Did You Know creating power in Africa can clean up the cities?

Did You Know creating power in Africa can clean up the cities?

Energy is on the main menu for discussions all over the world. The need for energy is destroying the planet at unexpected rates, but nevertheless, people still need it in greater quantities. Africa is a prime example. The continent will have greater and greater demand for energy the more it develops it’s infrastructure and with the population continuing to expand and expand. Power is needed on many different levels across the continent. There are still areas that are not connected to grid electricity, and therefore many households that do not have access to power for fridges, televisions or even to charge their mobile phones. But it is not only individuals that have demand. For industry to grow, their demand for power will also increase, which will put further burden on the current traditional grid.

A lot of countries still rely on hydro electricity, which is ironic in a continent which is notorious for its unreliable rainfall. Other options are springing up throughout the continent. Solar power is being utilised on a big scale in countries like Morocco, and there are more effective storage capabilities for renewable energy, although they are not yet the perfect solutions. Off grid solutions, which also involve solar power, but in a Pay As You Go system, for individuals, and mini grids for communities are also an option.
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Continue reading “Did You Know creating power in Africa can clean up the cities?”

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Did You Know Drones are fighting mosquitoes in Africa?

Did You Know Drones are fighting mosquitoes in Africa?

Malaria is a scourge in Africa, which is killing 500,000 people globally, every year. For those of us who were not born or raised in Africa, we know of it because of the huge charity campaigns to raise money to help prevent people from contracting it from mosquitoes. Dishing out treated mosquito nets to families in effected areas has been the main action aimed at malaria prevention, and it has had some success, but there are other innovations that are joining the “war on mosquitoes”. In some areas, such as in Zanzibar, there has been a drop in malaria prevalence from 40% to 1%, which is remarkable.

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Malaria nets have made a drastic change in some areas in Africa

Over a year ago we also wrote a blog on this malaria war, with a number of technologies that are being used around Africa. From the SolarMal, which is a solar powered fan, which attracts in mosquitoes using human scent and kills them,  Faso, a new type of soap which repels the unwanted creatures, or even incredible research by the IBM lab in Johannesburg helping understand potential resistance to drugs, there are countless projects and innovations to try and stamp out malaria by 2030.

Now, other technologies are joining the fight and taking it directly to the mosquitoes, instead of waiting for them to come. And what amazing technology is being used for this Continue reading “Did You Know Drones are fighting mosquitoes in Africa?”

Did You Know Africa is part of Switzerland’s business discussion?

Did You Know Africa is part of Switzerland’s business discussion?

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a “Breakfast Buzz” event in Zurich held by the Swiss African Business Circle. They partnered with Djembe Communications, a comms agency focussed on “amplifying an African narrative founded on opportunity, growth and innovation”, to put on this event entitled “Leveraging African know-how in Switzerland”.

Switzerland is not known for it’s African endeavours, but in recent years there has begun to be an understanding that the African continent has great potential as a market place. Companies are beginning to reach out their tentacles and venture tentatively into Africa, ignoring the negative African stereotypes that have permeated into business thought in Switzerland. But once there, how exactly can companies leverage, and enable local talent to drive their African subsidiaries forward, and ultimately benefit the entire company.

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It is not an easy question to answer, and with cultures varying so differently, not only between Switzerland and Africa, but within the continent itself, there is no set system in place that works everywhere. But, what we do know is that there is talent in Africa. Throughout this blog you (if you have read it all, and I urge you to do so!) you will have seen incredible creativity and ingenuity across the continent, and amazing engineering skills to bring those creations to life. But how do companies access and leverage talent, which is highly sort after?

The two speakers at today’s event, Yvonne Bettkober, who sits on Microsoft Switzerland’s board and comes originally from Cameroon, and Charles Thiemele who is leading AOT into West Africa, both spoke of the challenges and potential of Africa to multinationals outside of the continent. It is African’s like Yvonne and Charles that are part of the solution in creating an atmosphere in which non African companies wish to invest in the continent. It is their professionalism and expertise, which, in their senior positions, is being showcased to industries who have not seen many African leaders excelling.

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Charles Thiemele speaks at the breakfast Buzz

Yvonne may be based in Switzerland today, but she has worked extensively in the African market, as has Charles. Both of them recognised that there are challenges in finding and keeping talent in Africa, especially if there is separation between the head office, the African department, which is often tagged on with the Middle East and Europe, and the location in Africa. It is often an issue when Africa is just tagged on to a department, because often it means that opportunities get lost because the continent is not a priority. It may be challenging in the initial stages, but the most beneficial way to do business in Africa is to open an office there. As a member of the audience from Syngenta mentioned, it is these initial stages that can often be the time consuming difficult ones,. In his example, someone had already taken the Syngenta name in Nigeria, which they needed to overcome with a kindly written legal letter.

