Today IBM is hosting its annual Think Summit for 2019 in Johannesburg, and one of the firm’s most interesting announcements centres around the expansion of its quantum computing program on the African continent. More specifically they will be partnering with Wits University, with the tertiary institution being the first African partner for the IBM Q Network.

Along with Wits, IBM will also be expanding reach and access to the quantum computing tools via the cloud to five other South African universities – UCT, UKZN, Rhodes, University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch – with Wits serving as the hub for the country and the continent.

For those residing outside of SA, the program will also reach 10 tertiary institutions on the continent, in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and others.

“This is the latest outcome of the joint partnership between IBM Research and Wits, which started in 2016 when IBM opened its second lab in Africa in Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg. To expand the IBM Q Network’ to include Wits will drive innovation in frontier-technologies and benefit African0based researchers, academics and students who now have access to decades of quantum computing capabilities at the click of a button,” says Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, deputy vice-chancellor of research and postgraduate affairs at Wits.

Speaking about the potential applications and solutions that IBM Q offers, the firm notes that they’re hoping this recent expansion will help in the creation of local answers to local problems, with the financial services, healthcare and mining industries being earmarked.

As for when we’ll see such solutions remains to be seen, with IBM reluctant to place a firm deadline as to when tangible results will begin to be fostered.

“For Africa to remain competitive for the coming decades we must get the next generation of students quantum ready,” emphasises Dr. Solomon Assefa, VP for emerging market solutions and director of IBM Research Africa.

Speaking of which the firm is planning to host a Qiskit (the name for IBM Q’s cloud-based toolset) Camp in South Africa later this year in December, with 200 quantum researchers and computer scientists across the continent given the chance to receive hands-on training and experience the environment on offer.

As such it should be interesting to see what the next few years holds when it comes to quantum computing development on the continent, as well as South Africa.

More information about the IBM Q Network, its partners, hubs and members can be found here.