When I started Inventive Africa, I was not aware of exactly how innovative Africa is. I hadn’t thought of the potential of technology in Africa and also the possibilities for technology created by Africans. Each week I am surprised by the amount of incredible technology and innovation that is springing up from all corners of the continent. But, it is not good enough to just write about it! I have been itching to be part of the change. But how?
The answer jumped out at me during the World Web Forum, in Zurich in January. Bill Liao, co-founder of Xing (A German Linkedin, was on stage discussing the fact that the world lacks computer programmers, and that most of the start ups that come to see him plan to outsource their work to coders. I was already beginning to think about how Africa could offer a solution to this problem when Mr Liao also provided that. He had set up and organisations called CoderDojo which has set up fun computer coding clubs across the world. Dojos enable kids to have fun for 2 hours a week and learn anything from Scratch, a very basic drag and drop computer language for beginners, to HTML, Java and Python. They are not structures with a teacher at the front of the class leading the kids through the process. The kids themselves sit down and learn via trial and error, with mentors on hand to answer any questions.
Due to some technical issues and simply taking my time to enjoy being back in Ghana, Inventive Africa has not been very active recently. Having said that, it is great to see that some of you have still been scrolling through the content and being inspired by African Innovation. For a while I have been writing the Inventive Africa blog and getting very excited about all the new ideas that are being created across the continent, but I have not been there to see them first hand. I have spent my time in Ghana getting myself acquainted with some of the most recent changes.
Mobile money has taken off in a big way across the continent. Although Kenya leads the way with M-Pesa, Ghana was also one of the pioneer countries for mobile money. They have fallen behind somewhat in recent years, but the cashless system is still making great differences in the lives of many. Some told me that not too long ago, they were travelling from the village to the capital, Accra, to pick up owed money in cash. Of course, as well as being inconvenient and time consuming, this also meant that some of money was used up paying for transportation. This is no longer a problem for many. Even with the most simple of phones, people are capable of receiving large amounts of money, instantly, from all over the country. I though, as it has been mentioned so many times on the blog, that I should try it out for myself.
If you come from, or you are a student of, Africa, you will know that much of the history of the continent has been passed down orally. Oral histories are of the the upmost importance to securing culture and understanding Africa’s history. Despite their importance, there seems to be less and less focus on learning from ones elders.
After doing interviews for my thesis, may of which were of elders that could give me an understanding of pre independence Ghana. Some of the very old were able to even tell me snippets of information about pre colonial times. It is this age group that spent time listening to their grandparents, and therefore they have knowledge of over 150 years ago. They can real off the names of their ancestors, and they know the can history inside and out. It is a rather fascinating example of incredible memory! For me as an Englishman, it was not always easy to get information and it is the same for others who go into Africa to research. (Anne Bailey had the same problem when researching her fantastic book African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade) It is time for Africans to start interviewing their elders!
Since then, 10 years ago, I have been pleading with Ghanaians and other Africans to speak to their grandparents about their family history, record it, and write it down. For us historians, this knowledge is invaluable, but it is swiftly disappearing as one by one our African elders become ancestors. So much information has not been written down and it will be lost forever.
I studied in Ghana, and getting access to such information was extremely difficult. I had the university library, but often the books or documents I needed were no where to be found. I had access to a few journal sites like Jstor, and that helped, but I never had access to Continue reading “Did You Know Africa can now access African content for free?”→
Inventive Africa tries its best to focus on the positive sides of Africa. Promoting incredible innovation and letting the world know of the great potential of human capital on the continent. We try our best to keep away from the negative stereotypes that fogs the opinions of many who have never visited the continent, and some that have! That aside, crime and fraud are still a problem on the continent, but the good thing is, there is technology out there that is trying to fight it and we want to feature two of such technologies today.
Namola is an app used by Tshwane Metro Police Department, in South Africa, to make the process of getting in contact with the closest police officers more efficient. In much of the continent, calling the police to deal with certain circumstances can be a lengthy process. The infrastructure is often not up to a standard that enables the police to react quickly to reported crimes. Namola enables citizens to send an alert directly to the nearest police officer. Then, the nearest available office is able to respond, using the built in GP capability. Some examples of cases it has been used for so far are, reporting break ins, hi-jackings and township crime, as well as police swiftly calling for backup from other officers.
The control system is built directly into the police vehicle, enabling officers to receive alerts, messages and directions directly, saving them time. The app also enables a control room to oversee the location of all the officers and offering another level of communication.
This system has great potential for many areas of the continent. Firstly, addresses are not always easy to find, so a GPS locator makes it far quicker to respond to a crime. It also enables a strategic overview of the police in a location. This means, in the case of a big emergency, it is possible to direct officers around, which is also possible outside of Africa. This system gives citizens the security of knowing they are able to contact the emergency services when they are in need. It has great scope for being rolled out across the continent and has even potential outside of the continent.