But after these stages, a company can begin to make a name for itself in Africa, enabling the expert local labour force to develop.In the case of Microsoft, with the 4Afrika initiative, which I discussed last week in a blog about Aid Vs Investment, they have gone into Africa with no current thought of making sales. They are there to open the market, enable people to learn, get connected and develop themselves. The more people and businesses online, the more there are to buy Microsoft projects.

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The talent in Africa is immense, and there is a pot of talent to tap into. Cultural differences may cause some challenges in finding the right fit for for the company culture. Having said that, the African workforce is incredibly adaptable and innovative. In many cases far more so than workforces in Europe and America. In my opinion you need a bridge between the two cultures. Often that comes in the form of someone from outside of the continent that understands the culture of the local office, or vice versa, a local that has experience in other markets around the world.

Finally, very importantly and very relevant to Inventive Africa, technology needs to be harnessed within the African business setting. From farms to large multi nationals, technology can be exploited in Africa which ever the setting. There are also lots of opportunities in the tech setting for companies from outside of Africa. Yvonne Bettkober rightly said, that even though there may not be an ideal mobile penetration in Africa percentage wise, even a small percentage in Africa is a huge amount of people. In Nigeria there are over 90 million internet users! Compare that to the Swiss population of 8 million, or even the British population of 65 million, you can see the potential of the online market! Whether for marketing, education, entertainment or business, technology, and in particular mobile phones and internet offers a big opportunity for companies inside and outside Africa. It is just a case of utilising the local expertise.

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Switzerland is tiny compared to most African countries!

Usually we promote African innovation, or innovation directed at Africa. We talk about African solutions to African problems. But, there is a place for the major companies to make change in Africa. By developing the skill base of the youthful population and sharing knowledge, local populations will be enabled in great numbers to push forward their industries and nations and showcase Africa to the world.

Thank you to SABC for inviting me along to the event, it was very interesting!

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 pageFor more interesting blogs about African Innovation, check out our homepage.

 

 

 

Did You Know there is another Innovation Award in Africa?

Did You Know there is another Innovation Award in Africa?

Almost a year ago we wrote about the annual Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF), which was held in Nairobi in February 2017. Well, after enjoying a successful event, they will be back again next year February 27th-28th in Nairobi, for the third edition. The event will explore the latest policy and project updates, best practices, and importantly, innovations that improve humanitarian aid operations and infrastructure in Africa. Inventive Africa is very proud to be media partners of the event and this year, with our new logo created for us by Brian Nyagol, a talented Kenyan who is the CEO of VibeCampo, Africa’s own social network, which we featured last month, we can actually appear on the AIDF website with the other supporters!

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Our new logo!

The AIDF have been running for 13 years and have the mission to support the drive towards positive outcomes in the future and promote collaboration between stakeholders. Their events showcase a need for targeted dialogue, strategic alliances on an intimate level, and showcasing Africa to the world. They bring together people from all sectors from governments and aid organisations and NGOs, to private sector companies, creating partnerships between those with understanding of the issues, and those with expertise.

Innovator of the Year!

This forum, AIDF will for the first time hold the Innovator of the Year competition, with the winners to be announced at the event in February. The competition celebrates the Continue reading “Did You Know there is another Innovation Award in Africa?”

Did You Know the Uber model is changing Africa’s emergency services?

Did You Know the Uber model is changing Africa’s emergency services?

Africa is well practiced at taking innovative models from around the word and adapting them for the African setting. Blockchain technology is being used in a number of African solutions, such as the opportunity to invest in solar energy in South Africa. Crowdfunding is also blossoming across Africa, enabling small businesses to receive micro loans and grow. Another model, which has found a home in Africa is the Uber model (or AirBnB model). Uber has become a popular service in many countries throughout the continent, and has encouraged competition in the transport sector, with Little in particular making big moves in Kenya and beyond.

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Solutions for unemployment in South Africa are vital

But the Uber model, of creating a way of supplying people with what they need through an app, has found its way into to other industries. In South Africa, where there is massive unemployment, people are able to access tradesmen and women and people to work in their houses through an app. And there is even an app and website to help people find space in shipping containers to ship their items over sees. This model is helping businesses grow, and easing the strain on certain aspects of the life of an individual.

