Yesterday, 12th April 2018, I sat in the audience of the Seedstars Summit filled with pride. After a few days of activities, the grande finale showcased Seedstars’ best innovations of the year. Over the course of the year, the Seedstars team, who are positioned in emerging markets around the world, search for the best innovations and start-ups. With over a 1000 applicants, they take the time to whittle them down to 65 finalists, of whom 12 would compete on the final day in a live pitching competition on the main stage.
Of the 12 live pitchers, 4 were from Africa, the highest proportion from any region. The African innovators to take to the stage were the Nigerian medication marketplace Medsaf, GiftedMom, a health information platform from Cameroon (Who we have featured on the blog previously), EMGuidance a South African medical content aggregator, and Ghanaian agricultural platform, Agrocenta. With a huge number of African innovators, and participants at the Seedstars Summit, each African speaker got a huge cheer welcoming them onto stage.
Teaching is an amazing field that I loved working in. The chubby smiles and faces with sparkling eyes full of hope staring at you everyday. It takes a heart that cares to transform lives no matter what the circumstances are. I recall some of the personal experiences that touched my heart every year with some of my students. Every day after extra lessons we would unintentionally find ourselves talking about issuesthat troubled them internally. Listening to their struggles and assisting in any way we knew giving the students hope to hold on.
I found myself being a counsellor, a listener and mentor without qualifications. One outstanding matric class of 2012 still amazes me. Most of my students came from very poor backgrounds and were struggling a lot with fees, but Of all 3 matric classes we had, they were the best in all subjects, includingmathematics, english and science. No one can imagine the joy, pride and excitement I felt every prize giving day for that year.
Exam time came and we had 53 bachelors out of 70 students that were set for exams. Sadly, only 15 of the 53 managed to make it to university. The rest could not afford university fees and neither could their families. Had I a blossoming bank account, I would have wiped all their sorrows away an helped them with their fees. .Alas I was just their humble teacher had nothing but myself to offer and echoes of my comforting words sinking deep in their hearts. None of them ever saw university doors.With a heavy heart I still keep touch with some of them. In different directions where they shouldn’t be life has taken them. The guilt I carry every time I see them rips me apart.”Is that all I could do” I still ask my self.Continue reading “Did You Know you can now easily get scholarships in Africa?”→
Buying a car can be a pain! And so can selling one. The shifty used car salesman, in his strange coloured suit, smarmy and with the gift of the gab, informing each clients on exaggerated positives on a clapped out old banger that just about meets your budget. All over the world, some of the best salesmen are working in car yards, up selling cars to the the clueless public, or even buying cars from the public and selling them on. Of course, I generalise a little with the stereotypical used car salesman analogy, and many are honest and sincere, but it can’t hide the face that many of us have no idea about how much to buy a car for, or what we are getting.
A lot of trust put in the car salesman, who generally has the power within the transaction. This is the same in many sectors. For example, in the African agricultural sector the middleman, who travels round from farm to farm collecting produce, controls the price that he pays and may not give a fair price compared to what it will sell on in the markets. The farmer has no idea of the going rate that day, and relies upon the middleman to transport their produce. But there are some innovative solutions in Africa that are putting more power in the hands of the farmers, who can now find out with ease what price they should be selling at.
If you search innovation or technology in Africa, you will find a lot of Fintech, Solar, education and health care innovations that are creating a buzz and getting noticed across the continent. Entertainment innovations are of course also popular and receive a hype. But, what about African business solutions? I don’t know about you, but when I search nothing usually jumps out at me, which is curious as the African business world (excuse the generalisation) has a unique culture. Like different cultures throughout the world, there are different ways of operating in Africa, and in the diverse Africa countries.
I found this out the hard way in Kenya, when I realised pretty quickly that my loud humorous (I like to think its humorous anyway!) entrances into meetings that I was used to in Ghana, simply did not work in the Kenyan setting. There are a plethora of other differences in the African business setting, but of course, some things stay the same across the continent and the world. So, there should be nothing standing in the way of African entrepreneurs creating business solutions that are effective across the world.
My day job is working for a campaigning agency in Zurich, and I know all too well some of the difficulties companies face meeting the needs of their target group. Market research is a long drawn out process, in which teams invest a lot of time to create ideas and then ask their target group if they like the ideas. From the data collected, the team has to come to a decision as to which route to take, but this decision is still based on their own initial ideas. Not ideal and not an exact science! We ask the target group themselves to create the ideas in a Target Community Lab™, saving time, money and enabling us to create individualised campaigns or products for our partners.
Have you ever tried to buy land in Africa? It can be a tiresome experience, with so many channels to pass through, and often very expensive. Land has long been a sensitive issue across the country. In many communities there are land disputes that have been raging on for years. Land often belongs to traditional communities, or chieftaincies, rendering it very difficult at time to know who actually has a right to the land, and if it has actually been purchased correctly. In many instances, disputes about the borders of towns and villages, can also effect the ownership of land. In both Kenya and Ghana I saw walled off areas of land with “NOT FOR SALE” painted on the gates. A symptom of distrust in the land ownership system, with some trying to fraudulently sell land of others.
What happens to the new “owner” if one community sells land, that belongs to another community? In Ghana I have seen first hand the damage of land disputes, which can end up escalating to other issues. In one example, one community bailed a dangerous “fake pastor” who was charged with attempted murder of an alleged witch. (A lovely old lady from the community) The fake pastor subsequently skipped bail and was never brought to justice.
If you enjoy reading Inventive Africa and want to support the upkeep of the blog you can donate at
Money! We all need it, and it never seems to be enough to meet our expenditure demands. (At least that is how I feel!) We work, we earn, we receive the money to our banks, we spend it, either wish cash or card. Well that has been the way for a long time, but innovation in the financial sector is beginning to make things look very difficult. The working, and earning hasn’t changed, but for some of us, especially in Africa the way we receive and spend money has changed drastically.
Innovation in the African financial sector is changing entire cultural norms. People are paid to their phones, rather than a bank account, which many across the continent don’t have, and they use their phones to purchase anything from food, to transportation across the city. In many cases there is no more need for cash, and with cryptocurrencies now trying to find their way turbulently there is more change on the way.
All this has meant that there are more ways for people to use their money with online purchasing gaining traction across the continent. But, this also means there are more ways for people to find crooked ways of stealing from others. Whilst there is more freedom of purchasing, there is also a perception of risk, with regular stories of people losing money in online transactions. In my short time in Kenya I heard of a couple of stories or people losing money through M-Pesa. In one case, a gardener allegedly lost his entire Christmas bonus to M-Pesa fraud, although his claim was not proved before I left the country. Continue reading “Did You Know you are now protected against online fraud in South Africa?”→
The festive period is over and reality is sinking in. Back to work, and worrying about the money we spent on gifts, food and going out over the break. For many, money worries are a constant and not just seasonal and some take drastic methods to fix them. In desperation, people can find themselves reaching out to loansharks and money lending services with ridiculous interest rates, which just drag them further into the abyss of debt. This of course is not a problem in Africa alone, with many all over the world feeling pressure to take out a pay day loan, but the lack of regulation in parts of Africa can put people into dangerous situations.
There is currently a race to corner the loan market in Africa. With more and more people having access to the internet and mobile phones, it is now possible for them to gain access to credit. The informal work force finds it challenging to gain access to credit. Many of them do not have bank accounts, and therefore it is difficult to get a credit rating. But this is changing, with firms like LendingSquare offering innovative methods of creating credit scores, using criteria and data taken from their internet usage as well as their mobile money expenditure. This is a starting point for providing small safe (ish) loans for small businesses.