with just eight more years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the burden of ending poverty, responding to climate change and achieving equality for all signals the urgency of clearly-focused solutions in addressing these crises.
These global problems will take coordination, time and diligence from all over the world. In Africa — home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies — startups and creators are leading a digital revolution that can positively impact the globe. By working to develop technology that can one day shape the metaverse, leaders in Africa have an opportunity to help the world move toward satisfying those SDGs.
This year’s UNGA theme — ‘’A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges’’ — is a stark reminder of the journey ahead in ensuring that no one is left behind as we strive towards a sustainable future. The technological efforts throughout Africa may help develop those transformative solutions needed.
The next chapter of the internet is changing fast and transforming development at quite an enormous scale, impacting the world’s economy.
Working towards a sustainable future
Although the metaverse will take years to gain measurable momentum, we already see its potential to advance the SDGs.
Virtual and augmented realities can support various global goals, from remotely training medics to advancing health and well-being (SDG 3) to help local leaders champion climate action to mitigate the effects of climate change (SDG 13). The metaverse’s potential across the African continent could contribute to these goals by promoting strategies that will improve health, reduce inequality and spur economic growth needed to enhance the quality of life.
Africa will play an integral role in the metaverse by creating new ways for African brands to tell their stories, export culture and create immersive consumer experiences. This reality is no longer a fantasy, as Africa’s population will become the largest workforce in the world by 2035.
Digitalization is taking center stage across the continent and shifting how we conduct business, create jobs, catch up with friends and family and access public services. The flourishing startup ecosystem in Africa has been a prime example of this budding growth, inspiring a wave of innovation across the continent.
This startup ecosystem continues to bolster a digital community and signals Africa’s potential for the next chapter of the internet, the metaverse. A recent study for Meta by Analysis Group estimates that metaverse adoption could contribute to regional GDP or $40bn in 2023.
So how can Africa join the race and develop sustainable development solutions for Africa and the world?
The metaverse is being built in Africa too
In many ways, the metaverse will be a natural evolution of the internet. We have moved from primarily text-based web services to speech and video-based ones. The metaverse is the next generation – a more immersive, 3D experience defined by a feeling of presence like you are right there with another person or in another place. It will be more human than how we experience the internet today – more physical, interactive, and speech-based than flat screens filled with text and images. And it can open up worlds of opportunity for people across Africa.
While our vision of the metaverse feels far away, we’re seeing African companies and innovators starting to build for this future with an endless appetite and desire to continue bringing this to life here in Africa.
Just a quick glimpse into the current reality — the continent is already buzzing with creative talent and occupying its seat at the metaverse table. Nigeria’s Mosope Olaosebikan, the founder of Nigeria’s first digital museum, is shaping the narrative of culture and people through AR and VR. Pixel Chefs, a South African creative agency, uses emerging digital tech to create impactful experiences for its local and global clients. And Kenya’s Black Rhino VR — a virtual reality production — in Nairobi is creating bespoke VR and AR solutions and content adaptable and relevant to the African and global market.
Big tech companies like Meta are building the metaverse on the continent by investing in programs such as 2Africa; there is still much work to be done in forming long-lasting, fruitful collaborations.
The move from paper to action will take formidable allyship across companies, developers, creators and policymakers. We must work together to build an inclusive metaverse for Africa that will bridge the digital divide and ensure equal representation globally and across the continent.
Africa’s diversity and dynamism foster creativity, agility, innovation and the freedom it takes to build a metaverse that can weave itself into sustainable development.