If you’re thinking why are we talking about Africa when analyzing the benefits of an amazing novel disruptive technology, then shame on you! Please note that Africa is also ‘popping’ or ‘getting with the program’ or…you get the gist.  As Phil Muncaster, a freelance journalist aptly put it “if Africa is historically slow at adopting cutting-edge technology, 3D printing is the outlier”.

The first 3D printer to be created entirely from recycled materials was built in Togo by an inventor called Kodjo Afate Gnikou. His invention which was discovered in 2013, has been improved and so far, has created about 150 objects. This includes a knee prosthesis built to fit individual patients, a problem he noted wasn’t addressed by the imported and more expensive versions.

Another interesting fact to note is that the world’s biggest 3D printer is currently situated in South Africa. The printer, which uses titanium powder to build its custom-made products was designed and built as part of a collaboration between Aerosud Innovation Center and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) National Laser centre in Pretoria, South Africa.

African countries are beginning to realize the disruptive powers of 3D printing and its ability to accelerate economic growth on the continent.

Africa’s adoption lag is shrinking fast

Given its power to accelerate the growth of the manufacturing, health and agriculture sector, 3D printing could have a greater impact in African countries overwhelmed with supply chain issues and trade deficits. Some African countries import most of their basic goods, whose prices are often too expensive for citizens to afford.

Thankfully, the continent’s adoption lag is shrinking, as it now takes no more than three to four years for Africa to catch up with modern technology adopted by the world’s developed nations. Just think of fintech, telecoms, edtech or even the latest smartphones created by the world’s top two producers- Apple and Samsung.

If Africa embraces this technology, it could ensure a level playing field that leapfrogs the continent’s manufacturing sector, enabling a healthy competition with developed nations. Yep, Africa finally has the chance to be drafted in the major leagues (all right, no more sports references).

The gist of it is that 3D printing will help businesses on the continent reduce their reliance on imported materials. The technology enables entrepreneurs to create their products in-house, a process that will be faster, cheaper and more efficient. Plus, rather than being forced to inject fresh capital, manufacturers can improve or create new products by simply tweaking product specifications with a 3D printing software.

How can we speed up the adoption process?

There are quite a few achievements, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Private institutions and non-profits can support and fund 3D printing initiatives by encouraging its infusion into the school curriculum or mentoring startups working with the technology.

Finally, it is imperative for African governments to develop and implement policies that will encourage the adoption of technology.