Boom and Bust?

Two Western Tales of Technology in Africa

  • Michelle Hae-Rang Park Stanford University


Current Western models of technological development in Africa exist at two extremes. On one end, Africa is perceived as a tech-barren land that relies heavily on Western imports for technological access. On the other end, recent narratives depict Africa as a continent of unprecedented and largely self-initiated technological growth. This paper analyzes the problems that arise when looking at Africa’s access to technology through one of these two extremes. My findings demonstrate that these two contradicting models of technology in Africa are 1) concurrently prevalent across Western media and academia and 2) sharply inadequate in their generalization of technology and the African continent. These insights call for a more complex, multidimensional model of African technological development. To work towards such a layered model of Africa, I propose a strategy to export learning models from Africa to the West. By breaking out of the traditional flow of knowledge in the opposite direction, from the West to Africa, well-rounded insights can be drawn from and about both regions. In this paper, I detail an example of implementing this strategy and analyze its potential strengths in stepping towards a more accurate narrative of Africa.