Many years ago we wondered how Africa could ever catch up to the West in telecommunications. The cost of installing cabling would have been tremendous, but something happened to change the picture. Wireless technology emerged and Africa didn't have to come up with cash to install wires. They simply leapfrogged over the old technology and began with the new.
We're wondering if the same could happen in manufacturing, driven by 3D printing. Could Africa leapfrog over existing manufacturing hurdles as proposed in a report in African Business Review? They say:
For Africa the introduction of 3D printing manufacturing will bring about a wave of change with unprecedented benefits unlike seen before, benefiting small rural communities socio economic standards, offering new set of business opportunities to the individual, limited only by his or hers imagination and design.
While this is true, we can't see this evolving into mass manufacturing as exists in the West and Asia. 3D printing is a technology for customization, not truly usable for mass manufacturing. Instead we'll likely see Africa explore new business models for customization enabled by inexpensive access to 3D printing equipment.
These ideas are set to be explored this fall in an event in South Africa dedicated to clean energy investment. At Virdis Africa investors will meet entrepreneurs with new ideas. No doubt there will be 3D printing-related proposals.
The creative people in Africa may soon invent the future.