As Singularity University (SU) works to prepare global leaders and organisations for the future, it has showcased Africa’s first virtual reality (VR) conference, hosting SU leaders from around the world to discuss, in real time, SU’s global vision and how to future-proof Africa.
While SU global’s “massive transformative purpose” is to impact one-billion people, the South African unit aims to build an empowered network of globally connected changemakers across Africa who are able to innovate and implement solutions to solve some of Africa’s – and the world’s – greatest challenges.
“We need to work together to future-proof Africa. We need to lead the way in technological transformation and not follow the tail of disruption,” says SU South Africa director Mic Mann, adding that there is a desire to leapfrog Africa into the Fourth Industrial Revolution by empowering people technologically.
This will entail exploring the opportunities and implications of exponential technologies and connect to a global ecosystem that is shaping the future and solving the world’s most urgent problems.
The VR conference is the first on the continent and the first step towards that future.
“There is no better demonstration of SU’s mission than to use exponential thinking and technologies, such as VR, to discuss in real time and in person how we can future-proof Africa and bring opportunity to everyone,” says SU associate founder and CEO Rob Nail.
Nail was in Canada connecting into the press conference through a VR portal, along with three other international SU directors.
This shows a glimpse of where technology is headed and the potential creation of disruptions and breakthroughs, including meeting such as this, he says.
“It is only when we engage a global community focused on solving humanity’s greatest challenges with these and other accelerating technologies that we can have the greatest positive impact on our future.”
The press conference was demonstrated shortly before the second yearly SU South Africa Summit in October.
SAP chief technology officer Simon Carpenter says that many more companies across Africa need to do more with digital technologies, which has massive transformative purposes.
Citing China’s growth, he questions the possibilities of “doing in Africa what China has done” over the next 50 years.
“A few decades ago, China was a poorer than Tanzania. Now they are talking about using artificial intelligence to create a $150-billion industry by 2030,” he points out.
Africa can no longer do what it has always been done, with renewed urgency in bringing about the new technologies in a way that can be “digested”.
“By the end of the century, there will be four-billion people living on a continent that will not get bigger, and will not get more rivers or more arible land. Unless we figure out how to use every single resource, really smartly, we will have a very uncertain future,” Carpenter warns.
Deloitte head of innovation Valter Adão says that businesses need to be reimagined to survive and thrive.
“The South African economy needs a jumpstart. We can not rely on legacy strategies or levers for economic growth,” he says, highlighting that economic prosperity and inclusive growth will be found in digital technology and innovation.
“If we go beyond our borders into Africa where the growth is far better than ours, we can leverage these disruptive technologies to address the structural gaps we can unlock further and far more aggressive growth.”