Metaverse will unlock new opportunities for Africa – and for the world.

By Balkissa Idé Siddo, Director of Public Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa

The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was held this year in a complex socio-economic context that continues around the world due to economies still destabilized by Covid-19. Just eight years from the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), finding targeted solutions to issues such as eradicating poverty, adapting to climate change and achieving equity for all is becoming urgent.

Solving these global problems requires coordination, time and diligence from all stakeholders. Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, with startups and creators leading a digital revolution that promises to have a positive impact internationally. By developing the technology that could one day shape the Metaverse, African leaders now have the opportunity to move the world towards achieving the SDGs.

The theme of this year’s UN General Assembly – “A Defining Moment for Transformative Solutions to Interrelated Challenges” – is an urgent reminder of the way forward to ensure that no one is left behind as we work towards a sustainable future. Africa’s technological innovation efforts can help develop the necessary transformative solutions.

The next chapter of the Internet is changing rapidly and transforming developments on a massive scale, affecting the global economy.

Working for a sustainable future

Although Metaverse will take years to develop, we can already see its potential to achieve the SDGs.

Virtual and augmented realities can support a range of global goals, from remote training of doctors to support the development of health and well-being (SDG 3) to supporting local leaders in advocating for different actions to mitigate the effects of climate change (SDG 13 ). The potential of Metaverse across the African continent could contribute to these goals by promoting strategies that improve health, reduce inequalities and stimulate the economic growth needed to improve quality of life.

We are convinced that Africa can and will definitely play a pivotal role in the Metaverse by creating new opportunities for African brands to tell their unique stories and export culture and new immersive experiences for consumers. This reality is no longer fiction as the African population will become the largest workforce in the world by 2035.

Digitization is taking center stage across the continent, transforming the way we work, create jobs, communicate with friends and family and access public services. Africa’s thriving startup ecosystem has been a major demonstration of this new growth, inspiring a wave of innovation across the continent.

This ecosystem of startups continues to strengthen a digital community and anticipates Africa’s potential in the future of the Internet, which is none other than Metaverse. A recent study conducted for Meta by independent financial consultancy Analysis Group estimates that if Metaverse adoption started today and grew at the same rate as mobile technology in sub-Saharan Africa, it could be associated with a 1.8% contribution to regional GDP in the next 10 years, or $40 billion in 2031.

So how can Africa join the movement and develop solutions not just for the continent but for the entire sustainable development ecosystem?

Metaverse is also built in Africa

In many ways, the Metaverse will be the natural evolution of the Internet. We have moved from primarily text-based web services to voice and video-based services. Metaverse is the next generation – a more immersive 3D experience characterized by a sense of presence, as if you were in another place with another person. This results in a more human experience of the Internet than we know today. The latter will actually be more physical, interactive and based on speech rather than on flat screens, filled with texts and images. Metaverse will therefore have the potential to open up a world of opportunities for African people.

Although our vision of Metaverse is still far away, we see that African companies and innovators have already started to build the foundations for this shared future, with a will and a constant enthusiasm to bring this project to life, here in Africa.

To provide insight into the current reality, the continent takes its full seat at the Metaverse table thanks to its many creative talents. Nigerian Mosope Olaosebikan, founder of Africa’s first digital museum, shapes cultural and human narratives in her own way using immersive and innovative heritage preservation methods such as AR and VR. Pixel Chefs, an innovative South African creative agency, uses emerging digital technologies to create immersive and impactful experiences for its local and international clients. Finally, Kenyan company Black Rhino VR, a virtual reality production company located in Nairobi, creates custom, adaptable and relevant VR and AR solutions and content for the African and international markets.

Although technology companies like Meta are actively involved in building the Metaverse on the continent by investing in programs like the 2Africa project that aims to accelerate access to fast and reliable internet in Africa, there is still much to do to establish constructive and lasting collaborations for the Metaverse in Africa.

The effective realization of this project will require relevant alliances between companies, developers, creators and policy makers. We must work together to build an inclusive Metaverse for Africa that will bridge the digital divide and ensure fair representation of all people globally as well as on the continent.

The diversity and dynamism of the African continent fosters creativity, agility, innovation and freedom; necessary elements to build a Metaverse for the benefit of sustainable development in Africa.

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