The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, here are start-ups closing the gap between man and machine

The fourth industrial revolution has blurred the interaction between man and machine. Robots can now work with/in place of humans, people have the ability to control machines with voice commands, and we now have 3D printing capability that could be used to replace lost limbs. The world is moving towards a revolution that integrates technology deep into our lives. However, what does this mean for Kenya and Africa as a whole, is the fourth industrial revolution alive?


Research shows that up to 60 percent of the continent’s employment is in the agriculture sector, however, with industrialisation and mechanisation where does African agriculture stand? For it is no secret that mechanisation threatens jobs; according to the World Economic Forum 2017, 52 percent of work in Kenya can be automated. Despite the risks, the fourth industrial revolution has benefits and the agricultural sector is already experiencing it.

For instance in Kenya, Ujuzi Kilimo-a local startup, is using big data to champion precision farming by enabling farmers to test their soils, get test results in addition to fertiliser recommendations on their mobile phones, all in less than five minutes. Twiga Foods-a mobile based fresh produce supplier-has piloted the use of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to manage and run a lending system for vegetable vendors subscribed to its produce delivery service.

Ujuzi Kilimo soil testing device at work image from

Another start-up M-farm, is using mobile phones to give farmers daily price information that allows them to better negotiate prices. Additionally, Hello Tractor-a Nigerian start-up, is using GPS to connect farmers to tractors near them for a fee, the tractors are also fitted with technology that alerts the owners when it’s time for maintenance.

Modernized services

Technology has really penetrated into the service industry in Kenya, totally transforming how operations are conducted. Initially, the only way you could get a loan in Kenya or any other developing country in Africa, was for you to submit documents; title deed, car log etc. in addition to a nerve wrecking visit from a loan officer who would snoop around your premise to confirm whether the information you had given was legitimate. Only then would a bank determine your creditworthiness and approve your loan.

Now all that can be done in a matter of minutes, thanks to mobile lending apps like Tala and Branch, the apps collect data within your phone (transactions, messages, phone contacts, location etc.) and use machine learning technology to predict whether you are likely to pay or default on a loan. This alternative method of credit scoring has availed credit to thousands of people would not have imagined the possibility that ten years ago. How? Though integrating technology into everyday life.

Thanks to instruments of the fourth industrial revolution, low-income households from Kenya to Nigeria are now able to access electricity on a pay as you go basis. Using internet-connected devices that can be kept running when payment is up to date and switched off when users default on loan payments.

Using this technology, companies like M-Kopa and Mobisol have expanded into previously marginalised communities in Kenya, to bring lighting to households. Additionally, users are able to pay for the service using M-Pesa mobile money transfer-a technology that is also revolutionary and, has modernised the financial sector in Kenya for the low-income earner.

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us and cannot be stopped, like any other technological development in history, risks are apparent. However, with proactive action, we can mitigate the negative effects to promote a positive impact


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