Did you know solar power can empower African women?

Did you know solar power can empower African women?

The running trend through most of my blogs is how technology can improve the lives of people  in Africa by offering solutions to problems. There are many innovative solutions for individual problems, such as charging their electrical appliances on a cooking stove, or offering mobile payment solutions. The importance of such innovation is not just in the problem being solved, but in the trickle down effect it has on the community.

One organisation I found has been able to make a profound difference in the lives of individuals and communities. Solar Sister, “the Avon of clean energy”, empowers women economically by enabling them to create “women centred” sales networks and sell solar powered goods in their communities.  Solar Sister show statistics on their website that the “income of self-employed rural women with access to energy is over twice that of their counterparts without access to energy”, with over 59% higher wages. That is quite a staggering amount and Solar Sister are attempting to offer both energy and employment in the same breath. The organisation seeks to significantly reduce fuel poverty and the financial independence of women.

African woman using sowing machine
From Solar Sister Instagram

Continue reading “Did you know solar power can empower African women?”

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Did you know about the Nokia Open Innovation Challenge

Did you know about the Nokia Open Innovation Challenge

Another day, another innovation competition in which African startups have been invited to enter. This time is it the Nokia Open Innovation Challenge that is calling for applicants. The theme is the Internet of Things, which basically means anything that can connect to the internet and engage with other things, like vehicles, fitness bands and even fridges.

I can envisage so many applications for such technology in Africa, from regulating air conditioning units in offices and houses to security cameras systems for neighbourhood watch schemes. Continue reading “Did you know about the Nokia Open Innovation Challenge”

Did you know a mobile phone can save lives in Africa?

Did you know a mobile phone can save lives in Africa?

During my time in Africa and the diaspora community, I often hear of people that have passed away inexplicably. Occasionally, you will hear people suggesting it is witchcraft or some other kind of underhand tactic, but invariably it is just a lack of health care expertise or inability to get treatment in time. In a time when, in the UK, the NHS is bending under financial pressure, health care systems across the African continent are no where near adequately meeting demand. On Average, physicians amount to just 2.7 for a population of 10,000 and of course in some areas it is far more than that. The world wide average is 13.9 for a population of 10,000. (I took these figures from here, which has a plethora of interesting statistics on African health)

medicmobile
from www.medicmobile.org

Continue reading “Did you know a mobile phone can save lives in Africa?”

Did you know that Africa is the home of innovation

Did you know that Africa is the home of innovation

You may remember that I wrote of the Innovation Prize for Africa in February this year. I have been meaning to update you on the outcomes of the hotly contested prize, which reached its climax in June. For those of you that don’t know, the prize has been hosted by the African Innovation Foundation over the last 5 years and past winners have included, Prof Adnane Remmal, for his alternative to livestock antibiotics, and Professor Mohamed Sanad, who created an in-phone and mobile antennae that operates on all frequencies. AIF and IPA are the brainchild of Jean-Claude Bastos, a Swiss Angolan entrepreneur with a passion for driving innovation across Africa.

This year, the 10 nominees were varied in their focusses. I have chosen a few, including the winners, that interested me.

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The Tryctor in Action!  (from http://www.tryctor.com)

The Tryctor, presented by Femi Odeleye, is a fantastic mini tractor which is made out of a converted motorbike. With food production simply not able to keep up with population growth across the continent, this great innovation offers a solution to small scale African farmers, who simply can not afford to use large machinery. The Tryctor designer has thought of everything. Not only does it have a 30-horsepower engine, which can also be used as a generator, it comes with a selection of farming implements for ploughing, as well as a trailer, which will help improve production Continue reading “Did you know that Africa is the home of innovation”

Did You Know Why The Global Financial Crisis Might Have Brought Forward Innovation In Africa?

Did You Know Why The Global Financial Crisis Might Have Brought Forward Innovation In Africa?

In a newly published article, Quartz Africa crowned the 2016 Top African Innovators. Amongst the broad range of winners are brilliant minds working in diverse fields, from Tech-industry to fashion, from medicine to journalism and so on.
According to the article, in order to make it into the list, the innovators portfolio had to comply with a certain set of criteria such as groundbreaking work, thought-leading initiatives, and creative approaches to problems.

