Caution: This blog is not as positive as usual! (Editor’s Opinion)
Inventive Africa tried its best to be positive about Africa and the potential of African innovation. It is not hard to be positive, because there are so many good news stories around the continent about inspiring inventions. There are advancements across sectors. Health care methods are being transformed, the energy sector is being transformed with solar finding new ways of servicing those who are off the grid and people have greater access to information and educational material with various software and hardware solution.
Many of these innovations require internet access and mobile technology. For people to get online and take online degrees, or have a health conditioned diagnosed remotely, to simply have access to relevant information in order to protect your rights, or not be cheated, mobile phones and access to the internet are vital. The spread of access to the internet has been quite remarkable across the African continent. But despite that the continent still lags behind much of the world. In order for people to make the most of in many cases life changing innovations, they more need access and that access should be affordable.
I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at iSpace in Accra, which is a technology hub, that enables startups to realise their dreams. In that time, I was able to make some short interviews of some of the inspiring young entrepreneurs that are based at iSpace and making the most from the support the tech hub offers. In the last two videos I published, Emmanuel told us about his promising fintech solution, and Theo explained his app for travellers in Ghana.
This week, we feature Hawawu Mustapha Yaajalal, who explained her platform MyDoc. Hawawu is a nurse, but her ambitions took her away from treating people personally, to enabling people to get treatment more easily. MyDoc links people with doctors, as well as selling health supplements, which will be delivered directly to customers. It also offers people a place to go to read up on health information.
During the last 15 years in Ghana I have met many career nurses, many of whom seem to not enjoy their job or be motivated to make a difference in the health care sector. Whether this is because many of them go into the profession because lack of prospects in other professions, or the system has eaten away at their passion, I am not sure. But, in the case of Hawawu, she is passionate about moving up the career ladder and making a difference in Ghana and to her family. It is this entrepreneurial spirit, and drive to better ones life and the life of ones family, that is exciting across Africa. More and more people are coming out of their industries to create solutions to problems they have encountered, and that is exactly how Hawawu is approaching her business.
Hawawu explains more in the video below:
Organisations like iSpace are there to foster these ideas and entrepreneurial spirit to enable the solutions to become reality. Without iSpace and their counterparts, many ideas would not even reach the development phase. These hubs enable people to acquire skills, or gain the help of specialists, to fill the gaps in their own abilities. Whether in IT skills, business development, sales, marketing or funding, there is assistance for those with great ideas across Africa.
If you would like your startup featured on Inventive Africa, feel free to send us a short video for us to post. If you know of an innovation that is changing lives, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!
There are some really sh*t ways to produce fuel! Sucking it out of the earth in the form of oil or gas is causing is putting enormous strain on your climate, with records weather records broken every year and melt at the polar caps increasing in speed. But some sh*t methods are actually good! (But maybe a little smelly)
In Gauteng, which is not far from Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa, cows are currency. Herds of cattle, waiting to become streak and beef and beef burgers, populate the green pastures. A lot of grazing cows means, a lot of cow pats (dung)! And therein comes the innovation.
The dung from the cows, 120 tonnes a day, is mixed with 60 tons of paper, yoghurt, fruit and abattoir waste by Bio2Watt. This steaming pile of dung is broken down by bacteria which produce methane, which powers an engine, which in turn produces 4.4 Megawatts of electricity. This amount is enough to power a village of 1500 people.
South Africa have been suffering from an energy crisis in recent years, and ageing power infrastructure is not helping. The system created by Bio2Watt provides a decentralised solution that can be created anywhere there is access to the raw materials.
In this case, as well as providing electricity for the cow farmer next door, who was not able to expand his business because of power restraints, Bio2Watt deliver their power to BMW, who’s policy is to purchase 100% renewable energy for all of their plants. The power from Bio2Watt has enabled BMW’s Rosslyn plant to cover 30% of their energy with the biogas.
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.