Once aiming for a life of helping people through health care, American-born Ghanaian George Madjitey Jr. is now helping farmers in Ghana to reap the rewards of being part of a modern, technological economy.
Born and raised in a tight-knit Ghanaian community in Houston Texas, Madjitey was planning on being a doctor, but that changed when he had the chance as an undergraduate student to intern at a government hospital in the Ghanaian capital of Accra.
“I learned quickly that organization was not a priority,” he said, “In contrasting the dynamics of the medical environment in Ghana to the U.S, I saw the issue of organization to be rooted in the lack of technological infusion.”
“I honestly hadn’t anticipated that this moment in time would evolve into an entrepreneurial journey – but what I did know was that I had the chance to make a sizable impact in Ghana leveraging technology.”
Despite completing a Masters in Healthcare Administration in 2017, that same year, Madjitey saw an opportunity with drone technology in Ghana’s burgeoning oil and gas sector, attended Houston’s Off-Shore Technology Conference (OTC) and connect with delegates from Ghana.
“But we ultimately recognized that the oil and gas environment was riddled with bureaucracy and regulations that would impede on our ability to truly add value within the sector,” he said.
So he and his business partner went back to the drawing board and found a new direction: agriculture.
“In 2020, the Ghanaian farmer is arguably forgotten,” Madjitey said. “Left out of the data & mechanization revolution, local farmers are most susceptible to the influences of climate change.”
“With a lack of reliable & subsidized extension services specific to agriculture, local agri-stakeholders are not being afforded a fighting chance.”
Madjitey says his company, GEM Industrial Solutions, incorporates Blockchain in their mapping methodology and AI into their crop scouting & counting services.
“Providing these services at a price point that is sensitive to the market, local stakeholders are presented the opportunity to improve upon the efficiency of their cultivation practices, better strategize for planting, & reduce their use of agrochemicals, each of which positively influences their bottom line,” he said.
Madjitey, who is now based in Ghana, says in comparison to Tanzania and Rwanda, the regulations around drones are more favorable in Ghana.
“When it comes to gaining authorization for flying in the airspace locally, so long as you are outside the “no fly zones” you’re virtually free to fly,” he said.
According to Madjitey, says the absence of stringent regulation has attracted a number of new players to Ghana including Zipline, a drone operator specializing in delivery of medical supplies.
Meanwhile, Madjitey is far from the only entrepreneur using drones in novel ways in Africa.
Bart Knols, a medical entomologist and one of the co-founder of the anti-malaria drone (AMD) project says that when the specially-designed DJI Agras MG1-S drone rose over a rice field in Cheju, Tanzania and started to deploy its payload, it was the culmination of years of effort.
This drone, which sprays a pesticide that kills mosquitoes is aimed at one goal: fighting malaria, which infects more than 10 million people and kills 80,000 every year in Tanzania.
Another use for drones is as flying cell phone towers. One of the goals of Minnesota-based engineer and entrepreneur Rahul Tiwari and his company Spooky Action is to provide drone-based cell phone towers, especially in the global south.
Tiwari says in place of those towers, drones the size of dining tables can provide LTE coverage, use about as much energy as a microwave oven and be connected up to solar panels on the ground.
“We can cover 20-30 square miles with a drone that size,” Tiwari said, “And they can stay in the air for a month at a time thanks to their tether.”