Quartz Africas list of Top innovators is just another reminder of how diverse African innovation actually is. I would even go so far as to suggest that no other place in the world is currently boosting with innovation as versatile as the African continent. But why is it that, despite the numerous challenges it’s facing, innovation in Africa is booming? This week, HBR-Blogger Ndubuisi Ekekwe published an article adressing this question.

The article points out how the interplay of economic, political and social forces produced the most groundbreaking result: It helped foster a market environment in Africa where local innovation is so competitive, it manages to force big international players out of the market.
In aiming to provide an answer for the question as to why ‘homemade innovation’ is on the rise in Africa, the article provides an interesting point about the innovators behind these upcoming African companies:

It is a matter of common knowledge that a lot of highly skilled professionals lost their job after the global economic crisis in the late 2000s hit Europe and the U.S. Amongst them there were many African citizens. the article suggests that these African professionals then returned to Africa and, due to scarce job opportunities in Africa, many of them started their own companies in their native countries. Thus, the article makes a valid point: Those highly skilled and educated innovators returning to their homecountries might have just been the human capital boost the continent needed. Furthermore, many of these newly founded local companies are focusing on local problems, thus providing the continent with the technical resources necessary to face its specific challenges.

Ndubuisi Ekekwes article is well worth a read. Check it out here. Find the entire list of Quartz Africas Top Innovators here.

Let me know what you think in the comment section or discuss with me on Twitter (@inventiveafrica)!

Did You Know That In Kenya It’s All About Crowdsourcing? Meet The Mobile Delivery Platform Sendy

As an innovation afficionado, I have always been fascinated by new business models that are transforming existing businesses in Africa. Amongst them are new businesses best described with terms such as ‘sharing economy’ or ‘crowdsourcing’.
It turns out that the sharing economy is big business – Take Uber, for example. The company offering a mobile app for private taxi drivers has become a big player on the global taxi market. Just recently, the company announced its expansion into its seventh African country, Ghana.

Whereas some exponents of the sharing economy, such as Uber, are well-known around the globe, others have just started operating. Amongst them is the Crowdsourcing-Platform Sendy that is currently offering its services in Kenya.

Sendy is a mobile app that allows crowdsourced couriers to connect with businesses and individuals who need their goods and packages delivered. According to the company’s CEO, their vision is to make package delivery as simple as sending a text message.
The application allows for customers to select their preferred courier and choose a pick up and a delivery location. While the selected driver is on the road delivering the package, he can be tracked via the mobile app, thus allowing for the customer to see the progress of their delivery. Payments are made via credit card in the mobile app. (Source: appsafrica.com)

This example shows that crowdsourcing-based services are flourishing in Africa. It goes without saying that innovative mobile-based services such as Sendy have the potential to solve logistics challenges, to provide jobs for the unemployed and to relieve traffic in big cities. This especially holds true since Sendy is not only working with car drivers, but also employs cyclists and motorbike couriers.

Nevertheless, there might also be downsides to Sendys services. Firstly, drivers are paid per completed delivery. Thus, drivers who have to wait in traffic or to get a customer for a long time, won’t get paid. It might be fair for the company to include incentives for long-distance courier services. Secondly, the drivers are working with their own cars, motorbikes or bicycles. I doubt that the company will provide any help to their drivers in case their vehicle breaks down.

The future will show whether Sendy and similar services will be successful on the long run. So far, the service has completed more than 20’000 deliveries since its launch in April 2014. According to appsafrica.com, there are currently no comparable services in many African countries. The website states that most delivery services in Africa only allow for packages to be sent at scheduled times and to be dropped off at specific locations, thus, posing problems for businesses that are for example dealing with food. Since Sendy is offering services 24/7, the app seems to be filling a gap in the market.

But what about Uber? Those of you that read my article about the notorious taxi company diversifying its business by introducing their carrier service UberEverything into the sub-saharan division. It sure will be interesting to see David facing the Goliath of crowdsourcing. I will keep you posted.

What do you think about Sendy? Will the new service create jobs for potential driver, improve businesses and fill an important gap in the market? Or will the disadvantages outweigh the advantages? Let me know what you think in the comment section or discuss with me on Twitter (@inventiveafrica)!