The leading role of Drones in Africa.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, held in Cape Town over 4 – 6 September 2019. Featuring speakers such as Professor Klaus Schwab, and SA President Cyril Ramaphosa the Forum discussed ‘Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’.
Drone sessions at WEF on Africa
As if to emphasise the importance of drones in Africa the WEF on Africa 2019 featured 2 sessions on drones on the first day. One of which was ‘Drones and Africa’s Future” and the other “Unleashing the Drone Economy”. It was noted that Africa is leading the world in socially based use cases for drones.
Drone based blood transportation in Rwanda
The transportation of blood products in Rwanda is a very well publicised project that has matured beyond the pilot phase into a national project in the country. This project is now also in the process of scaling beyond Rwanda to Ghana and Tanzania.
Pervasive distribution platforms
Forward looking institutions are increasingly looking at pervasive drone based distribution platforms at a national or large scale enterprise level. In certain parts of Africa, drones are used to distribute substances with which to control the spread of mosquitoes. In other parts drone based seed planting is being used for reforestation and snake bite antidotes are delivered timeously to snake bite victims in remote locations.
Discussing the economics of drones, Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information and Communications Technology and Innovation, in the Cabinet of Rwanda emphasised the broad based nature of the economics of drone based delivery of blood products. When assessing the economics of drones, the temptation is to compare the various transport platforms (such as drone vs land based vehicle costs) and not always acknowledging the positive changes to business outcomes, or the efficiencies arising from the changes to business processes.
For example: with drone based blood deliveries, the reduction of the average delivery time of blood in Rwanda from 3 hours to 13 – 26 minutes means that many more lives are saved and that, not having to stock blood and transport smaller amounts on demand only has brought the wastage of blood products down from 30% to 0,3%!
While being able to deliver remotely is a very visible part of the enhanced range and reach that drones bring to the lives of land based humans, its ability to reach and feedback instantaneously remotely sourced data is extremely valuable in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) activities that are that vital in many parts of Africa. This means that data that would normally be manually collected by M&E personnel, provided they can reach targeted areas, and often only returned and collated weeks later, can now happen instantaneously, and service delivery targeted much more effectively.
Drones in Africa
As many organisations have discovered, Africa is an ideal place for the development of drone based use cases.