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Opportunities & challenges for Africans in the metaverse economy

All over the continent, digitalisation is gaining prominence. It’s changing how we do business, carry out our work, interact with others, and access public services. An excellent example of this new development is the surge of innovations sparked by Africa’s thriving startup ecosystem.

The metaverse is evolving, and it is the next phase of the internet; most web services have shifted from text-based to audio and video-based. The metaverse is the next generation that provides users with a more realistic 3D experience that makes them feel as though they are physically in a particular location in a virtual world with another person. It will be more human than the internet as we know it now, with a focus on physical interaction and conversation rather than on static images and text. As a result, it could provide untold benefits to people all over Africa.

Economists at Analysis Group predict that the global adoption of the metaverse might add 2.8% to global gross domestic product (GDP) within a decade, with Africa’s share being 1.8%. Globally, this equates to $3 trillion, of which Africa is responsible for $40 billion.

The metaverse is not a novel concept and has been around for quite some time. The novel Snow Crash, published in 1992, was the first to detail this phenomenon. Subsequently, some corporations created virtual communities based on this idea, the most well-known being 2003’s Second Life.

The term “metaverse” is derived from the phrases “meta” and “universe.” The word is frequently associated with the next Internet generation, Web 3.0.

The Metaverse refers to the future and present of VR/AR-centric interconnected digital platforms. It is commonly viewed as the next phase of the internet, providing vast commercial and financial opportunities for the technology industry and others.

Metaverse users utilise avatars for identity purposes, as a means of social interaction, and for building communities. In the metaverse, clothes, weapons, and shields are purchased using digital currency. Users can use a VR headset to roam the metaverse for fun or any other purpose effortlessly.

Aside from VR headsets, people can still enter the metaverse using digital glasses, smartphones, AR-compatible devices, or even laptops.

The metaverse is still in its infancy, and there are challenges Africans need to overcome

The Metaverse is quite promising to Africans and the rest of the continent, but Africans need help to plug into the metaverse environment fully.

What are the challenges Africans face?

Omdia, a global advisory and research brand, reported that 12.5 million VR headsets were sold in 2021 and projected that 70 million devices would be sold by 2026. However, the top-selling Oculus Quest 2 costs $299, making it affordable to a tiny fraction of African internet users unless prices are lowered.

Nevertheless, the technology is already being utilised by elite Africans.

Africans lag behind the rest of the world regarding internet speeds and data costs. Only fifty per cent of the population of Africa has access to 4G mobile networks. How rural Africans who still rely on 2G and 3G internet will benefit from the metaverse remains to be seen.

Africa is yet to fully adopt 5G network connectivity, one of the most promising innovations anticipated to realise the potential of the metaverse. Nonetheless, certain African countries have installed 5G base stations.

Advertisers can collect data from clicks and time spent on a website. In the future, businesses will know how long consumers view an advertisement and whether they touched a product, with features that can scan biometric data like eye movement and facial expression from headset wearers.

This suggests that the metaverse should be regulated to ensure that users’ safety and privacy are maintained.

What are the opportunities for Africans in the Metaverse?

While the metaverse is still yet to gain enough traction in Africa, brands and innovators are already beginning to prepare for this future, with an ongoing desire to continue bringing this to reality in Africa.

Let’s take a brief look at the opportunities for Africans in this disruptive technology:

1. Unique advertisement opportunities for African brands

The metaverse could present a significant advertising opportunity for African firms as brands, marketers, and advertisers will now have an excellent opportunity to reach dedicated metaverse users.

2. An exciting way for customers to interact with brands

Brands can buy billboard placement while customers wander through virtual worlds in the future, and the metaverse may eventually give new channels for storytelling. African firms may invest in advanced 360-degree videos for specialised advertising campaigns and full-scale experiences that allow customers to connect and interact with products.

We can interact with 3D objects in the metaverse and go on exploratory learning. The metaverse has the potential to eliminate geographical constraints on learning and make it possible for anybody, at any time, to study with anyone else who shares their interest.

4. A new way to entertain

Metaverse technology has allowed people to enjoy concerts by their favourite bands without leaving the comfort of their homes.

Developers can use augmented and virtual reality to create holograms that enhance the experiences and make them immersive.

‘Fortnite’ and ‘Roblox’ are two popular online game platforms already hosting virtual concerts with famous musicians such as Twenty One Pilots, Travis Scott, and Ariana Grande. Millions of people have already tuned in to these virtual events, and there will be many more performances like this in the metaverse in the future.

5. Creation of new job opportunities

Similar to the evolution of Web 2.0, mobile technologies, and IoT gadgets, the emergence of the metaverse is spawning a new breed of IT and hybrid jobs that call for a unique blend of technical and non-technical abilities.

Some of the job opportunities in the metaverse include:

  • Product managers
  • 3D game designers
  • Hardware engineers
  • Storytellers
  • AR/VR software engineers
  • Metaverse marketing specialist

Careers and employment opportunities in the metaverse economy are becoming more distinct. While many new jobs will be in computer science and engineering, those with excellent soft skills, technical abilities, and business skills will find opportunities in non-technical or hybrid positions.

Proactive users who adapt to the metaverse and develop their abilities stand a better chance of succeeding. Are we ready to dive into the metaverse and harness its opportunities?

Victor Tubotamuno is an innovation consultant and a venture builder who focuses on identifying new opportunities and markets, which are critical for mapping out future growth.

He is the founder of Earlybrite, Africa’s leading learning platform for kids, which has successfully trained over 10,000 children in various on-demand digital skills across the continent on web3 coding, robotics, Metaverse, animation and game design.

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