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Africa - A continent of contrasts - Africa: Looking to the future

Africa - a continent of contrasts

This lesson looks at the future of Africa.

Key questions

  • What advantages and disadvantages does modern technology bring to people in developing countries?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Space
  • Physical and human processes
  • Diversity

What advantages and disadvantages does modern technology bring to people in developing countries?

It is increasingly realised that modern technology has a key role to play in even the poorest of the developing countries. In spite of the many obstacles, the use of mobile phone communications and ICT has shown that it can transform the lives of people in both rural and urban areas. Mobile phone companies have a rapidly growing market and are doing their best to improve the infrastructure whilst keeping customer costs as low as possible.

The high costs of providing ICT equipment and of training people in its use is a difficult issue in many developing countries. One of the methods of increasing access is to make use of the services of companies which recycle and upgrade computer hardware from the richer, developed countries. This system provides both advantages (low cost of equipment, some training and support) and disadvantages (out of date, low-spec equipment and software that will often not run). Alongside this generally positive system is the increasing frequency with which countries such as the UK and USA are sending their unusable e-waste to countries in Africa to be recycled or disposed of. The low technology techniques employed in the processing of computers, etc. is extremely hazardous to the health and safety of the workers. Whilst work is undoubtedly created, the moral dilemma is clear.





  • What are the difficulties of bringing modern technology to countries in Africa?
  • If electricity is not available, what are the benefits and challenges of using generators or solar power to operate modern technology?

Discuss the questions above in a small group, then feedback to the rest of the class.



The impact of mobile phone technology in Kenya

Complete the 'Kenya impacts of mobile phone technology' activity in which you will consider the implications of owning a mobile phone for a group of people - the Masai cattle herders - living in Kenya. How has owning a mobile phone made life easier for these people?

E-waste and computers for schools schemes

The Kenya computers for schools document provides you with links to a wide range of articles and a video clip on two topics linked to the disposal of electronic products (such as computers and mobile phones) that we don't want any more. The two topics are:

  • E-waste
  • Computers for Schools schemes

There are some key questions for you to answer about each topic. You can find the answers by following the links on the document you have downloaded.

With your partner, decide who is going to research each topic, then answer these questions between you:

  • When we have finished with a computer (broken or out of date), what do we do with it?
  • The European WEEE directive 'imposes the responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the manufacturers of such equipment'. How might companies organise the collection and disposal of e-waste?
  • Why is most e-waste sent to Asian and African countries rather than being recycled in the UK?
  • E-waste contains chemicals that are toxic to humans, for example mercury. What danger does this pose to the people recycling the e-waste?
  • Are there any benefits to African countries recycling our waste?
  • Is it right or wrong to send e-waste to African countries? Why is this a difficult question to answer?
Computers for schools
  • Are the computers we throw away any use to students in poor African countries? Explain your answer
  • If the computers are checked and upgraded, then sent to countries such as Kenya, what other problems will there be when they arrive and when they are used
  • Would it be better to send aid in the form of textbooks, pens and exercise books rather than computers? Explain your answer
  • What difference might it make to the lives of Kenyan students if they learn how to use ICT equipment and other modern technology such as mobile phones
  • Should people in poorer countries have to depend on second-hand equipment

At the end of the activity, you should have a full set of answers between you. Share your findings with your partner, then with the whole class.



There are two options for the plenary activity for this lesson. Ask your teacher which one you should do. For both activities, discuss the issue with a small group and then feed back your ideas to the rest of the class.

  • Consider how mobile phones might bring benefits to other groups of people in African countries
  • Debate whether we should rely on poorer developing countries to deal with electronic waster from the richer western countries

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