Did You Know Smart Cities solve African Problems?

Did You Know Smart Cities solve African Problems?

Smart used to be a term that was used in school to define the clever kid, but now seems to be used for anything which has a new design. From Smart cars and smart watches and even smart straps to tie things to the top of your car. (I actually saw these on Indiegogo last week!) Whereas some new products are using the word smart to try and jump on the innovation bandwagon, others actually fit more closely to the original definition, using data to connect with a number of other things to provide new services for individuals and businesses in a large range of scenarios.

This could be anything from a Smart watch connecting to devices around your home, or a smart city, in which many different data points are connected via sensors to connect the city and change the way people interact with it. The data comes from citizens, devices and assets and can be used to analyse, monitor and manage the entire city.  Transportation systems, water supply, schools, libraries, and many other city functions can be made more efficient and function more effectively when connected via the Internet of Things (IoT). But how can this help African cities?

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The IoT makes Smart Cities possible!

Cities across Africa are becoming more and more able to handle the internet of things. Many already have 4g connectivity, 3G is possible in most and 5G is even being prepared for some cities, for example in Rwanda and South Africa. Many African urban centres have been badly planned, with traffic overwhelming transport systems, many communities built without planning permission, sewage and water systems limited, and processes such as getting a passport, registering a business or even paying a fine, time consuming and difficult. And these issues could be set to be magnified, with Africa’s cities continuing to increase their population quickly.

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Low water levels at Dam in Theewaterskloof, South Africa. From EPA/Nick Botma

Rwanda is already in the place of investing in sensor connectivity in Kigali to serve the local population in areas of public safety, waste management, water, electricity and healthcare, all topics that a covered regularly on Inventive Africa. Rwanda, by all accounts, has already made leaps and bounds with regards to waste management, and is one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Optimising waste management using sensors, will make the process even better. The system could enable waste companies to know which areas to collect from more often, and even what kind of waste needs to be collected. It could help with recycling efforts and to enable citizens to live in a cleaner more organised setting.

The utilities could also be revolutionised if in built in to a smart city. Firstly, electricity could be saved with sensors turning on lights, and other amenities, only when they are needed. Electricity and water shortages are sadly not things of the past in many parts of the African continent. Parts of South Africa are currently on stringent water rations, and Cape Town citizens only have a few months of water left, unless the rains come! There is no way of combatting low rainfall, but a smart city set up could enable places like Cape Town, and the many other cities across the continent that suffer from similar water uncertainties by enabling better planning of rationing from earlier, and utilise water in industry and for individual use more efficiently, whether for drink manufacturers or watering the garden.

Traffic in Nairobi

The traffic issue is also wasting so much time and money in Africa. Even those that leave very early to work to get their on time find themselves sitting in traffic with the others that have left early. Sometimes a short journey to work can take hours and things like delivery services are impeded by long journey times. This impacts on e-commerce, delivery of fresh food types, and even on medical deliveries. (Which is one of the reasons why Rwanda started its drone delivery service) Sensors could analyse traffic patterns in real time, connecting to traffic lights and enabling them to more effectively let traffic through. But it is not only traffic lights that can work more efficiently. By understanding where the bottlenecks are, and where people are coming from and going to  at what time, there can be real time diversions, sent directly to individuals, to enable that they find the quickest way to their location, and so that not everyone is going the same way.

Our cities are evolving, and African cities are in a position to benefit in a huge way from becoming Smart. The above examples are just a small number of ways in which citizens could benefit from a Smart city. Health care, education, access to information, tourism, payments, small businesses, taxes, and even the entertainment sector can all be transformed within a smart city. This all depends on access to internet connectivity, not only for the city, but also for individuals. Data from the people is important in understanding their needs.

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Did You Know Africa is improving the wind turbine?

Did You Know Africa is improving the wind turbine?

The world energy situation is changing, and renewable innovations are speeding up seemly exponentially. With the big storms and terrible fires across the world this year, there is ever increasing discussion regarding climate change and how we source our energy. The rate of fossil fuel usage has stabilised, but carbon is still being pumped into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Parts of Africa could be set to take the brunt, with droughts already causing trouble of the East of the continent.

Renewable energy technology, therefore, is incredibly important for the continents energy source. Renewable energy comes in various forms. Hydro energy has long been seen as the solution for Africa, with dams across the continent providing electricity for many. This system has proven unreliable in many cases, and low water levels at certain times of the year mean many must go without electricity, or only have it occasionally throughout the day. Solar and wind energy production, however, could be more reliable, with and abundance of sun, heat and wind across the continent.

There have already been some major innovations on the continent with regards to renewable energy. A massive solar farm in Morocco is already functioning and off grid solar solutions are being offered with creative payment solutions in rural and urban areas across the continent. There have even been advancements in the storage of renewable energy. And now there are further advancements being made with regards to wind energy.

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Did You Know an app in Nigeria can keep you safe from crime?

Did You Know an app in Nigeria can keep you safe from crime?

Crime. It happens everywhere in the world. We can’t escape it, and fighting it is extremely difficult. Africa has a crime stereotype that is struggling to shift, and that in many instances is putting off potential oversees investors and inhibiting the tourist industry. Of course, there are dangerous instances of crime that occur in the major African cities, but this happens in all the major cities all around the world. But, some places in Africa need to fight harder to clear the image that has been created for it.

