International Women’s Day is today, and organisations, companies and individuals across the world are celebrating the achievements of women. Equality is a well discussed topic throughout the world, yet still now, in many industries women are under represented, and not paid equally. The technology and innovation sector seems to be attempting to close the divide of the sexes. Traditionally only few women have taking up computer engineering roles, and working on innovation, and therefore the aim of achieving parity between the sexes needs a lot of work.
In much of Africa, traditional social values, and education of the girl child is not a priority for many families and this has had a great impact on the amount of women in professional roles, especially in technology. The democratisation of information, especially with the increasing spread of the internet and mobile devices, means that there are now other ways for anyone to empower themselves. There has also been a huge effort put into getting more young girls into school, to give them more choice in the future.
During the last two years writing about African innovation, I have had the pleasure of reading about many inspirational women, who are coming up with innovative ideas and creating businesses. In many households across the continent it is women that have the responsibility of finding solutions to make ends meet within the family. Creativity takes practice, and the need to come up with solutions makes women very well placed to innovate for a better Africa.
Below are couple of the women that have stood out to us whilst producing Inventive Africa.
You may remember that during my trip to Kenya I paid a visit to the Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW) offices to speak to Dr Omwansa about the event and his thoughts on the future of innovation. (If you have not seen the video you can check it out here. It is very interesting) Now we have seamlessly slipped into March, with the year running away from us already, but, no fear this is a good month. The NIW will jump into action on the 5th of March and will showcase the future innovators that will drive Kenya forward. Kenya is hellbent on taking an innovative lead in Africa, and this event is part of that process.
A couple of days ago the NIW announced a shortlist of 100 start-ups shortlist of 100 start ups that would be featured during the course of the week. With over 350 entries it must have been hard work whittling them down, and that hard work is not over. Each start-up will pitch, and will again be cut down to the 15 most promising. As usual, we will pick a few that have caught our attention and feature them here.
During my time in Kenya, I was often warned that I shouldn’t go to certain places because of safety concerns. Of course, because of curiosity, I tried my best to go to most of those places or events despite the risk. (It is no fun to just sit in a sterilised hotel room!) But of course, safety is a real concern for many, and not just in Kenya! Major Continue reading “Did You Know Nairobi is showcasing 100 innovative Start-ups?”→
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.
At the Co-Willing conference in Ukunda, Kenya, there were a plethora of interesting people with different skills and areas of knowledge. On the first night of the conference I sat down to dinner with a member of the team from the Millennium Institute. Over our lovely meal, and after introductions, he began to tell us what he was doing. I must admit, when he began to talk about data modelling, I was already out of my depth and maybe because of my tiredness from a day’s travelling, I struggled to follow the conversation. However, the next day changed everything!
Across the world, governments and citizens argue about what policies to implement and how national budgets should be divided. Is the health service more important than education, should we put more money into security and the military, or social services. Do we cut money from the emergency services in order to pay our teachers more. There are so many different variations and through the noise of discussions and arguments, and political parties taking a standpoint because historically ideology, it is impossible to gain clarity on what is the right way.
By changing the expenditure in one area, it will effect other areas. For those of you that have played the sims, and have had to fiddle about with the budget to keep the people happy, but also have enough tax to pay the fire department for all of those natural disasters that seem to occur, you will realise that even on game level it is a difficult juggling act. (My cities always died horrible deaths)
Another year is already over, and it has been an exciting one! As Christmas approaches, and 2018 peaks its head over the horizon, it is time to look back on 2017 and enjoy the innovative gifts that it has brought us from Africa!
The innovative African year has followed the expected trends with Fintech, Agriculture, health, education and renewable energy all receiving a lot of attention from Africa’s creative minds. It has also been a year in which innovation awards, and summits focussing on the topic of innovation in Africa have been very popular, and have also made a difference to many Start-ups in Africa; offering them funding, technical and business support to help develop their innovations to become world beaters.
How many ideas do you have? I have a lot, all the time, solving different problems, offering services for people, different tools and products. It is always a little disheartening when I find that someone already had the idea, or that is has been created already and is quite advanced. But, last week I was sent a news clip by the inspirational Edem Adzaho, who I was honoured to feature on Inventive Africa in May, about a Ghanaian that simply didn’t care that his innovation existed already. His aim was to not just replicate it, but to make it better.
The challenge he set for himself was not a small task of over coming a new product, he decided that the might of Youtube needed to be improved on. So, he set to it. Maybe it was the exuberance of youth that gives him the edge over me and my disheartened moments, but 19 year old Gabriel Opare took on this challenge and is well on his way to succeeding. Gabriel doesn’t even study computer programming, he is a Sociology student at my old university, the University of Ghana. He taught himself to code by taking online courses in his free time. Continue reading “Did You Know the African Youtube could inspire other innovators?”→