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South Africa has really seemed to quickly understand how such a model can be utilised effectively. In a place where unemployment is high, there are also a lot of buildings with Continue reading “Did You Know the Uber model is changing Africa’s emergency services?”

Did You Know Investment is better for Africa then Charity?

Did You Know Investment is better for Africa then Charity?

Africa is synonymous around the world as a continent that is struggling with poverty, security concerns, and health emergencies (whether diseases like malaria and ebola, or droughts). Even before the Live Aid fundraising event for drought ridden Ethiopia in the 1980’s there were many events, and charities asking for people to donate money for causes in Africa. Whether to assist in malaria prevention and cure, to build schools and other important infrastructure, or help more children get an education, charities, and big TV telethon events have been allocating funds across the African continent for a huge variety of projects. Add to this the foreign aid pledged by governments, there is a huge amount of aid reaching the African continent each year. (In 2013 over $55 billion were given to Africa in aid alone)

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But is this an effective way of using these funds? Some would say that developmentally, little has changed, at least not proportionally to the funds flying into the continent. Whether that is because of corruption, mismanagement of funds or bad leadership, it is hard to say, but in certain instances it is clear to see that little has changed. I have been going to the same village in Ghana for 15 years, and even though there has been substantial investment in school infrastructure in the village, the fortunes of the village are much the same, with subsistence farming as the major employer. Having said that, the water supply to the village has made a tremendous difference, with water no longer having to be fetched from kilometres away from rivers.

Continue reading “Did You Know Investment is better for Africa then Charity?”

Did You Know Snapplify is a school library in an App?

Did You Know Snapplify is a school library in an App?

Education is a topic that is often on the lips of those speaking at the copious African conferences around the world. This, and the many charities and NGOs that are set up to improve African schools, sponsor a child to go through school, or to send young people out to teach in rural schools, could over emphasise a negative issue throughout the continent.

I myself, travelled to Ghana as an 18 year old to “teach”, but when I realised that my teaching abilities were naturally not suitable for teenagers, I changed the mandate of the trip to report back to the small charity that asked me to go on the state of the education system in the region. Whilst there were some issues, what I saw was a group of teachers trying their hardest to teach effectively with limited tools. Back then, in 2002, there were not many options for technology to assist teachers in their jobs, but now, with an explosion of African Innovation, there are options across the continent.

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One of such options is Snapplify. Yesterday, 6th of November, they were one of many innovations awarded by the AppsAfrica awards. (We have written about many of the other innovations awarded in two other blogs:

AppsAfrica awards Blog 1

AppsAfrica awards Blog 2

Snapplify provides e-book solutions for schools, with publishers such as Penguin Random House, Pearson, Oxford and Cambridge all signed up to the service to offer their books. Access to books is vital in education. Not just for primary and secondary schools, but at universities. During my time at the University of Ghana studying for my Masters degree (a decade ago), it was very challenging to get my hands on the material for my research. If it wasn’t for access to online journals, I would have struggled.

snapplify diagram africa educatin.pngUsing Snapplify, schools, colleges and universities can create a special school branded store, where parents and teachers can buy the relevant material for their syllabus. It is not only parents that can buy books, institutions can purchase in bulk for their students.  They have partnered with a number of organisations and governments in order to be able to tailor content depending on the region, and are looking to push outside of Africa. Their system not only makes it easier for students to get their hands on excellent content for the learning, but also to partake in reading for leisure, which is incredibly important for literacy skills.

Institutions can also upload quizzes, class outlines, notes, and other information for their students, which is then easily downloaded using the Snapplify app, and accessed on individual devices. They have created a one stop shop for students to organise their learning and access content to learn from.

There are a plethora of options for anyone that wants access to information in Africa. Information is vitally important to enable Africa’s substantial youth to meet their potential and drive the continent forward. If we want parts of Africa to be hubs for world innovation we need an army of highly skilled and trained individuals to be able to develop ideas for the world.

For this to happen, they need to have access to material so they can not only learn in school, but at home, on the bus, in bed, on the toilet and anywhere else they feel like practicing their skills.  And technology like that of Snapplify, Raada, who offer African oriented content, Worldreader, who give children access to books, Or BRCK, who have created a mini server with tablets that can be deployed in rural areas, are creating further opportunities for Africa’s youth.

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 pageFor more interesting blogs about African Innovation, check out our homepage.