Crime will continue to happen across the world, but how is it possible to create an environment to help people feel safer in Africa. A British company have developed an app to give some security to people who find themselves in a dangerous situation. The app is aimed not only at criminal circumstances, but also other emergencies such as natural disasters, car accidents or home fires.

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Did You Know even small collectives can be listed on the stock exchange?

Did You Know even small collectives can be listed on the stock exchange?

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As a small innovator it is sometimes daunting to see the big firms in your space that you have to somehow compete with. In the technology sector there are the likes of Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft competing in Africa to make a change and find new investments. If these huge companies are entering Africa, what is the point of trying out your own innovative ideas right? WRONG!


There may be big companies in the market, whether from outside Africa, or innovative companies like Safaricom. But, that does not mean there are not opportunities for other companies to grow to compete with them. Finding a small problem, creating a small solution can lead you into a business that grows and grows.

This was the case for Habari Node. They are a Tanzanian Internet Service Provider, who recently became the first tech company to list on the Tanzanian stock exchange. That they are the first tech company is a considerable step for the Tanzanian tech sector, but the story of how they got their is what is inspiring.


In 1994 in the UK, email was not widely used. I remember using an old computer in my primary school that was not connected to the internet. During a communications week Continue reading “Did You Know even small collectives can be listed on the stock exchange?”

Did You Know MTN has awarded South Africa’s best apps of 2017?

Did You Know MTN has awarded South Africa’s best apps of 2017?

Another week, another award ceremony showcasing African Innovation. And it is another popular one! The MTN Business App of the Year Awards took place on the 12th of October in Johannesburg. MTN, Africas largest mobile operator, is one of the continent leaders in the search for the next big African innovation. One the one hand, they are interested in finding innovative solutions to social problems, and on the other hand, finding and investing in these innovations can only further develop their business.

With the Innovation Prize for Africa, Seedstars, AppsAfrica awards and many more, Africa is becoming a greater focus of innovative talent. And the world is beginning to take notice. As well as fostering this talent and encouraging people in Africa to follow through with their ideas, these awards help change the mindset of investors outside of the continent. It is now possible to see that Africa does in fact have an incredible pool of responsible, hard working talent that can be tapped into. It is no wonder we are seeing more and more stories about big firms, such as Microsoft, heading into Africa to invest.

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As usual, we will feature some of our favourite winners from the MTN Business App of the year below.

SHYFT- Overall winner

SHYFT not only won the award for Best Financial Solution, but they took the overall winner award. Shyft, from Standard Bank, enables customers to purchase currency and transfer money overseas all from the comfort of their mobile phone. Forex can be purchased and stored on the phone and transferred when needed. The purchased currency, which is in USD, GBP, EUR and AUSD, can also be used through virtual cards, which means international online shopping is now possible.


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Did You Know African innovators can get comprehensive support online?

Did You Know African innovators can get comprehensive support online?

If you have an interest in African innovation and technology, the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) is probably an organisation you have come across in your reading. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, they are the Swiss based organisation, founded by Swiss-Angolan entrepreneur Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, that runs the Innovation Prize For Africa (IPA). The IPA has been awarding African innovation for 6 years, with the 7th edition set to take next year. Earlier this week they begun their search for the next African innovations to take centre stage and compete for the generous prize and network offered. If you want to read more about their most recent winners check out the following blogs:

IPA2017 Part 1

IPA2017 Part 2

IPA2017 Part 3

The IPA may be the show piece of the AIF, but there isn’t just one string to their bow! Projects like the African Law Library, which is aimed at opening up legal information to anyone in Africa, have been pioneered by the AIF. Another project that will benefit potential African innovators is ZuaHub.

ZuaHub is a connector

ZuaHub is an online platform that links African innovators or resources in order to help them develop their ideas and give them the best chance of becoming successful. Becoming a successful innovator, where ever you are in the world, is not just about having a great idea. It can be a long process from the initial idea, to successfully launching on the market. There needs to be feedback from potential users, access to Continue reading “Did You Know African innovators can get comprehensive support online?”

Did You Know you can find anywhere in the world with just 3 words?

Did You Know you can find anywhere in the world with just 3 words?

Last week, AppsAfrica announced their finalists for this years awards. Their awards ceremony will take place in Cape Town on the 6th of November 2017. We featured some of our favourites in our previous blog, but with such an exciting array of innovations, there simply wasn’t enough space to feature more. So, in this blog, we will cover some more of our favourite innovations that will battle it out in Kigali.


A couple of weeks ago, I was in the north of England looking for a particular address using the Satnav in the car. I put in the post code, drove where I was told, and found I was still 5 minutes from my actual destination. We have worked with addresses the same way for centuries, name or number of a house, street name, town, county/state and post/zip code. In the new digital world, there is surely a more efficient way to deal with addresses. We featured an idea on Inventive Africa a while back, which offered a new way to look at addresses, but What3words have come up with another solution, to help you locate any 3m X 3m spot on earth. They have created unique 3 word signatures for every little plot on the planet.

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The What3words grid

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