The Metaverse: A Potential Future Internet for African Youths
By Aremu Adams Adebisi
Imagine walking down the street. Just when you are thinking of a product you want, a vending machine appears immediately right next to you filled with varieties of the product you were thinking of. You pick up the item from the vending machine, it gets shipped to your house, and you continue your shopping.
Now tell me, isn't that incredible? Wouldn't you want to experience that? Next, imagine a man offers to go shopping, but then his wife can't recall the name or type of product she would like him to get.
Her brain-computer interface device recognizes this difficulty and transmits a link to her husband's device, along with what store's aisles it's located. Wow! I bet you'd love to experience that right? Hang on a little...
With your permission, I welcome you to the alternate digital reality where people work, play, and socialize — an extraordinary place called the Metaverse.
The Metaverse, also called the AR cloud, magic verse, mirror world, spatial internet, or live maps, is a big deal. To show that, Mark Zuckerberg just renamed Facebook to meta platforms in preparation for the Metaverse ecosystem. But what does the Metaverse truly mean?
Meaning of the Metaverse
The definition of the Metaverse involves blending the digital world with a physical one, but it depends on whom you ask. As you walk around a city, you get to see information before your eyes ranging from traffic and pollution updates to local history with the help of augmented reality glasses.
Therefore, enthusiasts of the Metaverse dream of a future where the idea could be further expanded. A reality whereby we could be transported to digital settings such as mountain tops, night clubs, or prisons that feels real through holograms.
So, how are Africans preparing for the Metaverse?
Already, the word 'meta' caused a stir across African countries due to its local translation. In Yoruba culture, Meta means 'three' and could stand for the three major platforms of Mark Zuckerberg. In Egypt, it means to die, and in Ghana, 'Meta' means to fart. In Malawi, Kenya, and parts of America, meta can mean 'shining.'
Looking at the translations, one can already see the diversity in preparation. As it turns out, the next big thing after the internet is projected to be the Metaverse. And with the rapid penetration of Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Augmented reality (AR), gradually, the method of socialization, work, and interaction is being simulated and integrated.
Just like other continents, Africa is ready to explore this new digital world.
Mohammed Zoghlami, the co-founder of Afric'Up, speaking on Africa's participation in tech innovation in an interview, said Africans no longer want to be consumers only but also to have the rights to influence, embrace technology, and consider their own future.
His words pretty summed up everything. Older Africans have now accepted that the younger generation, the born-digital of the continent, can meet the challenge of the Metaverse by developing applications and services that meet the African sense of work and culture.
The coronavirus crisis, which revealed the innovations and skills of local start-ups, has brought about many advanced tech producers in African latitudes and demonstrated a real creative buzz in crucial sectors related to AI, IoT, blockchain, and, or even cryptocurrencies; Mohammed Zoghlami continued.
Through tech, Africans can build virtual storytelling based on African traditions and values. An example of such is Ubuntu: a sense of tradotech that creates a feeling of belonging and shares the singularity of the human and African community at large, leading to global bonds and local cooperation.
First African Launched Metaverse
The first VR Metaverse housing digital in Africa has its roots in South Africa. Officially launched, it sold out in the debut art collection, which is the Africarare.
A collection of 52 digital pieces from the world-renowned local artist known as Norman Catherine made up the debut NFT and was purchased at US$ 53.000 (R 765 400) with digital currency.
At the recent Singularity 4 South Africa Summit 2021, Africarare was officially launched online from 12-15 October 2021, and it attracted over 3000 delegates.
An entirely new Metaverse marketplace is needed to display Africa's best creativity and promote a new platform for African artists through a 3D Virtual Reality experience.
Benefits and Impact on African Youths
Investment in digital pieces of land on population virtual worlds such as Decentraland, cryptovoxels, and sandbox has been commenced by early builders of the Metaverse that include NFT, artists, musicians, and crypto-native to showcase their work, thereby building educative communities around it.
So the Metaverse is a space for every African youth to showcase their creativity and innovation. In the Metaverse, everything can be traded, making it a massive opportunity for African youths. It's, however, left to them to be creative enough to come up with something unique and find a niche for themselves.
You can rent your land for events. People can create wearable devices that can be bought and worn in the Metaverse. You can have billboards and build agencies. It all depends on the creativity and imaginations of the individuals (in this case, African youths).
The Metaverse: African youths, global youths
The Metaverse provides individuals with a sense of agency, social presence, and shared spatial awareness due to its persistent, evolving, live digital universe and its ability of youths to participate in a vibrant virtual economy with numerous societal impacts.
Young marketers and brands have an exciting opportunity to develop products that exist in multiple realities. I firmly believe that the Metaverse is here to stay. The Metaverse is not a copy of our world, so we should leverage and use the new tech positively to our collective benefit.
We're witnessing the dawn of a new digital frontier as we emerge from economic uncertainty. I believe the Metaverse is the correct response to accommodating global youths and integrating their shared interests.
A place where African and Non-African youths can show their creativity and use their curiosity to flourish like never before. This new iteration of the internet that is being worked on will have innumerable implications on society and new opportunities for youths.
As we usher in a new dimension of the Metaverse, we unleash exceptional creativity and open up undeveloped fields of study. The Metaverse is a possible future web for African and international youths in different communities in a rapidly growing tech world. Unless we leverage, these efforts are bound to go to waste.
Aremu Adams Adebisi is a young African writer who thrives in nonfiction and poetry. He has been nominated for Best of the Net, Pushcart, and Best New Poets. A Fellow of Langston Hughes, he has works published in Storyscape Journal, Lucky Jefferson, West Branch, and elsewhere.