The second innovation we are featuring is Fraudcheck. Fraudcheck is a Nigerian website that enables the public to rate companies on their products. The idea came from Ahuwanya Victor who was twice given a fake solar panel by a shop in Nigeria. After being offered a refund, it took police involvement and a of time to finally receive him money back. He then went about building a website to allow people to check whether they are buying from reputable sellers.
People are able to upload photos and details about the person or organisation that defrauded them and then rate the company with a +1 or -1. Each user is only allowed to rate the company once. The higher the score, the more likely it is to trust the company. The idea is innovative and jumps on to the recent crowed sourcing trend, which is using the public to gain huge amounts of insightful data. We can envisage a problem with people sigining up with multiple accounts to either credit or discredit a business. We hope there are processes involves to counter this potential problem.
At the moment, the website is not the easiest to use, but the key point is it is a great innovation. It is a lesson to us all. When we have an idea, we should go ahead and develop it and get it out for use. After that, it can be tweaked depending on the comments of the users. We expect this is exactly what Fraudcheck are doing.
Crime and fraud are big business from both sides of the battle. With the increased capabilities of technology, we expect more and more innovations to be developed to fight illegal behaviour in Africa. Cyber crime is continuing to be a big problem and spoilt the reputation of many countries in Africa. Corruption and fraud are evident at all levels. Technology must be utilised to reduce crimes of all sorts.
If you know of any other crime technologies then please let us know. If you would like to be a guest blogger, or have a comment please get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or email, and please also share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.
Many do not think that Africa is a continent worth exporting from. Apart from the mineral wealth of the continent and a few food crops, very little is exported from the continent. Despite this, there is a wealth of products, and services that have value that can be exported. Africa is a net importer, and that leaves it at a disadvantage to much of the world. If it wants to compete with the power of China, America and Europe, it must tap into the market outside of the continent.
Africa contains 30% of the worlds known reserves of minerals and has the largest cobalt, diamond, platinum and uranium reserves in the world. But it is not only these resources that have value to the rest of the world. The diverse crafts and cultures of the continent are gaining popularity oversees but how do they access this market?
Cokodeal is an online market place with the vision to elevate the standard of living for Africans through trade and a mission to connect intra Africa trade to global market and improve the wellbeing of Africans. The founders were motivated by a wish to see a continent that is not at the mercy of foreign aid and is the convergent point of global trade. Continue reading “Did you know the potential for African exports?”→
Put a search on twitter for Africa and Innovation and you will find a wealth of information on events, new technologies and innovations, and tech hubs in Africa. There will also be a lot of content on inspirational stories of how an innovation changed the life of an individual or how an area was dragged out of poverty because of renewable energy or a new farming innovation. There is so much good news coming out of the continent, but still much of the world is oblivious to Africa’s potential.
We often discuss our passion for African innovation with people we meet and unless they already have a relationship with the continent, or they are involved in an industry that is gaining traction in Africa, such as renewable energy. That Africa is leading the way in mobile money, and providing services and technology that is still in its infancy in other parts of the world seems to utterly surprise a lot of people in Europe and America. It is not just the layman that are clueless about the continent’s potential. Decision makers and potential investors are often still weary to trust that Africa is the real deal.
The festive season is over and 2017 has begin with a bang! (Happy New Year everyone!) The cold has set in across the USA and Europe but Africa is hot, but not just because of the sun, but also because of anticipation of further innovations! 2016 was a great year for African Innovation. The wealth of technology and tangible ideas coming out of the continent last year leaves us with great optimism for 2017. We expect advancement in many sectors in Africa this year.
Solar power will continue to cause an energy revolution, with the price of solar continuing to reduce and of grid solutions also more available, enabling rural areas to utilise electricity further. One solution that is already gaining momentum has been created by SteamaCo. It was recently featured on the BBC as one of the five African Inventions to watch in 2017. They install micro grids in a rural communities and with their software they are able to identify the customers and when they are using electricity and usage rates, all within a cloud based system. This means that they are able to cut electricity to households that do not need it if, for example, a hospital is in need of extra supply during the night, when solar power is not functioning. Of course, being in Kenya, they also utilise M-Pesa cashless services, enabling people to easily pay for their power when they need it.
Like with many innovations in Africa, a small change can make an enormous different. We have written before about how electricity can enable people to keep up to date with what is going on locally with their mobile phones, or help children study after dark without the dangers of using a candle. Having an off grid local grid, enables new businesses to pop up. SteamaCo have reported that in one village there are now new barbers shops, places to watch movies and even bars can now sell cold beer! Electricity creates employment and helps build local economies.
Another area we expect great development is health technology. Mobile phones are getting more and more powerful, and wearable tech is continuing to become more and more complex and able to give detailed data, and this will enable greater support to be given to people that usually access it. The BBC article mentions two health tech solutions, from Africa, that are set to make a huge difference.