African innovation comes in many shapes and sizes. The ones that make the press are usually the high tech software or hardware solutions that have the potential to disrupt a sector on the continent. But there are many other small innovations out there that are building on traditional skills, changing lives, and utilising technology.
In previous blogs, the manufacturing industry has been an important theme. Cottage industries have long been important in Africa, but difficult to scale. African fashion has been popular around the world in recent years, and seamstresses and tailors have been pumping out designs and clothing to be sent oversees. Other industries are not having as much success, but in one instance I found, hard work, innovation, clever usage of social media and a social orientation is reaping great rewards and changing the lives of hundreds of women and men in Ghana.
With the popularity of Instagram and the improved cameras we walk around with on our phones many people seem to think of themselves as models, or photographers, and it is partly this trend that has led to the success of Design Dua.
Design Dua creates beautiful woven baskets for babies, pets and many other uses. Coretta Owusu, the founder, innovator, designer and business woman behind the company, has gathered together a team of 25 people, from the Northern part of Ghana to weave these baskets using a special type of grass. She has gone through a long process in refining the designs and technique, including finding a new way of bleaching the grass so it is white than usual.
Caution: This blog is not as positive as usual! (Editor’s Opinion)
Inventive Africa tried its best to be positive about Africa and the potential of African innovation. It is not hard to be positive, because there are so many good news stories around the continent about inspiring inventions. There are advancements across sectors. Health care methods are being transformed, the energy sector is being transformed with solar finding new ways of servicing those who are off the grid and people have greater access to information and educational material with various software and hardware solution.
Many of these innovations require internet access and mobile technology. For people to get online and take online degrees, or have a health conditioned diagnosed remotely, to simply have access to relevant information in order to protect your rights, or not be cheated, mobile phones and access to the internet are vital. The spread of access to the internet has been quite remarkable across the African continent. But despite that the continent still lags behind much of the world. In order for people to make the most of in many cases life changing innovations, they more need access and that access should be affordable.
The innovative nature of Africa is playing out across the continent. The media are covering more and more Africa born technologies and awards ceremonies, such as that of the Innovation Prize for Africa, are highlighting Africa’s excellence to the rest of Africa and the world. It is events like IPA and those of Seedstars (who are in focus in this blog) that push and encourage innovative change in Africa, unlike many conferences that just talk about what should happen, without making any tangible difference.
Seedstars are a Swiss organisation who trawl the world for innovation. In Africa, they travel to many countries, seeking innovations which could make it to their final African summit. The last was held in Rwanda, and we featured it here. This week, they will go to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, but it is the South African addition that will be focussed on here. Winners are given pitch training and support and can then battle it out on the world stage against winners from across the world.
The South African event took place in July, and this blog will showcase some of our favourites from the event, including the winner.
This years winner was in the health sector. Essential Medical Guidance is an app for medical professionals, which enables them to access local clinical facilitation and Continue reading “Did You Know Seedstars keep unearthing incredible African Innovation?”
Owning a cow or other livestock is not an easy thing. Of course, if your family has owned cows for generations, skills are passed down. But, for those that have only few cows, or are finding it difficult to maintain the herd, it is important to have information at hand, quickly. There are often many difficult situations, from adverse weather conditions, to disease, that effect a herd, and if the heard is struggling, the family could be struggling also.
Of course with large urbanisation in #Africa, there are fewer opportunities to keep cows, unless for example you partake in #CowFunding, and in that case, someone else does the looking after for you! For those that have cows, maintaining the health of the heard is incredibly important. Optimum nutrition, medicine and health care is often the fine line between the life and the death of a cow. And one cow may mean the world to a family. Providing milk, or calves to sell or meat to eat, losing a cow, or having an unhealthy cow could have a massive impact on the well being of a family.
In this brave new world of technology and with mobile phones and internet access quickly spreading throughout Africa, it is now possible for anyone to get access to information. If people want specific information, sometimes Google (or other search engines) are just not efficient enough. In recent years we have seen a trend towards tailoring information for specific types of people. There are apps which give students access to books. and e-learning opportunities, and apps that enable people all over the world to advise on best farming practices. And now, there is a service which enables farmers to look after their livestock to the best of their abilities.
iCow helps cattle farmers, as well as other types of farmers, improve their productivity by sending them relevant text messages packed full with important information and instructions. By having access to relevant information, farmers can reduce risk. And it is not just for cow farming, there is a plethora of information such as on soil fertility, poultry, eggs and crops, which is helping many improve their farms.
