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COP28: Africa’s top-brass universities empowered by 5G tech spaces


Africa’s most renowned universities are keen to be at the forefront of Research, Innovation and Outreach (RIO) of technologies, products, services and operating models that reduce CO2 emissions and help attain Net Zero Emissions (NZE). To achieve this, the gap between rhetoric and action needs to be reduced, if we are to have a fighting chance of reaching Net Zero by 2050 and capping the rise in global temperature at 1.5 °C in full attainment of the Paris Agreement.

Africa produces only about 4 percent of the world’s emissions, but is disproportionately vulnerable to the impact of climate change. To illustrate this, some countries in the Horn of Africa, Somalia, parts of Kenya and part of Sudan, are experiencing the fifth consecutive year without rain. On the other side of the continent in West Africa, several countries have been covered by the worst floods in decades.

Making African societies more resilient requires improvements in infrastructure, social safety nets, and the introduction of green energy and more drought-resistant crops, among many other investments. It is clear, Africa is not getting enough climate finance considering the scale of the problem.

Given the urgency to combat climate change, the continent sees itself forced to seek a path of low-carbon industrialisation and growth.

Fortunately, as Africa does not have the burden of a legacy fossil-powered industrial base at the scale of many more developed economies, it has instead an opportunity to take a leading role in the development of low-emission products, services and operating models for the whole world. This is a great opportunity for the whole world.

Start North is an association that serves as an accelerator network to promote the learning and application of new technologies in order to meet the challenges of global sustainable development.

From its inception in 2017, Start North’s vision has been that through technology and networking, we can make education truly a catalyst for sustainable innovation, business and job creation.

As part of that vision, which is increasingly recognised by African universities, governments and businesses alike, 5G Tech Spaces are part of the solution to enable Africa to leapfrog with clean innovation.

The growing list of African universities supporting the adoption of 5G Tech Spaces includes, in alphabetical order:

Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

African School of Economics, Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria

Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia

Kenyatta University, Kenya

Obafemi Awolowo University (Ile-Ife), Nigeria

The Technical University of Kenya

University of Cape Town, South Africa

University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

University of Lagos, Nigeria

University of Lusaka, Zambia

University of Nairobi, Kenya

University of Namibia

“Universities will present 5G Tech Spaces within the domain of Digital Climate Action Frameworks that are aimed at net zero targets,” Dr. Dickson Kanungwe Chembe, Lecturer of Electrical Engineering at the University of Namibia, said.

About COP28 UAE

The United Nations (UN) holds an annual conference, known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), to bring together world leaders, ministers and negotiators to agree on how to address climate change.

This year’s edition, called COP28, takes place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, between 30 November and 12 December. The UN’s first global stocktake report shows much more must be done to meet the goals of the landmark Paris Agreement.

Adopted by 196 parties at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France, on 12 December 2015, the aims of this legally binding international treaty on climate change include holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels as well as pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030.

Without widely available, reliable internet connectivity and stable electricity supply, Africa cannot do its share of what is required to meet the goals of sustainable development as laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement and the Declaration of the Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2023.

If basic digital infrastructure needs are met, and provided that appropriate services are deployed to leverage that infrastructure, Africa indeed has the opportunity to become a leader in the fight against climate change.

Modular high-tech education and innovation

5G Tech Spaces bring a cost-efficient modular learning, innovation and remote work and service environment to the university campus, as well as better internet, uninterrupted electricity, and business connections.

The 5G Tech Spaces concept not only addresses the hardware infrastructure needs, but it also comes with ready digital services, educational content, business networks and access to international markets.

The 5G Tech Space is a modular high-tech unit for developing software applications, including applications that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and those that require ultra-fast internet connections to render immersive, three-dimensional (3D), virtual-reality (VR) and augmented-reality (AR) learning environments, as well as to deliver innovation services and remote work from and to any location in the world.

Universities are hotspots for learning, innovation, entrepreneurship and employability. The roll-out of 5G Tech Spaces across African universities will create high-performance educational and entrepreneurial environments, connecting campuses across Africa as well as between continents.

The modular Tech Space, in cooperation with the telecom operator, enables the university’s satellite-like service points to be implemented quickly even in smaller towns and remote, otherwise poorly serviced areas, to serve the residents and businesses of the area

Connecting Africa to the world

The 5G Tech Space is a catalyst for the development of fixed and 5G networks across Africa, including underserved areas. Investments in fixed networks, the latest mobile technology and green energy, combined with the deployment of Tech Spaces to accelerate education, work, and other services, is one of the fastest and surest ways to develop regions.

At the same time, the tech spaces can provide the technical infrastructure to stimulate remote work. For example, through virtual and augmented reality applications, African knowledge workers could work remotely for European companies with overlapping time zones.

The EU’s Digital Decade strategy aims to reach at least 20 million employed ICT specialists in Europe by 2030, a demand that cannot be met by Europe’s own declining youth population.

The European Union’s Global Gateway programme implements regional and country initiatives, for example in Sub-Saharan Africa, to connect these regions with investments and partnerships. The Africa-Europe Investment Package addresses sustainable investments in infrastructure (digital, energy, transport), health, education and skills, as well as climate change and environment.

Compared to the technology standards preceding it, fifth-generation wireless communication technology will enable data connections that are a hundred times faster on mobile devices and ten times faster than the fastest fixed broadband services currently.

The true potential of 5G/6G-enabled modular infrastructure lies in enabling entirely new categories of applications. Think remote control of drones, self-driving cars and complex industrial processes. Think remote surgery. Think remote work and meetings in virtual or augmented reality. Think remote learning. The operative word is “remote”.

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