Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Fasmicro Chairman, founded Africa’s first integrated circuit design house. Ekekwe is a professor of engineering at Babcock University in Nigeria and an inventor that holds a US patent on a microchip used in minimally invasive surgical robots and was in the team that created the XL sensor inside the iPhone and iPod.
Ekekwe spoke at the Tech4Africa conference, currently taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. During his presentation, Ekekwe discussed how Africa can climb the technology pyramid where creativity rules – the creators of fundamental technology sit higher up while those that consume are at the bottom.
“Africa has to have a strategy whereby we do not just consume technology. We have to figure out a way to create technology,” said Ekekwe.
“We can get there by re-designing our educational model and then providing an intellectual property framework so that people can actually make investment risks in Africa, but knowing that their investment is well protected by the law,” said Ekekwe.
“Africa can bridge the digital divide if we actually have an environment that supports people that take risks, said Ekekwe.
“The greatest challenge we have in Africa today is that innovation does not necessarily stay here. We have innovation in the sense of consumption innovation. Corporates have figured out a way to make us to constantly buy IT products,” said Ekekwe.
“Most people have not figured out how to create IT products, he proclaims.
“Until Africa begins to create, we will continue to have a divide,” said Ekekwe.
Nanotechnology is the construction and use of functional structures designed from atomic or molecular scale with at least one characteristic dimension measured in nanometers.
“Africa has a very marginal participation in Nano technology. It’s not just Nano technology – our agricultural technology is dead, our mining technology is dead and our geo-physical technology is dead,” said Ekekwe.
“The ICT media has ignored other technologies and focused only on IT. Tech4Africa conference provides no paper that is not IT excluding my presentation.”
“Everyone is talking about IT, but this is technology for Africa. We have forgotten that there are other technologies beside mobile technology and IT. Until we have the holistic understanding that technology is not IT, Africa will continue to have problems even with Nano technology.
According to Ekekwe, Nano technology can create systems that are very energy efficient. It provides another engine for Africans to build upon, innovate, disrupt an industry and invent a new future.
Ekekwe defines microelectronics as a branch of engineering that brings different devices like capacitors, resistors, transistors and fabricates them as a one manufacturing process – an integrated circuit.
“It is about bringing different components and making them into one.”
“Microelectronics helps you to bring all the elements monolithically – which means they become one.”
Ekekwe said the concept was invented by Jack Kilby in the late 1950’s.
Ekekwe said Microelectronics provides a new dawn in the world of commerce and industry.
“Kilby re-designed the world we know today. Without the microelectronics industry, there is not IT industry.
“Your future Google, Facebook, Twitter will not be possible without the micro-processor that drives laptops. That is why I keep saying this – Africa has to get to the basis of science and engineering. We have to begin to ask, Is IT really the technology that will deliver the next Africa?
“IT is more consumption based. The fundamental technology that drives IT is microelectronics and we have to participate in that domain. We have to get there. The ICT media needs to write not just about IT but more about technology. Technology is not synonymous with IT. Until we have that dialogue in African media, people will continue to think the only way to be cool in technology is to go into IT and that is very wrong,” concludes Ekekwe.