Agriculture, as we have said many times before, is the foundation of development across Africa. With a huge amount of small holder farmers and arable land across the continent, the potential for Africa to feed itself and not rely foreign food imports. Technology is enabling small farmers to change and develop their farms. There are apps to help people sell their produce at a fair price, innovative insurances for livestock farmers, apps to help farmers across the world share information and increase their farming skills, and even innovative machinery, made for the African setting, like the Tryktor.
In this blog, it is the humble tractor that receives all of the attention. Nana Kwame Darko, from Ghana, is the most recent of our highly valued guest bloggers to shine a light on innovation in Africa. He writes of an innovation that could change the lives of thousands of farmers in Ghana.
Today, technology is unavoidable in the different sectors of any economy in the world. The impact is very evident in agriculture. In Ghana presently, a team of young agripreneurs (entrepreneurs in agriculture) are have come up with an innovation for agriculture. Their mission is to connect smallholder farmers to tractors and other processing machinery.
Transporting yourself around parts of Africa is not always a straight forward process. Whether a short trip to work in the morning on a private minibus, a trip to the market on the back of an Okada, or a long journey by car, or on a bus, it can be a tiring and potentially risky journey. If you have lived in Africa for any length of time, it is likely you have seen a car accident, or heard of someone that has been injured (or worse) in an accident.
During my time in Ghana, I was involved in two accidents, (fortunately with no incident) and was often presented with horrific images of crashes in the newspaper, news or on social media. Whether it is the state of maintenance of vehicles or reckless driving, I can not be sure, but it is certainly a problem that needs to be resolved.
I often write that the challengers Africa faces drives innovation in a different way from in Europe, America and the rest of the world. This different set of challenges lead to solutions that can be used all over the world. So when I did some research into what technology is working to save lives and prevent road traffic accidents in Africa, I was surprised that I could not find anything worth writing about. (If you have heard of a solution please let me know!)
I expected to see speed sensors and limiters, new methods of identifying drivers that were breaking the speed limit or driving dangerously (eg digital registration), self driving vehicles or alcohol consumption apps that stop people from driving when over the limit. (In Kenya they have actually started alcohol testing drivers of commercial vehicles at bus stations).
I may not have found anything to prevent crashes, but there is a new app in South Africa which helps people after the crash. It is very important to get an accurate record of the aftermath of an accident. The location, time, vehicle make and registration, witness statements are all very important when distinguishing who was at fault during an insurance or police investigation.
FICS, a South African private investigation service, have launched the app which will help those involved and by standers document a crash. All the information will be stored centrally and owned by FICS. Interested parties will have to pay to have access to the information. This is where the app adds motivation for people to document accidents. For every time a report is downloaded, the person who has submitted it receives R500. Monetising this service for those that make the reports ensures that their will be data out there on many road traffic accidents and that can also assist on preventing them in the future.
Having access to these reports will substantially cut down the time taken to resolve claims. It cuts out a lot of the uncertainty, and makes sure that insurance companies, police and lawyers have all the relevant information at their fingertips. The app may not prevent accidents, but it certainly gives those involved piece of mind after the unfortunate event.
If you would like to download the mobile app here are the links:
Apple App Store: http://bit.ly/FICSAppApple
Google Play Store: http://bit.ly/FICSAppGoogle
What is most important though, is not technological change, it is a change in mindset. We need to be more careful on our streets and take better care of our lives others. Bus drivers may be interested in getting to their destinations quickly, but risky overtaking manoeuvres around bends, or other dangerous tactics are not necessary. There also needs to be greater enforcement with regard to the maintenance of vehicles (I once had a door fall off a private bus I was in!), alcohol levels and passing of driving tests. It is also not only about the drivers. Pedestrians also need to be more careful and vigilant when walking on or near streets.
If you know of any innovations in Africa, an innovation that is changing lives, or you also want to be a guest blogger, get in contact with us on Twitter @inventiveAfrica or via email. Please she the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, don’t forget to check out and like out Facebook page!
For more interesting blogs about African Innovation, check out our homepage.