When we talk about African innovation and technology we focus on the tremendous development coming out of the continent. We speak of the tech hubs and incubators spread across the continent and the impressive innovation coming out of Rwanda and Kenya. What we sometimes forget is that there are millions of skilled Africans living outside the continent who are able to innovate from a different perspective and with different skill
This is a point that has not been forgotten by tiphub. tiphub is a mentorship driven accelerator and impact angel network manager that supports seed stage technology and social impact ventures in Africa and the African diaspora. On November 11 they will hold their Diaspora Demo day, which will showcase social impact startups in the largest get together of African Startups, entrepreneurs and angel investors outside of Africa.
They had over 150 applicants from across Africa and the diaspora and selected 14 to pitch at the Diaspora Demo Day. Here are our favourites:
Malaria is preventable and curable! Yet, it kills over 1 million a year, with 90% of those deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. The health care burden on Africa because of malaria is huge as hundreds of millions suffer from it every year. Children and old people are most at risk, especially those who do not have easy access to healthcare. Many charities ask for your help to prevent malaria, using the money you give to provide mosquito nets to those that can not afford them.
At the African Union summit in July Africa’s leaders began a new chapter in the fight against malaria. The AU adopted a Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. It provides financial and political assurances to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030. They are also looking for a new generation of innovations that will fight malaria. Such as:
• A single-dose pill, capable of ridding a person of all malaria parasites and preventing future malaria transmission
• More sensitive diagnostics that can detect malaria in people with no symptoms
• Vaccines that could interrupt malaria transmission
• New kinds of insecticides
• Novel mosquito control strategies
Here are some recent innovations in the fight against malaria:
Online shopping has become second nature to some of us. Whether or you are buying or tech from amazon, second hand goods form Ebay, or even your groceries from a super market, e-commerce has the changed the way we use our shopping time. In Africa, it hasn’t had such a big impact due to lack of delivery infrastructure and ability to pay online securely as well as complicated and inefficient customs protocol. With M-Pesa and other mobile money systems some of those problems are being solved.
The biggest e-commerce player currently in the African market is Jumia. Jumia Group, which was formally known as Africa Internet Group, was Africa’s first private tech startup valued at over $1 billion. (A unicorn). Their e-commerce website is similar to Amazon, split up into categories. They offer a classic purchase option using credit card, but also customers are able to buy their products when they receive them, in cash. This opens up the service to everyone who has access to the internet, as they no longer need to worry about security issues of paying online, or whether they have a bank account and card.
Eradicating poverty by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. Over the last few decades, Africa has eeked out a poverty fueled reputation. Charities and organisations have laboured the point and media outlets often only speak of the wars and famines, leading to many to believe that that whole continent is ravaged by poverty. Whilst there is another side to Africa, poverty does sadly remain a problem. Extreme poverty is measured as people living on less then $1.25 a day.
Payments in Africa a complicated process. Most people in the continent still don’t have a bank account and paying with card is a nerve wracking experience, with failure likely. Cash is king across much of the continent, but always carrying a wedge of notes around with you is not ideal. M-pesa and other mobile money vendors are changing the payments market, and even blockchain technologies are being set up across the continent. With such a huge variety of payment solutions, sometimes it means reverting back to cash, as the vendor may not accept your electronic method.
66% of the African population do not have a bank account. Persuading people that banking is a safe way of keeping your money has been difficult and often people simply think that banking is only for the rich. There are even instances where people live right next door to a bank and have never set foot through the doors; they would rather keep all their money in cash, which is of course very risky. This is why mobile money solutions have become very successful. It is in societies such as South Africa, where mobile money solutions have not been as successful, due to an established banking sector. In fact, recently, MTN decided it will give up on mobile money completely in South Africa. This plethora of different mobile money options, some which are going out of service, coupled with all the other payments makes it a very complicated set up!
These days, smart phones run our lives! We can see where we have been and plan where we are going. We can shop on them, track our fitness,discover new music, watch movies, communicate across continents, control out money and even control the lights and heating in our houses. In Africa smart phone prices are coming down, but most still do not have access to them, and if they do, they must use their data very carefully. That is why it is important for developers to develop usability into ‘old fashioned’ mobile devices, that do not require GPS or Internet. Text based apps, which are run by just sending and receiving messages cater to the needs to small business owners, farmers, traders, and individual interests.
MLouma, from Senegal, is a marketplace for farmers to sell their agricultural produce. It works by using text message and voice to show the quantity and price of products. Farmers are able to send their information regarding their products via text message, which will then appear on the website, available to a larger potential purchasers. Agriculture is the heart of the African economy and it is lagging behind its potential. There is often not an incentive for a farmer to become more efficient, because he is not able to sell the entire crop and much of it goes to waste because of poor storage capability. Giving access to a wider market place to farmers with no access to smart technology will hopefully increase efficiency and productivity.
iCow is another text and phone based scheme that helps farmers, but, as the name suggests, this time it is cattle farmers that are receiving the benefits. (For more Cow based innovations see here) iCow started as a gestation calendar and also to give farmers access to vets. They then were able to develop solutions to cow farmers needs and farmers are able to sign up to a service providing them advice regarding their cow farming practices. They are also able to use the service to get answers to their own questions. Sharing knowledge is very important, especially as many African farming practices are outdated. Technology now enables farmers to share their knowledge and experience and essentially create their own solutions. We Farm, mentioned in a recent post, are another great example of how SMS can be used to help farmers develop.
When you tell people you have been to Africa, or a particular country in Africa, often the first question you receive is, “was it safe?” This suspicion over the continents somewhat negative stereotypes is not only inhibiting people from holidaying in Africa, it is also stopping investors taking time to travel down and understand first hand the spirit of innovation that sweeps across the continent.
Innovation springs from necessity and it starts from a very young age. Kids all over are forced into make their own toys from bits of tin cans and plastic bottles and other things they found thrown away. You often find kids riding home made push bikes, or pushing around cars they have made from scrap. I believe it is from this beginning that the incredible innovations begin.