There has been a lot of buzz in the tech world in the last six months about the concept of the Metaverse and how it will fundamentally revolutionize people's lives. Analysts estimate that the virtual concept will have a trillion-dollar economic impact in the real world.
However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, where, despite significant progress, just 22% of the population is connected to the internet, a future defined by participation in the digital domain appears even more out of reach.
What is Metaverse?
The metaverse is a future version of the Internet that functions as a single, ubiquitous, and immersive virtual environment enabled by virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. Metaverse mixes the digital and physical worlds to provide an immersive consumer experience.
Through avatars, Metaverse users can build alternative digital identities and use cryptocurrencies to interact, work, play, and shop. "The metaverse will be an internet that we are inside of," says Derya Matras, Facebook's Vice President for Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey.
Business meetings and conferences may increasingly take place in the digital domain, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who predicts that most virtual meetings will shift to the Metaverse within three years, where avatars will be able to sit face-to-face and read each other's faces.
Connectivity Challenges in Africa
Most African users will not be able to access this new virtual environment anytime soon. The majority of the rest of continent has slower Internet capacity, and data charges are exorbitant. Only 22% of Africa's population has access to 4G mobile internet networks, and mobile data in Sub-Saharan Africa is the most expensive.
Another significant issue is the affordability of Metaverse technology. According to Omdia, a global research and advisory business, 12.5 million VR headsets were sold in 2021, with the market expected to increase to 70 million units sold by 2026. However, the best-selling VR headset, Oculus Quest 2, costs $299, putting it beyond the reach of all but a small percentage of African internet users.
Future Opportunities for Metaverse in Africa
The metaverse will provide Africa with numerous opportunities, but connectivity is required. The concept could present a big advertising opportunity for African brands. Companies will be able to buy billboard locations while customers wander through virtual worlds, and the metaverse could eventually provide new channels for storytelling. African brands might create full-scale experiences that allow people to connect with a product and influencers by investing in sophisticated 360-degree movies for specific ad campaigns.
The Metaverse will be beneficial to African education. Louise Claassen, an executive fellow at Henley Business School in South Africa, is already utilizing immersive learning through the use of virtual reality. She used the concept to create courses for her students. Claassen collaborated with BlackRhino VR, a Kenyan production firm, to film African environments with 360 cameras and XR technology to create global case studies that transport students to African cities and help them better comprehend local economics.
African Companies Have Already Started
While much of this may appear to be a pipe dream in Africa, some businesses are already aware of the possibilities that the Metaverse may offer. Thrill Digital, developed by Delz Erinle and artist Niyi Okeowo in Nigeria, mixes augmented reality, virtual reality, cryptography, and gaming to create a fashion metaverse.
Artist Norman Catherine has also created a range of 3D avatars for consumers to wear in Africarare, Africa's first metaverse. The company intends to create Ubuntuland, a virtual world with communities, art galleries, and animal parks. According to the firm, the land will be rented or sold for business meetings, art exhibitions, and other events, and it will be progressively developed in partnership with architects, coders, and software developers.