As an eight year old, one of the ultimate joys of my life was running post office errand for my grandmother who was a cloth weaver. Grandma weaved the most beautiful saris and boubous using the wooden loom machine to spin threads into patterns of elegant colors without which the traditional marriage was incomplete in our sub culture.
Anxious African brides from Ghana, United States, United Kingdom and other countries of the world would inundate our village King’s landline phone (itself a rarity and a seal of inimitable wealth and greatness at that time) with calls and messages for my grandma as regards the fabrics they wanted.
It was to assuage their anxieties that Grandma sent me to the post office with envelopes inside which were tucked little pieces of fabrics destined for different parts of the world for sampling. To get your wedding fabric ready in time, you often had to start the process as early as a year head.
Last year August when I visited my grandma’s village, the ultimate joy of the boy who now lived with her was to keep her iPad fully charged (and of course play Candy Crush on it!). It was with this iPad, Grandma took pictures of her elegant fabrics and posted them on Facebook where her clients, anxious brides and grooms all over the worls, fussed over them, commented, liked, shared and reposted them with glee.
This is what excites me: In the years ahead, when Grandma sends the pictures of her fabrics to her clients across the world, not only will they comment or share or retweet, they will be able to print sheets and sheets of fabric in 3D, ready to be worn right away. What had been made in the somnolent interior of Africa by an old woman who had never traveled out of the country will travel at the speed of possibility and find elegant, physical expression in New York, in London, Montreal, New Dehli and other cities of the world in a matter of minutes.
I imagine walking over to my Grandma as she works on her loom to explain this prospect to her, she would pause; eyes wide open and shout, in her local dialect, super wonder!
But it doesn’t stop there.
In 2015 alone, over 50 baby factories were discovered in Nigeria with some selling babies for as low as 100 dollars. According to the South African police figures a child goes missing every five minute. I have often wondered, do the perpetrators of this act, shake hands over a bottle of beer, say nice doing business with you as the cries and smiles of the baby is muffled in a sack?
With the fourth industrial, I think, a unique opportunity to phase out this menace totally presents itself. For example, a Nano-companion for babies, implanted early, perhaps in pregnancy may create a database and sensor with which suspicious movements can easily be detected and halted.
Let’s face it, Africa largely lost out of the Industrial revolution and though we seem to be catching on the internet revolution (with 67% mobile penetration and 26.5% internet spread) a whopping two third of people in Africa still live outside the magical openness of the internet.
With this fourth industrial revolution, the opportunity to restart and sail with the world presents itself. In Agriculture, for instance, with the 65% of uncultivated arable in Africa, tractors and harvesters that are not just cold metals but also humanoids or intelligent robots with pre-programmed ultra-efficiency will make Africa reach in our lifetime, her much talked about destiny as the food basket of the world. Imagine a day in the sweltering heat of an Africa farmland, as you plough and harrow, your tractor suddenly pauses, whirls in circle all by itself and says: Boss, I think we are doing great today!
Unemployment and youth inactivity across the continent stands at 60%. Africa has the youngest population in this world. This youth bulge presents a grave challenge and with the advent of humanoids will this gap not even widen further?
But I also think of the women and girls in Borno, in Maidiguri, in Chibok, in Baga who spend one third of their days fetching water. I think of the respite that might come their way and the liberty to pursue greater destinies.
Preserving the human warmth, fellow feeling and extended family networks so key to the Africa culture and spirit will be an important test of that era as the revolution approaches.
Government and economic retooling will be inevitable. There will be unprecedented global connectedness, new business ecosystems and creative economies. Intergenerational and intercontinental synergies will reach its peak in known human history. Indeed, we will be able to say indeed the brotherhood and of course sisterhood of humans, in our lifetime, transcend the sovereignty of nations.
There would be shattering of old conceptions and walls.
You see that last August when I went to see my Grandma, she took selfies with my little son, pouting, turning her face this way and that way and uploaded them on Facebook. As I stood there, mouth agape, surprised beyond measure, my eighty year old grandmother turned to me and said:
Son, by the way, are we friends on Facebook?
I can only imagine the surprises ahead.